As of this writing, the e-book version of Jane Harvey-Berrick’s Lifers is a steal at $.99. I urge you to snatch it up, because I don’t think you’ll find a more realistic love story between an ex-con and a jaded young woman who believes only in casual hook-ups and zero attachments.
Jordan Kane went through what no teenager should ever endure. At sixteen, he killed his golden-boy older brother, Michael, in a drunk driving accident that shattered his family and their small Texas town. Post accident, Jordan was sent immediately from the hospital to juvenile detention and then on to prison when he came of age. After eight years of paying his debt to society, Jordan has just been released for good behavior. He now faces six months of parole, during which he must remain in the town where he is despised by all, even his parents. The terms of his release require that he get a job, but no one will employ him. Thankfully, the town’s newish reverend feels that she should practice what she preaches and gives Jordan some gardening work.
Torrey Delaney has arrived in Texas to live with her preacher mother not because she wants to, but more because she really has nowhere else to go. She left Boston in disgrace, having quit her job as a paralegal when an affair with her boss ended and he turned into a complete jerk. After being burned by love in the past, Torrey doesn’t believe in relationships. She believes in easy hook-ups with no commitments, and she doesn’t apologize for her open sexuality despite her mother’s disapproval or the fact that she’s earning a bad reputation. Her plans are to stick around long enough to earn some money so that she can head out of town again.
When Torrey first meets Jordan, her act of kindness gets her fired from her waitressing gig at a diner. She’s surprised to find the good-looking but obviously troubled man doing yard work at her mother’s Rectory. As she gets to know Jordan and his full story, she’s not afraid of the supposedly violent ex-con or worried about being seen with the town pariah. As their tentative friendship morphs into something stronger, Torrey realizes that while he’s no longer locked behind metal bars, Jordan is still trapped in a prison of guilt and self-loathing.
I really liked this book, so much that I was up far too late to finish it. Torrey is just the kind of heroine that I love – tough, no-nonsense, and confidant but far from perfect. She’s unapologetic about her casual attitudes towards sex, calling out anyone who would dare apply the double standard that exists when it comes to men who engage in one-night hook ups compared to women who enjoy the same. Too, she doesn’t care what other people think about her, which makes her the perfect woman for a guy like Jordan.
The situation that Jordan faces is only a fraction better than what he endured in prison. He can’t travel more than ten miles from the city limit. He has an 11:00 curfew. He must keep a job, but no one will hire him. When he encounters Michael’s friends on the street, men who want to beat him to a bloody pulp, he’s helpless to defend himself because if he even begins to step out of line, he’ll find himself back in prison. He’s forced to live with parents who blame him completely for Michael’s death and feel no compunction in telling him how much they hate the very sight of him. My heart absolutely ached for this man. It’s only with Torrey’s friendship and then love that he’s able to take the first steps in moving towards a positive future.
While this is a work of fiction, Lifers really did open my eyes to the problems that men who are released from prison face and how difficult we make it for them to ever return to normal lives. Certainly people who commit crimes need to pay for them, but how many instances are like the ones that Jordan suffered, a moment of very poor decision making by a teenager that ruins his life forever. The lack of compassion or forgiveness shown by pretty much everyone except Torrey made me sick. And this one is strange, but I couldn’t stand it that everyone called Jordan a murderer. In my book, a murderer is a person who intentionally kills someone. In Jordan’s case, the tragedy that destroyed his life was an accident. He was definitely guilty of bad decision making, but calling it murder? I winced every time it happened.
Small things really touched me, like when Jordan asks Torrey out on an official date and realizes that he has absolutely no money to take her any place. His solution to go fishing and eat what they catch was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. Or when Jordan gives Torrey a ride to a job interview at the mall, and as they begin to approach his ten-miles-from-town limit, he begins to sweat. Thankfully, Torrey is fully sensitive to all of Jordan’s limitations, and her willingness to accommodate him and never make him feel bad about his situation endeared her to me greatly.
If I have any complaints about this book, they are minimal. When Jordan begins calling Torrey “sweetheart”, he does it a lot, which is a pet peeve of mine in all writing. There was an abundance of sex scenes, which for me tends to get tedious since I get the point that these two are hot for each other. Sometimes more is just more.
In the end, the only reason that I didn’t give this book DIK status is that I can’t imagine rereading it, which is one of my criteria for a true keeper. I simply couldn’t stand going through Jordan’s ordeal again even though I know it all ends well. But I can absolutely recommend Lifers to anyone looking for a moving love story between two unfortunately realistic lost souls.