Book Reviews ~ Redemption (The Protectors Book 8) by Sloane Kennedy
Title: Redemption (Protectors Book #8)
Author: Sloane Kennedy
Published: May 18, 2017
Cover Design: Jay Aheer
My job is to save lives. But what if the one that needs saving is the one I was sent to take?
At 33 years old, Phoenix Jones once had a stellar military career ahead of him. But when tragedy struck his family, he walked away from the path he’d chosen to be there for the one who needed him most. Except fate is a bitch and when she once again takes Phoenix’s future in the cruelest of ways, he must find a new path.
When a former army buddy introduces him to Ronan Grisham, the leader of an underground vigilante group, Phoenix knows he’s found a new family and nothing and no one is going to take that from him again. So when Ronan asks him to shadow a young man who participated in a brutal crime against Ronan’s husband, Seth, when he was a child and appears to be targeting him again, Phoenix doesn’t even hesitate for a second.
Even knowing what he must do if the young man proves to have gone back to his old ways.
Because family is everything…
I can’t come back from what I did. I’m not sure I even want to…
An ugly childhood left Levi Deming with little to do but dream of a day when he’d be free of his tormenters so he could carve out a simple life for himself, preferably somewhere far away from the family who never let him forget he was less than human. But one terrible choice at the tender age of 16 changed everything…
Wracked with guilt for the role he played during a home invasion gone horribly wrong, a now 24-year-old Levi is trying to piece together a life where he can maybe do a little bit of good, even knowing it won’t make up for the lives he helped take and it definitely won’t give back the future he stole from the young man whose agonized screams still haunt him night after night. If it were only about him, he’d walk into the nearest police station and happily tell them to lock him up and throw away the key.
But it isn’t just about him anymore…
I expected to find a hardened criminal. What I found was something else entirely…
With Ronan’s orders to terminate young Levi if he so much as even jaywalks, Phoenix expects an easy job with one clear outcome. But when a violent encounter forces Phoenix to interact with Levi, he quickly realizes the case might not be as black and white as he thought. Instead of finding a criminal with no conscience, Phoenix discovers a young man battling impossible odds and near crippling guilt.
When his feelings of disgust and anger begin to fade and turn into something else, the would-be hitman is forced to make a terrible decision between the family he needs and the young man more intent on seeking judgement than redemption.
Have you ever read a book and you aren't even halfway through it and you're already thinking that you dread it coming to an end? That's how Redemption was for me. I knew when it was done I was going to be sad and it would be impossible for me to start another book right away. I'm no stranger to book hangovers, especially with Sloane's books, but I still find myself wishing I could just dive into the next book in the series or start the current book again.
What I Loved: First and foremost, I love Sloane Kennedy, she is an amazingly talented author. I know when I get one of her books I am going to love it and even after reading it multiple times, I'll never tire of it. She is my go to author.
I do have to admit, Redemption was a bit confusing for me before I started reading it. I just could not fathom how Levi, a man that took part in such a heinous and brutal crime against Seth and his family, could be redeemed. How could Phoenix possibly fall for this man? Why would Sloane even try? So I started the book with a bit of apprehension. However, it took me only the first few paragraphs before I found myself completely consumed by this story, riveted by Phoenix and Levi and unable to feel anything other than compassion for this man who'd been through so much pain and suffering that I am stunned he could still go on.
Levi wasn't hard to root for and it was pretty easy to see why Phoenix struggled not to get close to him and want to protect him. If any person deserved compassion and safety it was him. I loved him. He was sweet and vulnerable and he wanted to be a better person so much. Even while he felt that he deserved every deplorable thing that happened to him, he continued to help people. He continued to look after Henry and do the right thing for the few people he truly had a connection with.
Phoenix is easy to love as well because you could tell he was truly a good person. He wasn't damaged in the way so many characters in this series have been but he definitely has a sad story. I liked how he was with Levi because for many men it probably would have been a tough struggle. Phoenix was torn between the family he'd become part of, that he respected and felt loyalty for and this man that he was drawn to, that needed him. That is not an easy place to find himself in.
Like most of Sloane's stories, this one is not a sweet, easy, breezy book full of rainbows and unicorns. Redemption touches on many serious and painful themes. Abuse: physical, emotional and sexual. There is rape, racism, drug use and murder. Some scenes are intense and graphic while others aren't as much, yet, they all pack a serious punch. Each and every scene is needed to really show how these two men have ended up where they are in life but I definitely like to warn people who have a hard time reading these things.
Levi's brother is a psychopath and we really get to see the depth of his depravity as we learn more about Levi. There aren't many people in Levi's life that are decent human beings and there were times it was hard to imagine what he felt day after day. There were more than a few tears shed over Levi's story and he's definitely a character I hope we get to see evolve and grow as the series continues. Retribution may be my favorite story in the series but Redemption is a very, very close second.
What I Liked: I liked that this book wasn't full of sex between the MC's. Yes there is a little and there is plenty of chemistry. But this book focuses more on the intimacy Levi finally feels with someone who doesn't want to hurt him. If there was a lot of sex between the MC's, I think it would have taken away from how great Phoenix was for Levi.
What I Didn't Like: That this book came to an end and I wanted more. Unlike many of the other stories I actually felt like Levi and Phoenix had a lot more to tell. Their story wasn't even close to being finished for me even though we get a great Epilogue and resolution. I just wasn't ready to let them go yet.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I honestly can't think of a series that touches me as much as the Protectors series does.
***Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie by the author/publisher for my reading pleasure in hopes of an unbiased opinion, a review was not a requirement.***
How SK continues to excel shouldn't surprise me, as I'm a beta of hers, but I'm in constant awe of her talent.
Yes, I'm lucky enough to be a beta for SK, so I'm pretty used to her writing and for the full impact to hit me, I've taken to reading her tales blurb-blind. I was both glad that I did, as she gave me an amazing tale, and blindsided as it's not often that a tale makes me cry - in the best of ways, i.e. from heartbreak, an overload of emotion and then the power of healing words.
I won't spoil the tale for you, as it's one of her very, very best, up there with my all-time fave of hers, Logan's Need, Salvation and Atonement. I'd been chatting with SK about tales with messages in them, which are becoming more and more important to me as I read MM and as I get older, but I wasn't expecting what I got. I got a tale about acceptance, about seeing beyond the physical, about refusing to believe what might seem apparent and looking into a person's heart and soul, about the goodness that can be found in people who've seemingly strayed into stuff that others might shun them for, a tale about trusting your instincts when you recognise innate goodness and decency that seem at odds with popular opinion, and a tale where a guy who could be considered by many to be less than perfect lead material, turned out to be just that - and more. It's a tale about love, loyalty, honesty, redemption, forgiveness and a reminder that there are decent human beings out there.
Did SK do this in any preachy or patronising way? No, because she makes her characters utterly real; it's a gift that she has and it's because she pours her heart and herself into her tales. We've had many a discussion about the emotions that jump off the page in her novels, and it's her absolute strength that she continues to write them so poignantly, and to make each tale in what's not a rather long-running series, different. She broke and then fixed my heart with this tale, and the amazing guy who was Levi.
As you can see, I've bought a copy of this tale, and not just relied on the ARC copy - it's just that good.