Redemption by Susanne M. Beck is a Xena Uber fiction originally published in 2001 but re-released with a new publisher in 2019. It is the first book in the Ice and Angel series and in addition to being a great love story, it is a brilliant examination of the forces that influence who we are and how we are perceived, as well as of the forces that draw us together.
Wanting to experience life on her own terms and desperate to get away from the boredom of small-town life, Angel rushes into marriage with her high school sweetheart. Starting a new life in the city, she is brimming with idealism and full of dreams of exciting new experiences. However, idealism turns to disillusionment when her husband turns out to be unfaithful and abusive and she ends up accidentally killing him one night in self-defense.
Finding herself thrust from one bad situation to the next, Angel is sentenced to seven years to life in the Rainwater Women’s Correctional Facility, better known as The Bog. Navigating life in prison is difficult and she inadvertently makes some powerful enemies, but as luck would have it, she also makes some powerful friends. Finding her niche as the procurer of hard to get items, and falling in with the powerful gang the Amazons, Angel slowly starts to build a sort of normalcy into her life as she adapts to prison. Until one day a legendary prisoner returns and sends her reeling once again.
Morgan Steele has been to this rodeo before and is a bit of a legend among both guards and prisoners. During her first stint in The Bog she established the Amazons, a gang that maintains order in the prison and prevents any of the rival gangs from gaining too much power. Fortunately for Angel, they also sometimes protect new inmates that end up in sticky situations. Ice is back in prison once again and her attention is immediately drawn to Angel.
When Angel first crosses paths with Ice, she is inextricably drawn into depths of her Icy blue eyes. When Ice meets Angel, she is completely melted by her innocence. There is an attraction between them that neither can ignore and the more they are together the greater the passion grows. Angel slowly starts to thaw the walls Ice has built around her heart, but the past won’t let go and maintaining the bonds they have built when so much conspires to keep them apart will be next to impossible.
Angel is an optimist, an incredible feat considering many of the experiences she has lived through. She begins the story a little naïve and innocent (hence the prison moniker Angel) but she has an inner strength and courageous fire and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her character evolve throughout the telling of her story.
Ice is the perfect moniker for Morgan as she personifies the Ice queen trope. She has an aura of cold, calculating intensity and has earned the respect and fear of both the guards and the other prisoners of The Bog. But there is also a poetic, intellectual and passionate side of her that is slowly discovered by Angel. I was completely rapt in the development of their relationship and how they managed to find love in such a dreadful place.
The rest of the characters in the story are also complex and very three dimensional. They create a sense of realness in the story and it is very engaging watching them all as they navigate the paradoxes of prison life.
The Writing Style
The book is written in the first person from Angel’s perspective in the format of a memoir. Getting the first hand perspective from her left me completely enamoured with her. Watching her face different challenges and the journey she takes through them allow for a great connection with her character. There is also a wonderful examination of the other characters in the story regarding the combination of the good and bad within them and how that mixture makes them who they are: flawed, but not necessarily entirely evil. It also looks at how circumstances affected their decisions and how they survived and even learned from the hardships they endured.
The descriptive language throughout the book is also incredible. The very visceral reality of prison life; the violence, the drudgery, the hope and hopelessness are wonderfully detailed. And the way Beck describes the moment when Angel and Ice first see one another is so perfectly captured it took my breath away.
I just love the characterization in this book. Beck brilliantly brings you along through the development of both Ice and Angel’s identities. The insight into the ordeals they have experienced, their learnings from them and how they affected their notions of self and other people’s perceptions of them, pulled me so deeply into their stories. Watching their relationship progress as they learned more about each other was so incredibly moving.
Also, while writing this review I started to think about the show Orange is the New Black. This led to thoughts of the character Judy King which then made me think about Martha Stewart and caused a small baking break. Three dozen chocolate chip cookies, two loaves of zucchini bread and 24 zucchini muffins later, I went back to complete the review.
I think it bears mentioning that there is quite a bit of violence (including beatings and attempted rape) described in this book and it is at times quite visceral.
Also, on a less serious note, there are only two people in my house and there were A LOT of baked goods generated as a result of my thought processes while writing this review. It may have led to some overindulgence on my part.
If you are a fan of OITNB, Wentworth or Xena Uber fiction then you will definitely want to pick this book up. The intense beauty of Angel and Ice’s love story juxtaposed against the cruelty and harshness of the world they live in will keep your senses reeling and attention rapt. And frankly, anything that inspires this much baking has to be good…right!?
Excerpt from Redemption by Susanne M. Beck
My name is Angel, and around here, I’m known as the woman who can get whatever you need. ‘Here’ is The Rainwater Women’s Correctional Facility, more commonly known as ‘The Bog’ because we’re safely tucked away in a nice cedar forest hard by a cranberry bog. That’s probably more than you wanted to know, but I promised myself when I started writing this that I’d try my best not to leave anything out, and so now you know the name of our little community.
As you may have guessed by now, my name isn’t really Angel either, but I’m gonna save us both a bunch of heartache and just stick to the name I’m known by here. Names are really important in the Bog. Toe get one means you’ve succeeded in mastering some metaphysical rite-of-passage where the rules and players aren’t really known until after you’ve succeeded. One day, they’re calling you by your real name and beating you up at every opportunity; the next, you’re given some sort of status and the abuse seems to lessen. Oh, it never stops altogether, unless you’re lucky or really strong, but at least you can close your eyes at night reasonably sure that your body will be in pretty much the same working condition as it was before you went to sleep. And believe me, in a place like this, that’s really important.
They say that I was given the name ‘Angel’ because of my innocent looks. And, looking in the mirror, I guess that’s true enough, though I can tell you that the face looking back at me isn’t the same one that came into the place five long years ago. Back then, my hair was long and red than brown. My face was unlined, and my figure could best be described, I suppose, as an awkward young adult. Now my hair is short and blonde, my face has lines added by the sun and worry as much as by simple aging, and my body has muscles that would make even an aerobics instructor jealous.
My time here has certainly changed me, and not all of it for the better, but I’d like to think that I’ve been able to retain at least some of that youthful innocence that came into this place with me. And believe me when I tell you that that is very hard to hold onto here. I’ve seen good women become heartless killers in the Bog. I’ve seen strong women end their own lives at the end of a belt. There but for the grace of God, I guess.
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Ice and Angel Series
Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9780967768755
Publisher: AUSXIP Publishing
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