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mandatory-release-amazon-coverReviewed by Claudia Robinson

“But I might need someone to take care of me. Someone I can take of, in return. There’s a lot of wiggle room in the phrase “to take care of.” It goes along with to have and to hold. For richer, for poorer. In health, and in sickness. What will become of me when I’m old?” – Graham

Graham is a handsome, young social worker in a medium security men’s prison. Not his first pick of a career choice, maybe not even his second, but it is what it is. Graham is divorced, looking for love, perhaps in all the wrong places, and quite adept at long bouts of gaming. He also happens to be in a wheelchair.

Drew is a beautiful, young special education teacher, at the same medium security men’s prison. Not her first pick of a career choice, either. Broken from a previous relationship, forced to move back in with her mother (who ALSO happens to work at the prison), she is not so much in search of love, but serenity and a new life. Former crushes, reconnected after many years, Graham and Drew find themselves leaning on one another through a series of events, forming a close friendship both seem in desperate need of.

When Joe, handsome, sexually adventurous (and deviant), enters the picture, emotions and friendships are tested, and Graham and Drew seem destined to be separated, once more. Add a surprising new inmate to the mix, a few on-line dates gone askew, an old school friend with a penchant for drama and cocktails, and the discovery that everyone has secrets, some more complex and mind boggling than others, and you have a hell of a unique love story possibility.

Mandatory Release was a fun read and unexpectedly deeper and more emotionally vested than it first appears. Written chapter by chapter in the perspective of Graham and then Drew, Jess Riley manages to fully engage readers in to the lives and dilemmas of all involved. It’s obvious, from the beginning, however, that Jess is very in tune and attached to her characters, allowing them ample time to flesh out under her hand. Minute details, aside thoughts and honest confessions from both, leave the readers with no choice but to empathize and sympathize with both Graham and Drew, alternately. Genuine, quirky, insightful and full bodied, it’s a different kind of story that was obviously given much head room before hitting the paper. Funny, sweet, tender, and at times painfully honest, Mandatory Release is the big, wiser, older sister of an easy breezy beach read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Book Sparks PR. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.