Branded (A Sinners Series Book 1) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
**I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review**
The day Lexi Hamilton was arrested for committing one of the seven deadly sins, she feels like it’s the worst day of her life. But once she enters the Hole, she truly knows fear. Branded for her “sin”, the blue lust brand is forever stamped around her neck. Her only hope now is to stay alive long enough to see her next meal. When she is assigned a permanent guard, Cole, she thinks him arrogant and rude – just like all of the other guards. But with the Commander as his boss – the mysterious man who rules with an iron fist and justice for no one – no trial…if you are accused, you are automatically guilty and thrown into the Hole to rot until your ultimate and untimely death – Cole must be careful showing Lexi any kindness, compassion, or hint of possible feelings for her. So when she is assigned to work at the Hole’s hospital under Dr. Sutton, she begins her life under the watchful eyes of Cole and his guard dog Zeus. But Dr. Sutton treats her like an actual human being, not like just another prisoner in the Hole – and she begins to trust him. He warns her to be very careful, even in the hospital as her blue brand will attract a LOT of unwanted attention, especially from the pompous and cruel guards that are allowed to get away with pretty much anything.
Lexi soon falls into a routine at the hospital, and she is asked to care for a young lady, Alyssa, who is dying. At first, she is reluctant to befriend Lexi, but the two quickly form a good friendship. Upon Alyssa’s death, Lexi sees her body to the morgue…where two guards corner and attempt to rape her. They knock her unconscious, but when she wakes up she finds that Cole and Zeus came to her rescue. She is severely injured by the attached, but with Cole and Dr. Sutton’s help, she is slowly rehabilitated.
Not long after, Lexi learns that the brother, Keegan, who she thought was probably dead after he ran out on her and her mom when their father died, is actually alive and in the Hole as well. Of course he is also the most wanted man within the Hole by the Commander, as he is part of a resistance against him. But he is also deeply hidden…only a few people know where he is. And when Lexi is again threatened by Wilson, the Commander’s second in command, one of the people that knows where Keegan is, her very own trusted confidant and friend insists that she go into hiding with him. After the grueling journey to find Keegan, he demands that Cole leave – for the safety of their operation, as he doesn’t trust him. The two come to a begrudging compromise, and the all – Dr. Sutton included – continue planning the take down of the Commander and the Hole. But is it too late – for the revolution as well as Cole and Lexi?
I was very impressed by the inventive idea and premise for this book. Co-authors Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki did a great job at the interweaving web of people, events, and stories throughout. I thought that Lexi and Cole were both very strong and terrific main characters, but I also just loved Dr. Sutton and his paternal ways of taking care of everyone. Now, of course the book left of at a TOTAL cliff hanger, but I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Lexi, Cole, and of course, Zeus. Well done debut novel ladies!