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REVIEW: “Protection” by T. Baggins



When Gabriel MacKenna enters Wentworth Prison in 1931, he promises himself two things: never to be buggered and never to turn prison queer. Tough, smart, and ruthless in a fight, he quickly makes a name for himself inside. But Gabriel, saved from the noose by a social crusader, is serving two life sentences. And life is a very long time to endure Wentworth with no comforts but prison food, card games and cigarettes. To survive endless days without the touch of another human being…

Five years after Gabriel’s incarceration, Joey Cooper arrives at Wentworth. Every convict claims imprisonment through a miscarriage of justice, but Joey is truly blameless. Trained at Oxford as a physician, the young doctor is innocent of prison culture and too handsome for his own good. Facing eighteen years behind Wentworth’s towering gates, Joey cannot hope to survive without protection. And protection is just what Gabriel MacKenna offers. At a price…


God, this novella! On my favorites shelf this little gem goes.

I buddy-read Protection and it’s actually pretty rare for my partners in crime and I to be unanimously impressed. But the author with the misleading penname pulled it off once again! If it’s up to me, I’d say T. Baggins is probably one of the better writers in the M/M genre, and she really deserves to be on your radar. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve heard people mention that they’re surprised or blown-away by this author’s work, not having expected it because she’s so underrated.

And at first glance, this prison story is little more than a humble novella with a cheap-looking cover (no matter what version you pick). But, oh man, appearances – like pennames — can be deceiving! Rather than another horny fantasy about inmates that reads like themed porn, this is a beautifully written and touching story that managed to linger in my mind for days to come. The brilliant thing about Protection is that it packs a punch, but at the same time is neither very grim nor overly sweet. I think it’s one of those stories that could click with many readers for various reasons. There’s constant breath-holding tension, but no angst overkill. There’s heartbreak and sadness that may have turned me into a blubbering mess. But thanks to the undercurrent of sensuality and tenderness I was a blubbering mess with a smile on my face.

This author made me root for her characters, despite them not being perfectly sympathetic lads. No, the men in Wentworth prison are brutally violent (there is a rape scene that can be stomach-churning, so be forewarned), but they are also lonely and longing for affection. More than anything, they feel real. Protection is set in England’s 1930’s and the author did enough research to get the ambiance right as she tells the bittersweet story of a young doctor, Joey, who falls from grace when he is accused of the gross neglect and following death of a pregnant woman. Within the prison walls, the noble and attractive young man soon finds that he’s the weakest among the wolves. When he captures the interest of the leader of the pack, Gabriel, his immediate future looks bleak.

“They won’t help you,” Gabriel said softly. “You know I tell you true. I’ll help you. I’ll protect you. But I’ll have payment. Pick up the cigarette. Let me light it. Tell every man in Wentworth you’re my girl. I’ll go to my grave defending you and expect no more than a kiss before bed at night. Or thereabouts,” he added, grinning.
“I’m no girl,” Cooper said, lips curling back from even white teeth.
“My boy, then. Or just mine. But pick up the goddamn cigarette before the Lovelies decide to give it a go. Eight against one is hard odds, even for me.”

Protection kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Or rather, I arrived at the office with blue-purplish bags underneath my eyes because I read on when I should’ve gone to bed. It was impossible to put down. If I have to mention one thing that I liked less though, it’s probably that due to the novella-length, the big leap from trauma to something else entirely between the MCs felt a tad rushed. A somewhat slower progression would’ve been more plausible. Oh, and although I personally adored the subtle ending (an ending that isn’t at odds with the bittersweet story that comes before it for a change, outstanding!), if you’d rather have a dash of sap (or a huge splash of it), you’ll be pleased with the included Coda, that offers an alternative ending.




Susan: 4 stars
Rachel: 3 stars


13181411Title: Protection
Author: T. Baggins (S.A. Reid)
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 120
Release Date: December 8th 2011
Purchase Links: Amazon

8 comments on “REVIEW: “Protection” by T. Baggins

  1. ilhem3606
    October 9, 2014

    I always promise myself I’ll give this author a try, then I forget, then a review of yours reminds me. I will not stray from the plan this time. *crosses heart*


    • katinka
      October 14, 2014

      I’ll hold you to it.;)


  2. llesarlorraine
    October 9, 2014

    Love this book. First read it maybe two years ago and it was my first m/m book. Reread it so many times since then, always hoping the ending would change!


    • katinka
      October 14, 2014

      Does your copy have the alternative ending (the so called ‘Coda’)? I think she wrote it later, though I’m not sure when. It was included in my recently bought copy.
      And I can totally see myself rereading this little gem too!


  3. Sheri
    October 9, 2014

    Ha! Lovely review but I’m on the other side of the rink for this one. This book and I…well, we did not get along. It was the first book I ever rated harshly and then was horrified when the gracious author ‘liked’ my review on gr. I felt horrible but I couldn’t help the fact that it bothered me.
    I’m glad you enjoyed it but this goes into split decisions for me :P


    • katinka
      October 14, 2014

      Hmm, interesting. I’ll have to look up your review. Almost everyone on my GR friend list has already read this and I thought it was mostly a feast of 4 and 5 star reviews. My eyes are probably totally biased…nana! ;)


  4. Kaje
    October 9, 2014

    I loved this book. It did the things it needed to, to feel real for the era and the situation. If you’d told me the plot in advance, I’d have said it wasn’t for me, but the execution was wonderful. The little epilogue on the author’s website both helped and hurt, with dealing with the ending. I assume that’s now the “Coda” that you mention being included.

    I had to look back at the page count when you called it a novella, to confirm that yes, it was short. This book felt bigger than the number of pages.


    • katinka
      October 14, 2014

      It’s a bit funny to call an alternative ending a ‘Coda’ (I always thought that stood for something else), but it must be one and the same thing, yes. I appreciated the bittersweet, realistic ending a lot, but I can definitely see why the alternative ending could be soothing.


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This entry was posted on October 9, 2014 by in Contemporary, Historical, Reviewer: Katinka and tagged , , , , , .

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