The Innocent ( The Cowboy Gangster, #7)

Review of The Innocent (The Cowboy Gangster, #7) by C. J. Bishop

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“When Clint and the boys “clean house” after discovering a small dangerous operation of child sex traffickers, they find themselves pulled into a nightmare of unparalleled proportions where children are nothing but “merchandise” and the depth of depravity and abuse reaches beyond human comprehension.” ~ C. J. Bishop

** 5 unequivocal stars for this latest Bishop installment **

Having read now 31 novels by Bishop, all revolving around the Phoenix Club or its associates, I can easily state that this is another knockout. I personally have never found another series to be able to compete with the level of what these novels offer. There is so much contrast between the black and white, but the gray area these novels include is phenomenal. The dichotomy of all the layers to each character is outstanding. If you are like me, and have followed these books from the beginning, you can easily continue to follow along with the characters and their personalities. That being said, if you have never read any of the Phoenix books or the Cowboy Gangster novels, it would be best to start from the beginning. Each book picks up right where the last book left off, with almost no review of previous events; these are not standalone novels and the primary characters have already been introduced. There are several POV’s shifts from several different couples and individuals.

Ok, wow. Where to even start on this one. I was actually a little leery of reading it because I had heard it was even darker and more intense than the previous CG novels, plus the length needed time for reading. And this book did not disappoint. This was spectacularly gritty, and dark and very intense. I haven’t cried that many times in one reading of any book, ever. Usually I cry at the end or at the climax, when the tension is highest. I pretty much cried on and off throughout this whole read. And not only because of the horrific events, but also because, in the same novel, there is so much LOVE. These characters are deep, emotional, raw, and complex and the story just brings that out of the characters effortlessly. These characters are so human. They see the good/bad, light/dark in everything they do. It’s so utterly relatable as a reader (circumstances notwithstanding), and as a human being. To try to be a good person, try to find love that you are worthy of, try to accept yourself with all your faults and successes. There are not many novels out there that can incorporate such depth of feeling and emotion, to such varying degrees. Heartbreak and extreme depravity, seamlessly woven together with love and family.

I don’t feel the need to touch on the actual plot points or events. Those are what they are and can be taken with a grain of salt. This is a work of fiction. As such I expect liberties and allowances to be made. For me this whole series is really about love, acceptance, family, trust, understanding and all the inner-workings thereof. Yes, it’s extremely gritty, and the themes are dark, probably not a read for the faint of heart, but if you can handle all that and want to read a story about the love that binds couples and the families you choose, this is a must read.