In the wee small hours of this morning in a valiant fuck you to my day, I finished reading Bitter Taffy by the always entertaining, constantly endearing Amy Lane. As usual when it comes to her books I wasn’t disappointed. The story was charming and had just the right amount of angst to hook me in emotionally. She’s a whiz at that. Sometimes her books have me sobbing on the bathroom floor (Chase in Shadow. Seriously. Do not read this book when you’re already feeling bad about something. It will shred you. But it’s OH SO WORTH IT.), but this was a lighter entry into her book catalogue. It wasn’t an exceptionally long read at about 199 pages, but it was fun. As far as warnings go, there is some mild violence, some swear words and name calling, but nothing earth shattering.
This book is the second in what I’m sure is going to be a growing series, as Ezra and Miguel’s future romance is deeply hinted at during the closing scene of Bitter Taffy. (Ezra is definitely sequel bait, but I sure don’t mind one bit. I’ll bite.)
I don’t usually comment on the covers of the books I’ve read, but this one is particularly beautiful and was created by the talented Paul Richmond. He’s captured one of the main characters, Rico, perfectly, and he even has his dog Clopper with him. It’s wonderful. I love portraiture covers because they have a much higher likelihood of matching what I’m seeing in my head as I read. I can’t imagine the hell of trying to find a cover model that actually jibes with what an author is requesting for their book. It seems like an almost unmanageable request.
Let’s check out the blurb.
A Candy Man Book
Rico Gonzalves-Macias didn’t expect to fall in love during his internship in New York—and he didn’t expect the boss’s son to out them both and get him fired either. When he returns to Sacramento stunned and heartbroken, he finds his cousin, Adam, and Adam’s boyfriend, Finn, haven’t just been house-sitting—they’ve made his once sterile apartment into a home.
When Adam gets him a job interview with the adorable, magnetic, practically perfect Derek Huston, Rico feels especially out of his depth. Derek makes it no secret that he wants Rico, but Rico is just starting to figure out that he’s a beginner at the really important stuff and doesn’t want to jump into anything with both feet.
Derek is a both-feet kind of guy. But he’s also made mistakes of his own and doesn’t want to pressure Rico into anything. Together they work to find a compromise between instant attraction and long-lasting love, and while they’re working, Rico gets a primer in why family isn’t always a bad idea. He needs to believe Derek can be his family before Derek’s formidable patience runs out—because even a practically perfect boyfriend is capable of being hurt.
I loved how Amy Lane took a character we weren’t necessarily endeared to in the first book of this series, Derek, and made him a likable, hell even lovable, main character for the second book. There’s some writerly magic in that flip I’ve always appreciated since the very first time I read Ann Rice’s Lestat. There’s such a joy in creating unreliability in narrative that isn’t necessarily unrealiable, just shifting with perspectives.
Another web Lane often weaves with her books and does here too is the idea of family. Family is a thread that flows through the entire book, how it can change your life, how having a good one versus a bad one can change your whole world. She does a great job of addressing the topic while still telling a story.
Lane also does an excellent job writing family dynamics in her stories. Of course, some of them are fictionalized and a tad over the top, but often they ring true enough that as I’m reading I’m having my heart ripped out for the characters. Her good families are oh so very good—sometimes borderline unrealistic, but you just want them to exist so it’s okay—to completely horrid. It’s easier for me to accept the horrible people as real, but maybe that’s because I read the newspaper every day like an old man over my cup of coffee. Reality is rife with crazy, horrible, terrible acts from questionably stable individuals.
Last but not least, the adorably horrible pets in this book earned an A+ for amusement value. I always love a good “bad” pet. The drooling cat had me giggling every single time.
The sex. Oh, I’m not sure how Amy Lane does it. It’s good. Sex in her books is always well done, but she has this way of writing sex that is both graphic, but not intensely so. It’s always about the emotions of the characters as well. The sex in this book was well done, and there was just enough raunchiness (cum going in orifices and being licked out of them again) for me to feel slightly dirty and heartwarmed at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that. I also love that Derek is just a little reserved and old fashioned. Often M/M romances are all about the quick and dirty fuck, but there’s real love here, and I appreciate that. Sometimes I want to read thinly disguised porn, but I look to Amy Lane for real stories about “real” people.
Lastly for the good section, you may not know this about me, but I’m a bit of a clothes whore, and I adored all of the descriptions of suits, clothes, and futzing with ties the main characters did. Two men doing up each other’s ties gets me hooked every single time. It’s so perfectly manly and domestic. Twangs the old heart strings.
Certain points of this book were predictable. As in, I knew more than I knew anything ever at any time anywhere in my whole life that we were going to see Rico’s ex Ezra at some point in this book after he was a spineless wonder at the beginning. I just knew it was going to happen. There was so much potential for angsty What-Have-Yous that I was guaranteed he’d poke his head into the wonderful romance going on between Derek and Rico. It just had to happen. And then it did. Don’t get me wrong, I liked how the book went, but …eh. I could have lived without that. It was just so obvious, but maybe it was obvious for a reason—like the heavy forshadowing with Darrin. I actually liked the “supernatural” element of Darrin a lot. I have a character that does something similar in one of my books—it’s a thing—so, it would extremely rude of me to throw stones at it, but seeing it in action leaves me thinking it would be good to pay close attention to how I execute such a character in a story line so they just don’t come off as annoying, which unfortunately, Darrin does to me a little bit.
This was a wonderfully sweet story, and I loved it a lot. Sadly (only because you might need to wait for a few days to read this book), it is the second book in a series and while it probably could be read stand alone I wouldn’t recommend it. I think a lot of the story would be lost, so, if you’re planning to read Bitter Taffy you should probably read Candy Man first, which came out around Yule last year. It was an enjoyable read too. The only problem I had with Candy Man is that Finn reminds me a hell of a lot of Oliver from Lane’s book Christmas Kitsch. They’re practically the same character with a different outside, right down to the big loving family. Now, when I say it’s a problem, it’s not so much a problem as in it’s just something I noticed, contemplated, picked at in my mind, and then moved on and enjoyed Candy Man quite thoroughly in spite of it. If you’re a long standing Amy Lane fan and you’ve already read Candy Man you probably know what I’m talking about. They share a similar spirit. Anyway, what the hell was I talking about? Oh, yeah, buy Candy Man and read it. It’s good. Then get Bitter Taffy and read it all in a day like I did because you won’t be able to stop reading at a reasonable hour. So, maybe pick a Saturday and start it in the morning so you don’t make yourself miserable for a day. Happy reading!
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