It’s no real secret I think Amy Lane serves angst with a side of awesome. She frankly knows how to make complicated men tug at your heartstrings and the Promise series is a great example of that. Unfortunately (and this easily could be a problem for me alone) the series starts off so high that it’s never really hit that same sweet note in subsequent books. I like Living Promises more than the second book in the series but they both pale in comparison to the first. You can read LP as a stand alone but you shouldn’t. I also realize that I just adore Crick and Deacon so much that any time the focus is on someone else, I just want more of them. This is a fine book but as a reader I’m totally spoiled by Crick and Deacon and realize that any other focus in this series will be lost on me. For the more open reader, this is a great angsty character driven story.
Back in homophobic Levee Oaks the focus of the story is now on fairy Jeff Father and his younger paramour Collin. Jeff is still hurting over the death of his lover 6 years ago and Collin has been patiently watching the man of his dreams from afar. Although both men are living with HIV, they don’t have much in common. Collin decides he’s not going to let Jeff slip away and nothing will get in his way. It doesn’t matter if it’s drama queen antics, family scares, health problems, or dead lovers – Collin is determined to get his man.
The first and perhaps the biggest theme to this installment is family. Family plays a huge role here, as it has done in previous books, but as the family grows so does the nature of their involvement in the series. By the third book the family has grown to include more people than you can list off easily, including associated pets, kids, employees, lovers, runaways, and the ever present new family members being added. It’s a powerful theme that is used over and over to show that the people you love and who love you are your family by choice; a family that will never let you down and never leave you alone. This theme of family is a bit repetitive considering it’s used as the main progressive element but it works very well.
Part of what helps make this work are the included POV from previously known characters. Here Deacon, Crick, Shane, and others all get a turn to show actions from their perspective and give readers a little thrill to see the previous couples and their thoughts. I’ll admit part of this is what ruined the book for me. Whenever the story is in Deacon or Crick’s head, I never –ever- wanted to leave. Even though the author (or story) is kind of mean to them, I simply wanted to stay with their love and story. So it was hard for me to change gears and want to see more of Jeff and Collin. This isn’t a negative about LP nor a mark against it, it’s just as a reader I’m still in love with Crick and Deacon to a degree the other couples can’t really challenge.
That said, Collin and Jeff make an entertaining and fun couple to watch fall in love. Collin is very determined and Jeff is the joker that needs a strong man to help him. Jeff is very emotionally strong but has never really dealt with the emotions surrounding his lover’s death so for a majority of the story Jeff is working those feelings out while flip flopping on whether to give Collin a chance. This emotional backdrop is set amongst massive and continued family drama from the other rather big supporting characters. There is rarely a scene when the others aren’t mentioned, referenced, or involved so you’re not just reading Collin and Jeff falling in love, you’re reading it set amongst a busy, chaotic, often interfering family of choice. It works but you have to love the family as much as the lead couple.
This is where I think the book stumbles just a bit. Not too much because as always the writing is clean with a lot of color and description and the entire cast from small bit players to the main couple all leap off the page with a lot of depth and nuance. However I had a few minor problems. For starters the background chaos almost overwhelms the book and main couple. As a reader more interested in the secondary players they of course caught my attention but there is a lot going on in the book. There is never just one problem; there are always multiple problems on multiple fronts. The characters also tend to reiterate phrases and nicknames that I didn’t particularly care for the first time let alone in repetition so many times.
However as I’ve said these are minor considerations to an otherwise solid story. It’s not my favorite of the series but really nothing ever will compare for me. For those fans that want to continue with the series this is a very solid addition and you won’t want to miss it.