Review: Living Promises — by Amy Lane

Intro:

My last blog post dealt with cheating, how it affects your enjoyment of the novel and how cheating is addressed differently between sub-genres.  This post focuses on one book this time, Living Promises, by Amy Lane and we consider how Ms. Lane manages to combine excellent story writing, romance, passion, love, death, and illness seamlessly.

Basic Plot:

(Book 3 of Series):  Jeff Beachum is best friend of Carrick from book 1 and he is HIV positive, but has been living with it for 5 years.  But by living with it, he hides his pain behind his acerbic humor and caring for others as a physical therapist.  He met a much younger man, Collin Waters several years before; Collin is also HIV positive and no romance develops but rather Jeff thinks he is way too young.  Collin never forgot the kindest of Jeff and has loved him from afar since.  Can Collin’s love and devotion help heal Jeff’s heart so that they can take their chance on love?

Background:

This is the third book of Amy Lane’s series, Keeping Promise Rock, which deals with a set of friends who are more of a family to each other than any other traditional family.  I actually started with the second book of the series and had no problem just jumping into this one.  But you do miss some back-story of Carrick and Deacon.

Jeff Beachum:

We have a little back-story at the beginning where we see how Jeff met Kevin Turner, his former partner who was the love of his life.  Kevin gave him HIV, and was killed in action overseas.  His death always hurt him profoundly and Jeff has never forgiven himself or Kevin.  Now enter Collin, a young man whose impact affects Jeff deeply, but he does not feel that he deserves Collin’s love.  A quote:

He still felt like a thief, there was no denying that, but sometimes thieves stole things that they needed them to live.

So now Collin is in his life and won’t take Jeff’s brush off, no matter what.  We see Jeff unable to fully push Collin away and finally his acceptance of friendship leads to more.  Getting to see Jeff finally let go and rely on Collin is a beautiful scene.  In fact, there is a point later one (do not want to spoil it here) where we see Jeff finally relinquish his control in the hospital and Collin is there to pick up the pieces.

Collin Waters:

On the surface, Collin Waters is a young, free-spirited kid who does not take life seriously.  Perhaps at one point, he did not take death seriously, but now with HIV, he does.  In fact, it forced him to grow up quickly and now he has a successful business and a reason to live.  He wants to finally enter Jeff’s life and make his move, but first he has to get Jeff to see him more than just some young pretty boy.

It was how he’d dreamed of taking Jeff for years, showing the kind man who had given him hope how much of a man hope had made him.

We see him make that journey and we get to see Collin finally get his man.

Theme Summary:

The entire series (subtitled: Keeping Promise Rock) often focuses on the literal rock on Deacon’s land, but it also signifies how we must always be the “rock” for our other half and family.   Each of us must have strength for each other, we must rely on each other, knowing there will be times when one will be weak and the other can take the lead and be the support of the other.  At Promise Rock:

This place, Promise Rock, is where you get to go if you keep your promises to the people who love you.  It’s a reward for trusting another soul enough that you let them make you happy.

So if I had to put a theme to this book, it would be that we are all pillars to each other, but with that strength comes the need to find the comfort of each other, knowing that we have someone out there would can catch us if we break.

Strong Points:

The writing style and voice is what I consider the strongest points of this book (and really the series).  Ms. Lane has the ability to get us into the story quickly, caring about what the characters go through, without being overly dramatic and making us feel like the author plays with our emotions.  Ms. Lane is able to sensitively talk about HIV and describe how two people can still lovely have a passionate love life with HIV.   The illness is not an immediate death sentence.

I am embarrassed to say that I knew little about current HIV practices or medicines.  When I was a kid, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence and I always saw it as an “oh God” moment where I feared even having sex.  Being a married woman now, I really had not considered HIV other than what “other people” deal with.  This book actually gave me some practical knowledge of the illness and made me go online and do further research on the topic to inform myself about HIV/AIDS.

I appreciate how the author balanced a bit of reality into this love story, without making it so realistic that it did not feel like a romance.  We did end the story with our HEA.  This is actually the first book (of what 1,000s of romance books) that I have read that had a HIV positive lead character.  I respect Amy Lane’s balls and courage to write this series and specifically this book.

What could be better?

Honestly, there really was nothing that impeded my enjoyment of this book.  There is angst in the story (series) so that might put off some readers.  I did not feel that it hurt the story.

And on a complete side note, I really don’t get the cover art for this book.  It is the picture of what looks like two boys and in the background another boy.  If someone did not know what the book was about (or the genre) they sure would get a big shock I think.  I suppose this could be the horse ranch of Deacon’s, but really it just creeps me out a bit.  But maybe it’s just me.

Conclusions:

I thoroughly enjoyed Living Promises by Amy Lane.  I found within these covers a love story.  But not just a story about love, it is also about pain, loss, family, and love’s return.  I found here a story of hope, that when life seems irredeemable, there is always a way forward, even if it is not your first choice.  To me, this book illustrates Horace’s quote and one that we should live by:

  “Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have.  It is later than you think.”

 

Bea

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