Title: Keeping Promise Rock (Promises #1)
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Carrick Francis has spent most of his life jumping into trouble with both feet. The only thing saving him from prison or worse is his absolute devotion to Deacon Winters. Deacon was Crick’s sanity and salvation during a miserable, abusive childhood, and Crick would do anything to stay with him forever. So when Deacon’s father dies, Crick puts his college plans on hold to help Deacon as Deacon has helped him.
Deacon’s greatest wish is to see Crick escape his memories and the town they grew up in so Crick can enjoy a shining future. But after two years of growing feelings and temptation, the painfully shy Deacon finally succumbs to Crick’s determined advances and admits he sees himself as part of Crick’s life.
It nearly destroys Deacon when he discovers Crick has been waiting for him to push him away, just like Crick’s family did in the past. When Crick’s knack for volatile decisions lands him far away from home, Deacon is left, shell-shocked and alone, struggling to reforge his heart in a world where love with Crick is a promise, but by no means a certainty.
Keeping Promise Rock begins with a tense prologue. Our hero, Crick, is in Iraq, travelling in an ambulance when the vehicle in front is blown up. Crick is thrown from the ambulance and then loses consciousness. His last thoughts are of Deacon and how much he regrets that their time together was so short. The story proper then begins as we meet Crick as a child and follow him through a painful abusive childhood, the only bright spot being the love that is given to him by ranch owner Parish Winters and his son Deacon, who offer Crick work and an escape from his life at home. As the two boys grow up, Crick suffers from a terrible crush on Deacon which grows into a strong love. Crick is overjoyed when that love seems to be returned but mixed messages and fate cause the men to be separated.
If you are the sort of reader who likes being taken on a long emotional journey, then this book is for you. I was thoroughly swept up by the story which is told in sections, firstly by Crick and then by alternating between Deacon and Crick. The first part which deals with Crick growing up is full of the hope and disappointments that categorise childhood and adolescence. We learn that Crick is impulsive, mouthy and prone having trouble find him through no fault of his own. We also learn that despite his cruel treatment at the hands of his step-father, he loves his sisters very much and takes better care of them than their parents do. Time and time again he praises Deacon, seeing in him a hero and a rescuer. This hero-worship means that Deacon comes across as idealised and I was glad that when the point of view changed we got to see a more human side of Deacon, especially during his brief period of completely falling apart. Both men have their problems, Crick lives in constant expectation of rejection and Deacon fears being left alone. It is ironic that these fears which should compliment each other are what drives the two men apart.
Alongside the two characters and their changing relationship from friends into lovers, various themes are explored. First and foremost are the theme of rejection and acceptance. As I said earlier, this is Crick’s primary fear as past experience has led to him being rejected by his parents over and over, and by his peers and teachers at school. This is mirrored later in the actions of his step-father towards his sister, and the townsfolk when they learn that Crick and Deacon are gay. These actions are then contrasted with the love and acceptance that Crick and his sister get from Deacon and his friends. Another theme is that of family and how being part of a family can either make or destroy a person. These themes are seamlessly interwoven in with the narrative, with each character, no matter how minor, perfectly placed to further the plot and add to the themes. There were no superfluous characters, no part of the book which I felt didn’t contribute positively to the story. This meant that my emotional investment in the story was high, as I read on to find out how Crick and Deacon would resolve their problems and be set on their path to a HEA. By the end of the book, I was almost in tears at how perfectly the romance had concluded and I was very satisfied, as well as sad to leave the characters, as I read the last page.
If I have anything negative at all to say about the book, it is that Crick’s mother and step-father were a little too harshly drawn. They came across as unfeeling monsters most of the time and I would have liked to have seen them a little more nuanced as characters. However, I also accept that during the book we see them only from Crick or Deacon’s, admittedly biased, point of view. I did think that near the end of the book we were going to maybe get a little more insight into what drives Crick’s mother, but sadly that wasn’t the case. This meant that the ‘good’ people in the book were the most rounded and believable characters whereas the ‘bad’ people often behaved irrationally with little explanation as to what motivated them.
Despite this slight niggle, Keeping Promise Rock is still a fabulous book from a very promising new author. It’s not a fast paced read, but instead I was treated to a slow burning romance where the focus was on flawed, complex characters who frequently make mistakes which impact not only on themselves but on the lives of the other characters in the book. I was spellbound. I would highly recommend this book to those readers who are looking for a in-depth, character based romance.