Title: Making Promises (Promises #2)
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
This ‘sort of’ sequel to Keeping Promise Rock is another absorbing, emotional read.
All Shane Perkins ever wanted to be was a hero. But after a career-shattering decision to go down fighting, Shane comes home from the hospital to four empty walls, a pile of money, and a burning desire for someone to miss him the next time he gets hurt in the line of duty. He ends up an officer in the small town of Levee Oaks, and, addicted to the promise of family, he makes an effort to reconcile with his flighty, troubled sister. Kimmy makes her living as a dancer, and her partner steals Shane’s breath at first sight.
Mikhail Vasilyovitch Bayul dances like an angel, but his past is less than heavenly. Since he left Russia, he’s made only two promises: to stay off the streets and stay clean, and to take his mother someplace beautiful before she dies. Making promises to anybody else is completely out of the question—but then, Mikhail has never met anybody like Shane. Earnest, brave, and self-deprecating, Shane seems to speak Mikhail’s language, and no one is more surprised than Mikhail to find that keeping promises is Shane’s best talent of all.
Keeping Promise Rock has to be one of my favourite books of 2010, and so it’s inevitable really that Making Promises, set in the same town and featuring the same characters had a lot to live up to. Whilst I enjoyed the book a great deal, and once again had to get the tissues, this one didn’t give that ‘wow’ feeling that I got with the first book, mostly due to the character of Shane.
The story follows a concurrent timeline with the previous book. It begins after the time that Crick gets back from Iraq, but before our hero Shane appears in the first book. Shane is an LA cop who has transferred to the small redneck town of Levee Oaks after he was wounded badly in the line of duty. Abandoned and betrayed by his lover, Shane starts the new job with a determination that his past mistakes will not affect the love he has for being a cop. Whilst visiting his sister at a travelling medieval fair, Shane meets Mikhail, a beautiful but very troubled dancer. There’s an attraction between them, but Shane refuses to let Mikhail be just another one night stand and sets out instead to woo and win him over.
There was much to like about this story, mostly I felt in the character of Mikhail and the relationship he has with his mother. Ylena is dying of cancer, and the way that the strong bond is shown between mother and son, was both delightful and saddening. Mikhail isn’t the easiest of characters to like: he’s selfish, skittish, arrogant and very self-absorbed most of the time. However, his love for his mother and the sacrifices he makes for her meant that I warmed to Mikhail as the book progressed. Mikhail’s past is something which still affects how he views life and other people in the book, as he is unable to make friends and open up to people, but I liked how the characters of Benny, Andrew and Jeff were able to accept him (mostly at first for Shane’s sake) and allow him to change, to move away from the frightened, comfortable self-absorption by the end of the book. It was this development in Mikhail’s character that was perhaps the strongest element of this book.
The weakest aspect of the book, in my opinion (and I might just be in the minority with this), was the character of Shane. He was just too perfect. Too nice, too generous, too gentle. He always seemed to know exactly the right things to say, especially to the skittish Mikhail. He’s noble, self-sacrificing, friendly…I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Thinking about it, maybe that is Shane’s character flaw – that he’s so wrapped up in being the nicest, kindest human being he can, that he is not true to himself and is too concerned about being the best for other people. Still, I found him endlessly frustrating when he always knew the right things to say, the right way to deal with people and the situations they are in. Many times through the book I found myself thinking ‘no-one is that perfect’ and it added a false note to what is an absorbing story.
Despite my problems with Shane, this book is still a really good read with many other things to recommend it. I liked revisiting some of the characters from Keeping Promise Rock, especially as we get to know more about the more minor characters such as Benny, Andrew and Jeff. The descriptions of the Medieval fair, and of the dancing (both Shane’s sister and Mikhail) were realistically done. I also liked that the book is firmly routed in the setting and all the problems that entails for a gay (or in Shane’s case bisexual) cop in a small homophobic town. The secondary characters are well drawn, and not just Ylena, but Shane’s cop partner, Calvin, his sister Kimmy, and a whole host of other characters who move in and out of Shane and Mikhail’s life. The book draws you in and keeps you reading right to the last page.
For those readers, like me, who read and loved Keeping Promise Rock, this book is a must. In theory you can read it without reading KPR first, but your reading experience wouldn’t be as rich if you haven’t. I really enjoyed immersing myself back in the world of Deacon & Crick, Shane & Mikhail and would recommend Making Promises to those readers who like strong writing, heavy on emotional content and interesting characterisation.