Title: Bittersweet Candy Kisses (All Petit Morts Stories)
Author: Josh Lanyon
Cover Artist: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Paranormal M/M
Length: Novelette (15,720 words) 53 PDF pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: This story surprised me — and the characters rose to the occasion by not being at all predictable.
Broken in body and crippled in spirit, Ridge Baneberry sees death as the only way out. Not his death, of course—the death of his obnoxious cousin, Raleigh, the one who was responsible for the accident. It’s not easy plotting the perfect murder from his wheelchair, but when Raleigh’s body is eventually found, who’s going to suspect a cripple? Ridge might not be able to get around so easily, but if there’s one thing he has, it’s time.
Then a painfully cheerful physical therapist named Tug shows up at his front door with an appointment book and an agenda. Tug’s personality is equal measures of patience, optimism, and warm Georgia sunshine.
Since this Tug person won’t take no for an answer, Raleigh decides he might as well put him to good use. Almond candy would be the perfect camouflage for a lethal dose of cyanide, and Tug knows just where some gourmet chocolates can be found….
Ridge was not a sympathetic character despite being in a wheelchair, mainly because he was so sorry for himself and was determined to murder his cousin Raleigh for making him a cripple. It was all Ridge could think about between watching cable television and surfing the Internet. He had lots of time on his hands since he couldn’t or wouldn’t go anywhere, and Raleigh was always out in his new car which replaced the one he had smashed along with Ridge’s body. Ridge’s other reason for wanting to kill Raleigh was because he felt his cousin had stolen his inheritance when their uncle suffered a heart attack. Planning Raleigh’s murder was the best possible therapy for Ridge.
Raleigh could care less about Ridge’s claim to their uncle’s estate which, to put it mildly, was an albatross around his neck and he was fast running out of money for its upkeep. The fact that he had cheated Ridge of his inheritance didn’t stop him from spending his time getting drunk or zooming around in his new sports car. I expected that Raleigh would care a bit more about putting Ridge in a wheelchair but he was too busy feeling sorry for himself and the hand he had been dealt by fate.
The day that Ridge decided on the best way to get rid of Raleigh, he had a visitor — a physical therapist named Tug who was so cheerful he would make anyone want to smash his face in. Well, not really, but he was so upbeat that Ridge wanted no part of him. It didn’t help that Tug knew him in high school when he was great looking and had the use of his legs. However Tug was determined to do his job and to Ridge’s dismay, despite his insults, he stuck around to help him and suggest different therapies. But when Raleigh came home later he gave Ridge the worst possible news: he was going to sell their home and Ridge would have to move, maybe into some form of assisted living.
Since Ridge had decided on poison as the best method for getting rid of Raleigh he asked Tug to get him some candy to hide the taste. Tug, not knowing the purpose for the candy, insisted that they visit Sweets to the Sweet so that Ridge could select his favourites. Chance was his usual enigmatic self and seemed to know exactly why Ridge was there and probably thought it funny to help him — maybe. Could his magic change the fate of Ridge, Raleigh and Tug?
Josh Lanyon’s wonderful prose illustrated how miserable Ridge’s life was as a cripple, which in turn made him take out his anger on anyone who was around. But the character who impressed me the most in this story was Tug – he was not the strongest person but when he made up his mind that he would help Ridge he went all out, despite Ridge’s objections, and made him realize that there was more to life than being able to walk. Tug rescued Ridge by showing him that life could really be like a box of chocolates. On the other hand, living with someone who is always sunny and cheerful could tend to make one think of murder, but that’s another story. 🙂
I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying this book because initially I found the characters unlikeable and the story very dark, but the MCs evolved in ways I didn’t anticipate. I always expect this author’s characters to be flawed and I wasn’t disappointed but if there’s one trait that Josh Lanyon possesses it’s his ability to make his characters change in unexpected ways by introducing different elements, and Tug proved to be the variable that Ridge needed to turn his life around. I was hoping that Chance might have had a larger role in Just Desserts and I would have liked Tug and Ridge to stick around a little longer, but that’s just me always wanting more, more, more.
If you’re looking for a story with a few twists that make it stand out from the crowd I think Just Desserts might be just what you need.