Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 192 Pages
At a Glance: The happy-ever-after we are given was well worth the wait.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Rico Gonzalves-Macias didn’t expect to fall in love during his internship in New York—and he didn’t expect the boss’s son to out them both and get him fired either. When he returns to Sacramento stunned and heartbroken, he finds his cousin, Adam, and Adam’s boyfriend, Finn, haven’t just been house-sitting—they’ve made his once sterile apartment into a home.
When Adam gets him a job interview with the adorable, magnetic, practically perfect Derek Huston, Rico feels especially out of his depth. Derek makes it no secret that he wants Rico, but Rico is just starting to figure out that he’s a beginner at the really important stuff and doesn’t want to jump into anything with both feet.
Derek is a both-feet kind of guy. But he’s also made mistakes of his own and doesn’t want to pressure Rico into anything. Together they work to find a compromise between instant attraction and long-lasting love, and while they’re working, Rico gets a primer in why family isn’t always a bad idea. He needs to believe Derek can be his family before Derek’s formidable patience runs out—because even a practically perfect boyfriend is capable of being hurt.
Review: In this, the second installment in the “Amy Lane does sweet romance with little angst” (aptly named Candy Man) series, Bitter Taffy picks up almost exactly where book one left off. Adam and Finn are still delightfully together and growing stronger, Darrin is still playing in his pixie Stick dust and taking care of the outcasts being sent his way, and Clopper is still the most delightfully goofy hound ever to grace the written page. Rico, Adam’s cousin/next-best-thing-to-a-brother, has returned home from New York, devastated after his affair with the boss’s closeted son is revealed. To make matters worse, when the two are confronted and Rico asks his lover to leave with him, the answer is no, and the closet door is slammed shut.
But the closet no longer has any appeal for Rico, and when he returns home, his life will be one fraught with the fearful decision to come out to his family—the same family that discarded Adam with such final brutality when he admitted he was gay. Now, with the prospect of a new job and a boss who has no qualms about letting Rico know he is interested in something beyond a working relationship, there are so many doubts swirling inside Rico he is unsure about his heart being able to find love again.
The strength of this series lies in the relationships that flow deep and sure at this novel’s core. Were it not for the family that surrounds Finn and Derek being so wonderfully funny and accepting, their characters would be nearly unbelievable in the way in which they tenaciously hold on to those elusive yet needy cousins, Adam and Rico. The idea that love and acceptance trumps deep-seated pain and narrow-mindedness is the overarching theme in this series. However, before you dismiss these stories as sweet little gumdrops of positivity, remember what author we are speaking of—Amy Lane. While this is admittedly her “feel-good” set of novels, they are by no means any less intelligently written, nor do they dismiss the way that a hateful past can continue to shape the future of her heroes.
Rico seems to have led a much easier life than Adam, only because he has hidden who he is and allowed his life to be shaped by a father who couldn’t care less about his happiness, and cares more about how his son appears to the world. With a mother who toed the line and took care to keep herself and her son out of her husband’s way, Rico knew little of real love and less of what it means to be happy inside his own skin. When Derek shows him how to have both, he is understandably wary and afraid of failing.
But the real treasure in these love stories is that the lovers remain invested and fight for the one they desire. Like Finn, Derek is not to be put off—he wants Rico and he will stay the course to land him. Even more, Derek genuinely cares for Rico and is willing to let him go if that is what must happen. The beauty of Bitter Taffy is the simple, sweet rhythm of discovering another person, and the slow blossoming of love that occurs. The only real drawback in this novel was that I felt Rico focused a bit too much on Adam and his happiness, and not enough on his own, initially. However, by novel’s end that had changed, and the happy-ever-after we are given was well worth the wait.
You can buy Bitter Taffy here: