Kimberly Reviews: Stand by your Manny by Amy Lane

Title: Stand By Your Manny

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 232

Characters: Sammy, Cooper, Felicity, Tino, Channing

POV: Third

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 4 

Blurb:

Learning to trust and falling in love. 

Sammy Lowell has his hands full juggling his music, college, some pesky health problems, and making the uncles who raised him proud. He needs help fulfilling his after-school duties with his siblings. Nobody can be in two places at once—not even Sammy!

An injury puts Cooper Hoskins in a tough spot—if he can’t work, the foster sister he’s raising can’t eat. But years in the foster system have left Cooper short on trust, and opening up to accept help isn’t easy.

Luckily, family intervenes—Cooper needs a job so he can care for Felicity, and Sammy needs someone who can see past his illness to the wonderful things he has planned for his life. Each heals the damaged places in the other’s heart. But falling in love is a big responsibility for young men deep in family already. Can the two of them get past their fear of the immediate future to see forever with each other?

Review:

Amy Lane is back again, with a third entry in her Mannies series:

  • The Virgin Manny
  • Manny Get Your Guy
  • Stand By Your Manny

This time around, we are treated to the adventures of Cooper, finding a secondary career as a manny after he has an accident at his construction job. Admittedly, this is my first foray into the series, so I assume that we were introduced to at least his boss, Brandon, and Brandon’s boyfriend, Taylor, in a prior book, since they were the bridge between Cooper and his new adoptive family. Regardless of my prior lack of knowledge, though, I think I got a good handle on who was who and how they all interrelated.

The situation with both Cooper and Sammy was interesting and their approach to love was really well done. They are each other’s firsts, which was sweet, and there’s definitely the sense that they will be together for the long haul. Cooper’s background was rough, but he and Felicity have a home now. And Sammy’s background was fraught with medical issues, which will impede his ability to venture too far from home. Together they are set to strive for greatness and have a rich life together. And they will continue to have a strong family base, with an extended network of support that will be there for them no matter what they might need.

The family devotion of Tino and Channing to their kids, both old and new, was wonderful and I wished we could have gotten a bit more glimpses at them together. Well, more of Cooper witnessing it, since the momentary jump to the uncles’ point of view felt a bit jarring. I prefer when authors stick to one point of view, or at least alternate clearly without a temporary detour to one-off point of view revelations. Additionally, I was hoping we would have seen more of Cooper interacting with the children as well, since that was his new job. He says he adores the kids, but it was a bit more telling than showing. Instead, the focus was on Cooper and Sammy’s emerging relationship, as well as Sammy’s complex health issues. While I enjoyed it, I was hoping for more roundedness in the storyline.

Despite these drawbacks, though, I did become very interested in the universe overall, so I am hoping Amy Lane returns to these characters and additional characters again. In the meantime, I can go back and read the former books in the series. If you’re looking for a nice, sweet romance that has some real obstacles to overcome before a happily ever after, you will definitely enjoy Stand By Your Manny. 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Lydia Reviews: Stand By Your Manny by Amy Lane

Title: Stand By Your Manny

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 232

Genre: Contemporary, Series

Kisses: 4

Blurb: 

Learning to trust and falling in love.

Sammy Lowell has his hands full juggling his music, college, some pesky health problems, and making the uncles who raised him proud. He needs help fulfilling his after-school duties with his siblings. Nobody can be in two places at once—not even Sammy!

An injury puts Cooper Hoskins in a tough spot—if he can’t work, the foster sister he’s raising can’t eat. But years in the foster system have left Cooper short on trust and opening up to accept help isn’t easy.

Luckily, family intervenes—Cooper needs a job so he can care for Felicity, and Sammy needs someone who can see past his illness to the wonderful things he has planned for his life. Each heals the damaged places in the other’s heart. But falling in love is a big responsibility for young men deep in family already. Can the two of them get past their fear of the immediate future to see forever with each other?

Review: 

Stand by Your Manny is book three in Ms. Lane’s The Mannies series.  Because of who one of the main characters is, and the connection to the secondary ones, this is a series that needs to be read in order.  Fans of this series are really going to love this book.  Sammy, the little boy we met and loved in book one, is now a young man and ready to strike out on his own.  Only things are not going to be as easy as he hoped.

Life for Sammy has changed since we last saw him.  As a teenager, Sammy began to have health issues that still control his life today. Not only does this make Sammy insecure in some ways, it has also made his family, especially his fathers overprotective.  When Sammy has the possibility of teaching at an inner-city school as well as playing his music in a bar during the evenings, his parents make a compromise.

Sammy can teach, but no playing at the bar. They will also have to find a manny to take care of the younger children since Sammy won’t be able to do it.

Cooper grew up in the foster system and when he aged out he knew life would be hard, he just did not understand how hard.  When the foster sister from his last home showed up on his doorstep Cooper did the only thing he could do, he kept her.  The young man does everything he can to keep the authorities from showing up on his doorstep.  When Cooper gets hurt on the job he learns to ask for help from his friends.   Getting a job as a manny will pay more and allow him to take better care of his sister, it also brings him into contact with Sammy.

Fans will love the slow-burning relationship that grows between the two boys.  Both young men are worried about being hurt, should they misread things, and so are unsure how to act on what they are feeling.  Watching them find their way was fun and it is easy to see just how much they care for each other.  I also loved the way Sammy’s fathers react to the budding relationship between these two young men.  I had to laugh at the condom story but felt so bad for Sammy at the same time.

Many previous characters play second fiddle in Stand by Your Manny.  The strong feeling of family that was present in the first book can be found in this one as well.  This is just one of the many reasons why I love these books.

The Mannies series is one that readers will enjoy.  Ms. Lane brings each story alive for the readers in a way that will keep them turning the pages.  I am looking forward to the next story and can’t wait to see what the author has planned.

Reviewed by: Lydia

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Kimberly Reviews: Crocus by Amy Lane

Title: Crocus

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 244

Characters: Larx, Aaron, Olivia

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 3 

Blurb:

Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee peace or a happy ending.

High school principal “Larx” Larkin was pretty sure he’d hit the jackpot when Deputy Sheriff Aaron George moved in with him, merging their two families as seamlessly as the chaos around them could possibly allow.

But when Larx’s pregnant daughter comes home unexpectedly and two of Larx’s students are put in danger, their tentative beginning comes crashing down around their ears.

Larx thought he was okay with the dangers of Aaron’s job, and Aaron thought he was okay with Larx’s daughter—who is not okay—but when their worst fears are almost realized, it puts their hearts and their lives to the test. Larx and Aaron have never wanted anything as badly as they want a life together. Will they be able to make it work when the world is working hard to keep them apart?

Review:

Crocus is the second book in the Bonfires series, leading off with the aptly named Bonfires itself. And while this new addition was a good read, I would recommend reading the prior book in the series beforehand, if only to be able to keep the children and backstories straight. I did not have that advantage, so I’m sure I’ve mixed up who is who more than once. But, the main characters carried me through the story, so I wasn’t too lost overall.

We once again visit high school principal “Larx” Larkin and Deputy Sheriff Aaron George as they build their life together with their children, pets, and overall craziness of their jobs. Added to the insanity this go around is the return of Larx’s daugher, Olivia, who has dropped out of college, is now pregnant, and wants to live at Aaron’s old house. And there’s the added complication that she has very apparent mental health issues, even if her father refuses to admit it for a very long time. I liked how Amy Lane dealt with that issue, along with the pregnancy and the baby’s father, who really wants to be with Olivia through thick and thin. I have hope that they can make it through anything as long as they’re together, and have the continued support of Aaron and Larx and the rest of the family behind them.

I also enjoyed the case that Larx and Aaron got involved in, as well as the aftermath that occurred as a result, though I felt like I was a bit removed from the girl and her situation. Yes, I felt bad that she was involved in domestic violence and that both she and her sister got the help they needed, but I didn’t feel like we got enough time with the characters to make a deep connection. What we did get was a focus on the aftermath with Larx and Aaron, so I guess that was more the point of the book.

As we’ve come to expect, we were treated to a happy ending after all the emotional ups and downs involving a shooting, a bunch of homophobic people, and a solidified definition of what family is. The end of the book was also left open to the potential further exploration of this universe and these characters. I wouldn’t mind revisiting Larx, Aaron, and their family. They have a very interesting dynamic going on and wonderful personalities to boot. A feel-good read that will surely give you hours of enjoyment! 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Lydia Reviews: Bonfires by Amy Lane

Title: Bonfires

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Genre: Contemporary, Series

Pages: 280

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road. Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last. It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

Review:

Bonfires is the first book of author Amy Lane’s series by the same name. This is a story of second chances and blended families. I am a big fan of Ms. Lane’s and while I wanted to read this book I had forgotten that the main characters were more mature than usual. As I read that became a non issue and soon the author had me drawn into the world she created for Larx and Aaron.

Both these men have so much in common that it is only a matter of time before they got together. Larx is the high school principal. He is a single father to two girls. He is also gay, something that only a couple of people in the small town that he lives in knows. Aaron is also a single father, but the Deputy has three children who struggled after the death of their mother. Like Larx, Aaron kept his sexual identity a secret from those he loved. When their lives changed both men took their families to the small town of Colton. Now after several years alone, and both close to facing an empty nest, the two men find their way to each other.

I loved these two men. Larx and Aaron pulled me into their story from the beginning. The way they connect, the chemistry between them, the way they love their families, all made me want them to find the HEA that they deserved. I think one of the things that really drew me in was how realistic the story was. The author does a wonderful job showing what it’s like to be a single parent, especially when the children are teenagers. Then there is the fact that neither man has been in a relationship for some time and are nervous about what looks to be an all-consuming affair. Ms. Lane did a great job helping the men on their journey and I loved the way she handles their first time in bed.

Bonfires is not just a story of love though. There is unease brewing at the high school and Larx is worried about how it will play out. When Aaron finds a body floating in the lake, and then one of Larx’s students is attacked the men can’t help wondering if there is a connection.

I did not see this playing out the way it did. I think more than one reader will be surprised by the little twists and turns this part of the story takes. Bonfires has become one of my re-reads and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Lydia Reviews: Red Fish, Dead Fish by Amy Lane

Title: Red Fish, Dead Fish

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 330

Characters: Jackson Rivers and Ellery Cramer

POV:  3rd POV

Sub-Genre:  Mystery

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

They must work together to stop a psychopath—and save each other.

Two months ago Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the triggerman remains at large—and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’s time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted—and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her—Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.

Review:

Jackson and Ellery are back in Red Fish, Dead Fish, the second book of the Fish Out of Water series.  This is a series that needs to be read in order, so if you have not yet read the first book you may want to not go any further in this review.

The story picks up shortly after the end of the first book and the connection between Ellery and Jackson grows stronger with every page. I loved seeing the way Jackson has slowly come to understand that he is worthy of that love.  But while the love between these two is important, it is not the focus of this story.

Once again, the two men are trying to track down a killer, someone they have been after for a while.  There are times when the details are a little gruesome but it is necessary to the storyline and well done by the author.   The men run into obstacles along the way, everything from meth heads in Jackson’s condo to the death of his mother, which is done in such a way that the readers may be a little shocked.  Finding their killer is not easy and at times really takes its toll on Jackson but Ellery is there every step of the way, as is Mike and Jade.

Red Fish, Dead Fish is over 300 pages long and a lot goes on in those pages, too much to cover in a review without giving anything away.  Let’s just say that this is a story that fans of Ms. Lane should really pick up.  It is also one that those who love the mystery sub-genre should give a try, just remember to read the first book beforehand.  I cannot wait until the author brings these two back and hopefully we will not have to wait long.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Kimberly Reviews: Tart and Sweet by Amy Lane


Title: Tart and Sweet
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 220
Characters: Robbie, Cy, Adam, and Finn
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 3.5

Blurb:

In the Army, Robbie Chambers turned on his lover out of fear—and he hasn’t been able to live with himself since. Now he’s out of the Army but still trapped in the closet that brought on his most cowardly moment, and he starts to think he’ll never be able to fight his way free.

Until he sees Cy McVeigh. Beautiful and uninhibited, Cy is dancing on the boardwalk at Old Sac for no other reason than the moment called for it. Robbie not only joins in the dance but is smitten from the very beginning.

However, Robbie still has old business to clear up, and when he helps out a kid in need and comes face-to-face with the man he betrayed, he’s forced to come clean with himself. He can’t redeem his mistake if he’s still locked into his old patterns, and he won’t ever be worthy of Cy if he can’t earn Adam’s forgiveness. He’s going to need all the help he can get from the people at Candy Heaven in order to make things right with his past so he can have a future with Cy.

Review:

Tart and Sweet is the fourth and final book in the Candy Man series. The story centers around Robbie and Cy’s developing romance, as well as Robbie’s need to rectify some issues from his past. There was past lover drama and family drama, but overall the characters came out of this with a happy ending an a bright look towards the future.

Having never read the former books in the series, I came in having to get to know the multitude of characters that were mentioned, and that perhaps put me at a disadvantage because there was an expectation that the reader would already know the names well and the short-hand descriptions would suffice. For me, though, it was extremely difficult to know who was who, what significance each side character might have in the larger universe of the series, and who I should pay attention to more thoroughly. Instead of trying to sort them all out, I concentrated my attention on Robbie and Cy’s relationship and not let many of the casual mentions about the other characters’ issues weigh me down too much. Was it impossible to enjoy the book? No. However, I think that the story would be much more enjoyable to those who had read the prior books in the series and knew all the characters well.

If you’d like to read the entire Candy Man series, the books in order are:
• Candy Man
• Bitter Taffy
• Lollipop
• Tart and Sweet

What drew me in to Tart and Sweet the most, aside from the developing relationship between Robbie and Cy, was the way Robbie came to terms with who he was and non-apologetic for his sexuality. He walked away from his girlfriend and into the arms of Cy perhaps a bit too quickly, but his interactions with his parents and trying to get them to see him for who he truly was made for great storytelling. I wouldn’t mind seeing where Robbie and Cy might end up a few years from now, whether Robbie’s father might accept him or if his mother continues to try to bridge the gap in the fractured family. For now, though, I’ll believe that Robbie and Cy retain their happily ever after.

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Lydia Reviews: The Virgin Manny by Amy Lane


Title: The Virgin Manny
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 228
Characters: Tino Robbins and Channing Lowell
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 4

Blurb:

Growing up and falling in love…
Sometimes family is a blessing and a curse. When Tino Robbins is roped into helping his sister deliver premade dinners when he should be studying for finals, he’s pretty sure it’s the latter! But one delivery might change everything.

Channing Lowell’s charmed life changes when his sister dies and leaves him her seven-year-old son. He’s committed to doing what’s best for Sammy… but he’s going to need a lot of help. When Tino lands on his porch, Channing is determined to recruit him to Team Sammy.

Tino plans to make his education count—even if that means avoiding a relationship—but as he falls harder and harder for his boss, he starts to wonder: Does he have to leave his new-ly forged family behind in order to live his promising tomorrow?

Review:

The Virgin Manny is the first book in Ms. Lane’s new series, The Mannies. This is a story that will have you alternating between laughing and crying and you will have a hard time putting this story down.

Tino has his life all planned and that means relationships must take a back seat. For Tino that is not a problem, since he really does not have that much luck with guys anyway. When his baby sister asks him to do her a favor, and make one of her deliveries for her he agrees, after much complaining. What surprises him is the instant attraction he feels for the man who answers the door.

Channing’s life is not going the way he planned. He’s used to working all hours and when he needs a little relief he finds a quick hook up. But things change when his sister dies, leaving him custody of his little nephew. Between his job and his nephew, Channing has little time for a relationship, but then he meets Tino and his life takes another turn.

Ms. Lane can create characters that make you care about them from the very beginning. In The Virgin Manny, she gives us Tino and Channing, two characters with nothing in common. Tino is trying to finish college and worried about getting a job that will let him pay off his student loans as well as help his parents. He’s a little on the snarky side but that just made me like him more. Channing is well to do, and used to getting his way. He’s completely out of his depth when it comes to caring for his nephew and will jump at any chance for help. When Channing and Tino meet for the first times it is easy to see the attraction between them, but then Sammy comes into the picture and I wanted to cry. Sammy is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that his mother is gone but knows that when the Dinner Box Girl shows up, everything will be right in his world again. When the Dinner Box Girl turns out to be a guy, Sammy is devastated. After helping Channing out, with dinner, Tino is offered a job as the manny. The pay and benefits are too good to pass up and Tino now has new plans for the summer.

There is a lot of adjustment needed by all involved and the author handles the situation between Sammy and his uncle in a way that is believable. I like that Ms. Lane lets this play out in a natural manner rather than having Sammy accept his mother’s passing overnight. I liked that while the relationship between Tino and Channing developed fast, they took their time getting to know each other. I also liked that the author had Channing take Tino’s concerns regarding school and work seriously, even though he wanted to rush in and take care of things for the younger man.

While there are some conflicts, The Virgin Manny is a sweet read that will leave fans of this author on the lookout for the next installment in this series. This is also a story that will fulfill several sub-genre themes so those that are into mannies, kids, rich man/working class, should check out this book.

Recommended!

Reviewed By: Lydia

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