Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: Serial Novel
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: In a town as small as Tyson, CA, everybody knew the four brothers with the four different fathers– and their penchant for making good music when they weren’t getting into trouble. For Mackey Sanders, playing in Outbreak Monkey with his brothers and their friends—especially Grant Adams–made Tyson bearable. But Grant has plans for getting Mackey and the Sanders boys out of Tyson, even if that means staying behind.
Between the heartbreak of leaving Grant and the terrifying, glamorous life of rock stardom, Mackey is adrift and sinking fast. When he’s hit rock bottom, Trav Ford shows up, courtesy of their record company and a producer who wants to see what Mackey can do if he doesn’t flame out first. But cleaning up his act means coming clean about Grant, and that’s not easy to do or say. Mackey might make it with Trav’s help–but Trav’s not sure he’s going to survive falling in love with Mackey.
Mackey James Sanders comes with a whole lot of messy, painful baggage, and law-and-order Trav doesn’t do messy or painful. And just when Trav thinks they may have mastered every demon in Mackey’s past, the biggest, baddest demon of all comes knocking.
Review: I really feel like every single review I write of an Amy Lane book should begin with the phrase: F**king Amy Lane. It seems I find myself saying that each and every time I finish one of her amazing works. There is a gift inside her, one that enables her to write words that slither off the page and reach inside the chest of the reader to squeeze their heart. The strength of that squeeze depends upon the individual and their personal circumstances as they relate to those of the characters created by Ms. Lane. All that is fancy talk for Amy Lane makes me feel tons of shit I don’t always want to feel! I have not found another author who consistently makes me feel emotions this powerfully.
Reviewing Parts Three and Four of Beneath the Stain together feels right because they go together. All the parts go together, but these two are the virtual inception followed by the real beginning of the relationship that was hinted at earlier between Trav and Mackey. In Part Three, Mackey goes to rehab. That sounds like the title of a kid’s book, Mackey Goes to Rehab… But he needs a reason. He can’t just go because he needs to; he needs something to motivate him. As if his band falling apart around him isn’t motivation enough.
Trav provides the motivation in the form of a promise of the possibility of there being a “them” at some vague point in the future. It is deeply saddening that just the vague possibility of a something is enough to motivate Mackey. It speaks to how little hope he has had in his life. While in rehab, accompanied by Blake, Outbreak Monkey’s second guitarist, Trav and Mackey begin a habit of ending the day texting one another. The exchanges are instrumental in helping Mackey see the why of his addiction and the what he needs to feel and deal with in order to get past the gut-deep need for the mind-altering substances that temporarily take away his pain.
When Mackey and Blake get out of rehab in Part Four, they go to the house that Trav has arranged for the band to rent. It is the first time Mackey has lived in a freestanding house and the first time he has had a room to himself. He dives right into the decorating and adjusting to living outside of rehab. It is a hard adjustment, figuring out how to put the skills he learned in rehab into practice in real life. He is learning to live with his band mates (two of whom are his brothers) all over again after the revealing letters he wrote them while in treatment.
Everything is (of course) complicated by the growing feelings he and Trav have for each other. They both know that Mackey isn’t supposed to get involved in a relationship until he has the whole living while sober thing down. If he does, the relationship runs the risk of becoming his new addiction. Trav doesn’t want to be an addiction, he wants to be more, wants to wait until everyone involved agrees that Mackey is ready. But you know how it is when you love someone and want him desperately, and he sleeps right down the hall from you every night.
One of my favorite parts of reading Beneath the Stain as a serial instead of waiting for the novel is the bonus scene at the end of each installment. The one at the end of Part Four was a bit about coming home after rehab from Blake’s perspective. Blake is not even a secondary character in this book. He’s on the periphery. That’s how he is written. And while reading the bonus scene it becomes clear that he knows that. He feels like he doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t know why Mackey hates him for no reason, and nothing he does is good enough for Mackey. The bonus scene in Part Three was from Mackey, Kell, and Jefferson’s mom’s point of view. It’s fascinating to see things through the eyes of the characters surrounding Outbreak Monkey. The serial is worth reading just for that reason. But it is a must f**king read because it’s Amy Lane and it is superb.