Rating: 5 stars
All it took was one look at Deacon Winter putting Lucy Star through her paces in the workout ring for Carrick Francis to fall in love. At first Carrick, aka “Crick”, thought it was the horse he loved and the farm called The Pulpit where the horse lived. But it wasn’t long before the “little Mex kid” as his stepfather Bob called him, realized that the beautiful boy in the ring was his true and final love. Deacon Winter was everything that was fine as far as Crick was concerned. He was patient, beautiful with his green-hazel eyes and sun streaked blond hair. Deacon was also silent, being painfully shy. For Deacon hardly ever talked but when he did, Crick listened. When Deacon’s dad took Crick home one evening and realized how bad the situation was with Crick’s stepfather, Parrish Winter told Crick’s mom that he would be taking the boy every weekend to help at the farm. Those weekends became Crick’s salvation, and refuge as Crick’s stepfather became ever more abusive. Crick stayed only to protect his younger sister from Bob’s rage.
As the years flew by, Crick’s love for Deacon thrived and deepened. As did Deacon’s love for Crick, as everyone around them but Crick knew. Just when Crick was set to leave for college, Deacon’s father dies and Crick stays in Levee Oaks to help run The Pulpet with Deacon. The sexual tension between them grows to the breaking point and Deacon gives in to Crick’s advances with tragic consequences for both of them. Crick takes Deacon’s stunned behavior after they make love as a rejection and makes an impulsive decision that will haunt both of them for the rest of their lives. Deacon is actually just stunned to recognize the depths of the feelings that Crick has carried within him for Deacon all these years. When Deacon realizes that his hesitation has been taken as rejection he runs after Crick but it is too late. He is gone.
The loss of Crick almost destroys Deacon. The separation does the same for Crick, the two men left demoralized and despondent by one rash decision. But the men had also made a promise to each other. “I need you, like I want you. Always and forever. I want you like I love you. Always and forever. Consider that a promise.” Now if only the world will listen and let them make that promise a certainty.
Keeping Promise Rock is one of my all time favorite reads. It’s my “go to” book when I need comfort, it’s the book I grab when I need to revisit old friends, curled up on a long winter’s night. It’s the book I reach for when I want to lose myself in beloved universe, full of people I have come to love and events that take me one more time on an immensely satisfying roller coaster ride of emotions. There’s tears of joy to go with the heartbreak and overwhelming love to conquer the despair of the events within. How I cherish this book.
Amy Lane is a master of characterization and the people she has created for Keeping Promise Rock are as timeless as they are memorable. We meet both Deacon and Crick as teenagers and watch them mature into men dealing with the tumultuous events that life has thrown at them. And not once does it ever feel less than completely real. It’s not just the depth and dimension of each character that makes them so authentic, it’s their dialog too. I could have someone read a conversation from the book between Crick, Deacon, and Deacon’s friend, Jon to me and I would never be confused as to which “voice” I am hearing. In fact, most of the time I am so completely enveloped in the story that I am shocked to find that the hours have flown by as I read.
Amy Lane understands people so well that how her characters react to life’s roadblocks and misunderstandings comes across as being as true to life as possible. It doesn’t matter whether Deacon is reacting to Crick fighting in the high school hallway or a devastated Crick sitting at Deacon’s hospital bedside after a car accident, trying to find the courage to tell Deacon what he had done. Every circumstance the boys find themselves in is a place others would find familiar. There is bullying, both at home and at school. And being out and gay in a high school where tolerance is an issue along with the consequences that comes with trying to deal with the issues stemming from intolerance in the classroom and on the playing field. The author gives us parental abuse where there should have been love and support. And we see how growing up under those conditions will leave their mark on the person, both in behavior and trust.
With that foundation laid, then certain actions become not only understandable but relatable. Lane never lets us forget that her characters conduct or behavior stems from a source that has a basis in reality. The fact that life is unfair can be visited upon the unwary in so many ways and Amy Lane delivers that emotional moment to us time and again and never to less than shattering impact. But if Amy Lane is outstanding in delivering life’s blows and making us feel them along with her characters, she is also balances the pain they feel with life’s joys and successes. We celebrate as they do when life and love comes triumphantly together, knowing full well that the path getting to that point was as hard and tortuous as real life itself.
What can be better than this? With Amy Lane’s books we acknowledge life’s fleeting moments and their impact in peoples lives as well as those relationships that speak of permanence and the costs carried with them. We get insight into human interactions no matter the age through characters like Deacon, Crick, Benny, Jon, and many others we want to visit again and again. Luckily for us, Amy Lane feels the same way, as Keeping Promise Rock is the first in the Promise series. Start with Keeping Promise Rock and read them all. You will love them as much as I do.
Here is the Promises series in the order they were written and should be read to throughly understand the characters and the events mentioned:
Keeping Promise Rock (Promises #1)
Making Promises (Promises #2)
Living Promises (Promises #3)
Paul Richmond’s wonderful cover is perfect for the story within.