Tart and Sweet
Title: Tart and Sweet
Series: Candy Man Series, #4
Author: Amy Lane
Release Date: September 5th, 2016
Genre: M/M Romance
Pages: 220 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
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.
Alpha Book Club Welcomes Amy Lane!
Some True Things About Candy
By now, most people who have read the first book know the story.
My Mate is trim and fit—a runner.
I am not.
While he was running the St. Patrick’s half-marathon through Sacramento, I was there as support staff. Together we walked from the parking garage by the Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento to Raley Field where I saw him off, then I walked over the bridge into Old Sac by the museum again, hung out until he passed, waving, then I walked over the bridge back to Raley Field, then, after he finished running, we walked back over the bridge through Old Sac.
So Mate ran thirteen miles, and I walked a Five-K.
As I dragged myself, huffing and hot, back into Old Sac the last time, I realized that the next day was St. Patrick’s Day, and I hadn’t gotten anything in the way of tchotchkes or treats for the kids. I saw the storefront for Candy Heaven and got a light bulb. After leaving Mate outside on a bench, where he gazed dazedly into space (runner’s coma), I went inside to get some little treat sacks and fill them with salt water taffy.
I loved the store. I’ve always had a weakness for candy-in-a-barrel places, and I really loved the tie-dyed flags over the loft where they kept the stock, the scary clowns hanging out, being grotesque and strange, and the bizarre and funny mint boxes and candy toys that were in various shelves around the store. Also? Chocolate. There was chocolate there, and that doesn’t always happen in a hard-candy store.
The place was pretty empty because it was early, and I took my time talking to the guy behind the counter—Darrin. I was hot and sweaty and self-conscious, and Darrin was funny and kind, and we flirted a little, being funny. He made me happy I’d come that day and the store felt like magic.
I usually write my Christmas story in April or May. (This year it was February—but usually.) When it was time to write my Christmas story that year, I wanted a place that was magic, and Darrin, with his cowboy boots and his chocolate covered crickets and his joy—and his tagline, “Have a sweet day!” was going to figure.
Now I don’t usually write people I know as main characters. It’s a fine line—for instance, one of the MC’s in Tart and Sweet is based on someone I’ve seen dancing for years but have very rarely spoken to. In this case, I felt like I knew Darrin—the real one—too much to actually write him having sex (yes, sometimes it does come down to that!) but his store, his magic—that I wanted to capture.
So I made him The Candy Man. Arch, funny, a little bit mystical and a lot his own person with no apologies or shits given. His store is special because he’s special, and special in a way people respond to with effortless joy.
Sacramento is a city of diversity—and nowhere is this diversity more apparent than in Darrin’s store.
In the past two years since I’ve started writing about Candy Heaven, I’ve visited on a fairly regular basis. I’ve gone by myself, I’ve brought my kids, I’ve brought my friends. The faces of the crew change—of course, it’s a beginner’s job—but they’re the faces of Sacramento. Tattoos, gauges, nose rings, waxed mustaches, blue hair—all of it is welcome, all of it is comfortable and happy in Darrin’s store.
Every time I’ve walked in, the crew working there is an eclectic mix of young people—and they know me by now. When Darrin’s not there, they give me discounts—which is unnecessary, but sweet. One lazy afternoon I went in, and the young woman behind the counter said, “Oh, the book lady! Thanks for writing about us. This is my wife. She loves your books too.” Another time the young man who greeted me behind the chocolate counter was a young man named Adam—who had neck tattoos, just like my protagonist. I told him about his counterpart and was gifted with a very sweet, very shy smile, and a picture.
I asked one young man with a nose ring and gauges if he liked working there. “Oh yeah—can’t beat it for a starter job. Lotta fun.”
This is a place where young people get a job and are happy to go. Does it last? Well, like being young, not so much. Is it a good memory? Obviously. And being a part of it for the last two years, being welcome in the door with joy and enthusiasm? Well, it’s been a bright spot, that is for certain.
Today, I brought Darrin the last book in the series (and a couple of other books as well, because they were based in Sacramento.) He was thrilled—and more than happy to pose for pictures. And to ask the people in the store to photobomb as well!
We chatted briefly. His daughter had been in my class when I taught, and she was thrilled to know that she had a small part in my Bitter Moon series. He’d gone to Hawaii in the spring, and I told him that I wrote about him going on a cruise in Tart and Sweet. We talked about the nice weather, we talked about business, we talked about our kids—and I promised that just because the series was over, that didn’t mean I’d stopped visiting.
How could I?
We were friends.
At the end of the visit the kids came up with a candy bucket, filled modestly with candy.
“Did you get your brother’s salt water taffy?” I asked. “My Lemonheads and Atomic Fireballs?”
“Yeah, Mom. Dad’s Root Beer Barrels too!”
Darrin took the barrel from their hands. “Not enough,” he said, dimpling. He walked by Mate and they shook hands. “Root Beer Barrels?” he asked Mate.
Mate smiled. “My favorite.”
Darrin filled the bucket. Hell—he gave us the bucket. And a giant candy bar. And another photo bomb. And he took pictures of us outside.
And he gave us laughter and joy and acceptance and an outstanding place to tell people about in my hometown. He gave us pride and whimsy and scary clowns and sweetness.
He gave me inspiration.
He gave me the thrill of giving him to you.
For everyone who has followed the series from beginning to now, I hope the ending is as optimistic and as happy-ever-after as a store named Candy Heaven deserves.
For those of you who haven’t started but are now intrigued? Be prepared for a little bit of laughter, a little bit of sadness, and a little bit of sugar shock.
And for everybody who’s been interested and excited about Candy Heaven and the guys? I’m going to wish you what Darrin and his employees say in real life and in the books, with every sale.
Have a sweet day!
About Amy Lane
Amy Lane dodges an EDJ, mothers four children, and writes the occasional book. She, her brood, and her beloved mate, Mack, live in a crumbling mortgage in Citrus Heights, California, which is riddled with spiders, cats, and more than its share of fancy and weirdness. Feel free to visit her at www.greenshill.com orwww.writerslane.blogspot.com, where she will ride the buzz of receiving your e-mail until her head swells and she can no longer leave the house.