Review: Forever Promised by Amy Lane and a Sparkling Spanish Rosé…Saying goodbye to The Pulpit with Crick and Deacon’s Champagne Cupcakes

ForeverPromisedI am so excited for this post!  There is just so much goodness for me to talk about that I could barely figure out where to begin…First of all could Amy Lane have possibly planned a more perfect week for the release of the final installment in her Promises series?!?!?!?!…The Defense of Marriage Act was declared unsconstituional by the Supreme Court of the United States  two days ago, making ALL couples legally married in this country absolutely equal under the law. ALL MARRIAGES, and  for me there is no other set of characters in M/M Romance that evoke well earned and hard fought happy married life more than The Pulpit Crew…Sooooo I had to go BIG for this review, I mean just a nice bottle of wine and some thoughts was not enough…This is a celebration!!!!!! When I celebrate, I pop a bottle of bubbly and make sure I have something delicious to bite into. So for my goodbye to the people of Promise Rock I went for one of my favorites, Jaume Serra Cristalino Rose Brut, a delicious Spanish cava with raspberry and very light creamy overtones that just compels one to raise a glass and toast to life. Cristalino has 60% Pinot Noir 40% Trepat grapes that go perfectly with lightly sweet treats, and for the amazing value of $8-$10 a bottle, this wine could not have been a better choice for my review of Forever Promised.…I  am not done though, because damn it, IT’S AMY LANE!!

I got creative and came up with a dessert worthy of celebrating births,  weddings, anniversaries, departures, homecomings and even the solemnity of grieving a loss…Crick and Deacon’s Champagne and Raspberry Vegan Cupcakes, a recipe created by yours truly are moist, just lightly boozy and a sweet, perfect combination for this beautiful story, to be enjoyed while sipping on some pink bubbly and smiling (sometimes a bit weepily) through what might be the best ending to a series I’ve read in this genre.

cristalino and cupcake pic jpeg

A glass of Cristalino and Crick and Deacon’s Cupcakes

But more on wine and cupcakes later…On to the story.

Amy Lane is a fucking CLASSY LADY, I mean finesse and elegance in telling a story, this lady HAZ GOT IT, no florid writing, no cheap outs of happy sappy walking into the sunset. Nope, the last installment in The Promises Series was true to itself  and to its characters from the first page to the last.

This was, Promise Rock: The Self-Actualized Edition…This book begins two and half years after we left our guys, Collin and Jeff are just married, things are getting along, they are all a little older and whole lot wiser, mostly though they are tightly knit as they ever have been. But keeping this family that they have has always  come at a cost. Jon and Amy have an amazing professional opportunity and will be moving to Washington DC to work as LGBT rights advocates. Drew and Benny are finally ready to get on with their lives as a couple, but the ties that Benny has to Deacon might prove to be too intimidating an act to follow and even though Drew loves The Pulpit  starting their life as a family might mean being away from their people.

Deacon as the patriarch is feeling a little adrift, even though him and Crick are finally feeling like they are whole. So when Benny offers the ultimate gift, to be a surrogate to Deacon and Crick, it is such an absolute act of selflessness and complete love that it’s almost too terrifying to consider despite how much they want a child. A child that would have a little bit of each of them, borne from Benny the little girl that  arrived in The Pulpit so that things could be held together at the lowest moment in Crick and Deacon’s lives, it was too much of a miracle to turn down, specially once Deacon understood that it was as much a gift for them to recieve as it would be for Benny to give it.

There is so much to this story, but what I loved the most about  is that we get to visit with every single one of the gang, each one gets to tell us a part of the story, and it’s like we get a chance to have a private final chat and a hug goodbye with each one before we have to see them go.

Amy Lane’s books affect me deeply, always they resonate with me, because they are so HUMAN so harsh so times, but it’s what always makes the good moments so joyful. These guys are special and I was scared that this last chapter would be a soft ball, a light happily ever after, nothing too upsetting or hard. I should have known that Amy Lane was not going to cut us any slack AT ALL, because what has made this series the special thing that it is, is precisely that we’ve seen these characters hurt and struggling so that when the good moments come, when the lightness and laughter hits they are seen and embraced as the gift that they are.

This book is about absolution and reflection. It’s about moving on soberly, being able to let go of the past with a clear understanding of just what a fucking miracle it is that even after the valiant efforts at self-destruction they all made, they got their bright future anyway. Many are not so lucky, so many people never get a second chance, but those who do they need to look at that miracle in the face and be nothing thankful.

I probably could talk about this book for 12 pages, but I can’t really go on forever, so I will talk briefly about the things that I loved the most.

Mikhail…He was the catalyst for the most powerful emotions in this book, he was mighty, in good ways, in terrible ways…He was atonement.

Benny and Crick, looking back on their lives and the good fortune that they had to have found a home and love in Deacon, it was wonderful to see them look back, to see what they had arrived to, after such a difficult beginning.

Jeff and Collin still in love, and still against all odds daring to be hopeful, and telling the world that they were brave enough  to want more out of life than people would probably allow them to.

Deacon and Crick…These guys. So wonderful after so much hardship, such heartache, such fear…They made it. They were together and whole (even if baring the scars of harder times) they were still in love and still saw in each other’s eyes that there was always something to hold on to, something to live for…Something to try to be happy about.

“Sometimes you just got to be happy, and worry could happen tomorrow”

This book could have been too easy, or too hard, or too angsty or too long or TOO MUCH. But it wasn’t, it was just right. There were moments that cut to the bone, followed by momenst of unapologetic lightness and absurd humor that could only make me laugh and shake my head. Like life. Like people. We are sad and we are bad, but then we turn to the people that can still see the best in us, and let them try to coax it out of us with a joke or a hug…or an emergency knitting project.

So many sad things happen in this life, every day to good people, but so many good things happen too. People move away, and people come back and people stay…But when there is love and goodwill every day brings what it must, and we can face it because we know that there will someone there to walk with us through whatever we must to do.

Fantastic final installment, I was left smiling, and weepy and secure in the bright future of my guys and gals in Promise Rock. What a joyful journey this has been. Thank you, thank you, thank you Amy.

Completely recommend this book and this series. I will miss my guys.

Forever Promised is out today on Dreamspinner Press:

So for those of you want to give Crick and Deacon’s cupcakes a try here is the recipe…I recommend that you only eat them once you’ve secured the bubbly for drinking while eating them and that you’ve secured a few hours free of distraction to immerse yourself in  Forever Promised.

Crick and Deacon’s Champagne and Raspberry Vegan Cupcakes (makes 10 cupcakes)

½ cup and two tablespoons of pink sparkling wine (I used Jaume Serra Cristalino)

½ cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

1 ¼ cups cake flour

2 Tablespoons of cornstarch

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup canola oil

¾ cup organic cane sugar

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon of almond extract (you can substitute for vanilla)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Mix all ingredients in a bowl adding the champagne last, mix until smooth but not too much or too vigorously. Fill cupcake liners halfway with the batter. Cook for 13 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center of the cupcake.

Raspberry and Champagne Buttercream Frosting

½ cup of shortening

½ cup of margarine (Earth Balance)

3 ½ cups of powdered sugar

2 tablespoons of Pink Champagne

2 tablespoons of vanilla almond milk (add a bit more if frosting is too lumpy)

2  tablespoons of raspberry puree (put 1 cup of fresh raspberries in the food processor and then run through a sifter to get rid of seeds)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For garnish leave out 10 raspberries to decorate the cupcakes.

Separately put margarine, shortening and raspberry puree in an electric mixing bowl and mix until smooth, add sifted sugar, vanilla extract and champagne and mix again, add almond milk as needed.

Frost the cupcakes as you prefer and top with a fresh raspberry and enjoy with a glass of chilled pink bubbly! Make sure to make a toast to Crick and Deacon and The Pulpit gang!