Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
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 book in the Candy Man series. Although the book can be read as standalone, it will be much easier to understand the dynamics and histories between the characters if the series is read in order.
Two years ago, Robbie’s actions left his lover, Adam, feeling betrayed and alone when Robbie chose his fears over love. Robbie has regretted what he said ever since, and while he did learn from that mistake, he still lets his fears of rejection by friends and family control too much of his life. A year out of the Army and Robbie is still in the closet. He still chose to pick up a girl in a bar, and then chose to continue the relationship for the convenience of having a girlfriend to take home to his parents. He still chooses to deny who he is because he is sure that his parents will turn away from him and he will be left alone. And after what he did to Adam, Robbie believes he doesn’t deserve love, so he may as well just keep the peace. He may well have gone years, if not life, like that if it weren’t for the unexpected dance he and his girlfriend share with a beautiful man dancing to the guitar of a street performer. Robbie is mesmerised with the young man’s grace and confidence, his joyous celebration of who he is and what he obviously loves.
The encounter with Cy becomes a turning point for Robbie. He finds he can no longer blindly ignore that his girlfriend, Ashley, is cut from the same cloth as his passively bigoted parents, parents whose ideas and prejudices he joined the Army to escape. Robbie finally ends his unwanted relationship with Ashley and makes the decision to stop letting his fears prevent him being true to himself. He may not believe he’s worthy of forgiveness for his actions towards Adam, but he can’t help but want to explore the unexpected feelings building between himself and Cy.
Cy is bisexual, sometimes wears makeup and unabashedly buys clothes from the women’s side of the store if he likes them. He is happy with who he is, what he likes and who he likes, and expresses it without inhibitions. He is also quite happy with no strings attached type of relationships, and the deep connection he forms so quickly with Robbie takes him by surprise. I love that, while it does take some personal growth from both characters to accept it, they don’t deny what they feel for each other. There were some wonderful, hot, sweet and sexy moments, and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop.
The main characters, along with the secondary characters we have met in previous books, are well drawn and believable as fully functioning individuals. It was wonderful to catch up with the other characters from the previous books in the series, and I loved the tie-in to the Promise series world with Mikhail and Shane’s appearances. The parents were designed to be unlikeable, but they still felt like they were real. Ashley came across as too one dimensional to me and I was kind of disappointed the author took the option of making her the cookie cutter unlikeable girlfriend. It’s the only thing that didn’t quite ring true for me in this book, but since her role is only brief at the beginning, that niggle didn’t end up having too much impact on my enjoyment of the story overall.
Tart and Sweet has a lovely romance story between Robbie and Cy, but it’s really Robbie’s road to forgiving himself and healing the wounds that were the consequence of his past actions that takes centre stage. This is a sweet story with just the right amount of character growth needed to make it feel like a journey. I genuinely loved both of the MCs. I liked that Robbie still had some distance to go, but had already made a good start on his path to becoming well and truly himself before we got to meet him in this book. It lightened the story more than it otherwise would have been. Cy is glorious. He’s passionate, caring, fun and free spirited. He sees through to the man Robbie is at his core – someone who is worthy of forgiveness and love – even when Robbie had difficulty believing it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it nicely closed the story arc started in Candy Man, although I hope it isn’t the last we see of the lives and loves of the people who find their way into Candy Heaven.