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Our Review

‘Blake was the victim, and nobody put him back together. He was trying to be the hero, and the duct tape didn’t always hold.’

If you were to ask us to recommend one of our most unforgettable reads, Beneath the Stain would be at the very top of that list. It’s hard to put into words the magnitude of emotions Mackey and Travis’s story put us through and difficult to convey the sheer brilliance and heartfelt raw talent Amy Lane gave to their story.  5 stars would never be enough for that book. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

To encounter Mackey Sanders struggles and become enveloped in the beautiful and curious Sanders family dynamics in Beneath the Stain was to be left with an indelible mark on your heart. Every single character affected us, so you can imagine how thrilled we were to hear Amy Lane had written Blake and Cheever’s story. We were excited and maybe a little worried, from an emotional perspective, to return to the rock star household, and thrilled to be spending more time with this family.

“We’re all broken inside a little. You step on us in the right places, we’re gonna fucking shatter.”

In the interests of understanding all the characters nuances and personalities, please do not start Paint It Black without first experiencing Beneath the Stain. The foundation for Cheever and Blake’s story begins in Beneath the Stain as secondary characters, leading to the events in Paint it Black. Although, to be honest, you can’t categorise any of the characters in these books as secondary.

‘He had no choice, none at all, but to cry in their arms and know they’d be there when he needed them. God, he was going to need them.’

If Heather Sanders, single Mum to the four Sanders boys, is the heart of the Sanders family, then Mackey is the soul, and every blood and extended family member, the glue that holds the Sanders household together. This is one tight-knit family. Their love pours from every page, their heartache bleaches into every corner of your heart, and all these characters will render you speechless.

“Oh, son. Pain makes you selfish, did you not know that?”
“I do now!”

Cheever Sanders is the youngest of the Sanders siblings. What his family lacked in money and materialistic wealth, they more than made up for in loyalty, friendship and love, forming a tight bond that couldn’t be broken. The three oldest Sanders boys, Mackey, Kell and Jefferson, together with their ‘brothers‘ by bond, Stevie and Blake, toured relentlessly riding on the success of their band Outbreak Monkey to achieve financial stability for Cheever and Heather. Their hope was Cheever would have the opportunities not afforded the other boys by attending the best schools to further his love of art.

To anyone on the outside, Cheever appears sullen and ungrateful for the life bestowed on him, distancing himself from his hardworking brothers, however, underneath Cheever was singlehandedly trying to face his demons, and unbeknownst to his brothers, going through his own personal hell.

After hearing Cheever has gone off the rails, Blake Manning, a former addict who had spent time in rehab nine years earlier with Mackey Sanders, sets out to help Cheever, however, what Blake finds, makes him face his own demons and self-doubt.

“I’m sorry about your toe.”
“I’m sorry about your heart.”

Blake Manning, the guitarist for Outbreak Monkey, is a man with a beautiful heart and soul yet plagued by self-loathing and worthlessness, feelings he’s carried from his younger years when he was forced to survive any way he could after fleeing an abusive and vile drug-addicted mother. Brought into the Sanders fold, Blake is lovingly protected and loved as one of their own, and whilst we deal with Cheever’s demons and his fight to find his place in his family, it was Blake who hit our hearts the hardest. This man who loved with fierceness and opened his heart so freely yet refused to believe he was worthy of love, brought us to our knees.

‘For Blake Manning’s first twenty hearts, he hadn’t had a soul he could trust, and for the last twelve, he’d had a family.’

Paint It Black needs to be experienced without spoilers as Amy Lane once again delivered a painful and difficult story driven by raw emotion and a beautiful love story at its heart. This is a tender and sincere account of two men each warring with their demons and whose hearts cried out for the other. There were times we found ourselves grinning from the witty banter, and times we felt our hearts crash and soar, and moments that reduced us to tears.

“You gonna let me in?”
“Yeah.”
“All the way in? Into your heart?”

Beneath The Stain will always be our sentimental favourite, and for that reason, we can’t and won’t compare Paint it Black to Beneath the Stain. Whilst there is a similar theme between both books, each stands on its own for characterisation and storytelling. Nothing in Blake and Cheevers story is superfluous; every page gave us much insight into Blake, Cheever and the Sanders clan. Every tender, heartbreaking, sweet, funny and moving moment was savoured then locked away, into our hearts for safekeeping.

Synopsis

Everybody thinks Mackey Sanders’s Outbreak Monkey is the last coming of Rock ’n’ Roll Jesus, but Cheever Sanders can’t wait to make a name for himself where nobody expects him to fill his famous brothers’ shoes. He’s tired of living in their shadow.

Blake Manning has been one of Outbreak Monkey’s lead guitarists for ten years. He got this gig on luck and love, not talent. So hearing that Cheever is blowing through Outbreak Monkey’s hard-earned money in an epic stretch of partying pisses him off.

Blake shows up at Cheever’s nonstop orgy to enforce some rules, but instead of a jaded punk, he finds a lost boy as talented at painting as Mackey is at song-making, and terrified to let anybody see the real him. Childhood abuse and a suicide attempt left Cheever on the edge of survival—a place Blake knows all too well.

Both men have to make peace with being second banana in the public eye. Can they find the magic of coming absolute first with each other?

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