Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane (All Seven Parts)

Dreamspinner Presents:

(From previous site)

BeneaththeStainPart One


In a town as small as Tyson, CA, everybody knew the four brothers with the four different fathers– and their penchant for making good music when they weren’t getting into trouble. For Mackey Sanders, playing in Outbreak Monkey with his brothers and their friends—especially Grant Adams–made Tyson bearable. But Grant has plans for getting Mackey and the Sanders boys out of Tyson, even if that means staying behind.

Between the heartbreak of leaving Grant and the terrifying, glamorous life of rock stardom, Mackey is adrift and sinking fast. When he’s hit rock bottom, Trav Ford shows up, courtesy of their record company and a producer who wants to see what Mackey can do if he doesn’t flame out first. But cleaning up his act means coming clean about Grant, and that’s not easy to do or say. Mackey might make it with Trav’s help–but Trav’s not sure he’s going to survive falling in love with Mackey.

Mackey James Sanders comes with a whole lot of messy, painful baggage, and law-and-order Trav doesn’t do messy or painful. And just when Trav thinks they may have mastered every demon in Mackey’s past, the biggest, baddest demon of all comes knocking.


Mackey lives with his three brothers in small-town California. He forms a band with them, and some friends, including Grant, his older brother’s friend. The band turns out to be amazing and they go from playing at the prom to getting a record deal. Meanwhile, Grant and Mackey are at once getting closer and closer and yet farther and farther away from one another.

Mackey is gay. So is Grant, but Grant can’t admit it, so neither can Mackey. Grant continues to break Mackey’s heart by dating Samantha because it’s expected of him by the community and his dad. When Grant graduates high school, he tells Mackey he stayed behind for his dad, but we also know the band and Mackey played a role in the decision.

In this episode we really start to see the beginning of the problems that follow in subsequent episodes (i.e. drug addiction, depression). I both loathe and love Grant’s character. He is so understandable, yet you just want to punch him in the face for the way he hurts Mackey. It’s so disarming to see young Mackey shouldering all these heavy burdens and couple that with this shameful hiding of what appears to be true love.

Since the blurb in the story talks about another MC – Trav – it is reasonable to believe that Grant is not our main love interest, even here in Episode one with no mention of Trav. Therefore I feel completely vindicated in hoping Mackey can leave Grant behind, and soon.

Talk about prolonging the drama! This is such a unique (and shall I say painful? – I am an impatient, impatient soul) way to deliver a story. The pain will only exist for those of us who are reading this as a serial, and after October 2014 anyone else will simply have to read the full novel – but WOW – this packs a punch, delivered in segments, keeping us readers on tenterhooks while we await the next installment.

I love Mackey, I can tell he will rival some of Amy’s other MCs in my heart for favorite. So far, this story most closely resembles The Locker Room in the way we are introduced to the MCs as young kids and move through adulthood with them. And in how painful it seems to be. I am keeping Kleenex close at hand.

P.S. The Bonus scenes are great, and I think you only get them in the Deluxe or Serialized Versions.

Part two


Trav Ford doesn’t like strings and he doesn’t like messes. Coming off a messy breakup, Trav is grimly determined to keep his life absolutely pristine. When Trav is asked to take over the management of Outbreak Monkey, his first order of business is to clean up their act—and that includes shipping the youngest, most troubled member off to detox and rehab before Mackey Sanders’s life choices kill him.

But Mackey didn’t become an addict overnight, and it’s going to take more than one trip to rehab to fix him up. When an act of violence destroys Mackey’s struggling equilibrium, Trav is going to find that messy isn’t so hard to escape—not when it’s wrapping its mess around Trav’s heart.


We start off with a bang – Grant has left, Mackey is on a downward spiral – though the band is selling millions, Mackey is a wreck.  Along comes Trav to save the day and we get a glimpse for what -we hope-  a future where Mackey can be himself and be happy.

In Part two we start to see deeper into some of the other boys’ lives and realize there is more to them as well.  Uh Sheila?  WTF?

I am glad – so glad – Trav got introduced right away, my heart was breaking after Episode one.  And he seems hot, sweet and tough – my favorite – just right for Mackey.

I love Mackey’s one liners:  “I’m only bi when I’m high” and “Don’t bullshit me Babysitter!”  He is going to be one of Amy Lane’s MCs that rivals for favorite in my heart, I just know it.

If I get to make a comparison this early, I’d say this reminds me most closely of The Locker Room.  Young guys, growing with them through a painful, painful early adulthood and hopefully the kind of happy ending that legends are made of. (Don’t hate the dangling participle!)

Part three


Mackey Sanders doesn’t do anything easy—rehab is no exception. Never one to follow orders for the sake of being orderly, Mackey needs a reason, something real, to make him agree to Trav’s terms of getting clean. Trav knows he can’t be Mackey’s only reason to rehabilitate, but before he can convince Mackey of that, he needs to get to the heart of what’s been eating Mackey alive from the moment the band left Tyson.

Can Mackey’s family—can Mackey’s band—survive the fallout of Mackey telling the truth? More importantly, can Mackey?


Mackey and Blake end up doing rehab together after Mackey gets roofied and attacked at a bar and almost dies.

Travis is struck by his feelings for Mackey and Mackey begins to realize the depth of his feelings for Travis.

The most important part of this segment is rehab itself.  Dr. Cambridge (with the help of Travis as motivation) finally breaks through to Mackey and forces him to admit that he’s gay.  Forces him to discuss Grant.  Forces him to admit his fears.  And finally forces him to talk about it with his family.

What we’re left with is a raw open wound.  Mackey is bare and tender like new skin after a bad sunburn.  The band and Mackey’s mom are left ripped wide open, forced to face their individual roles in Mackey’s collapse.

Travis will have his hands full in managing this bunch now that the truth is out, and everyone’s on pins and needles wondering what’s going to happen when Mackey returns.


WOW.  This segment was gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and another reason to be grateful for a Family-sized box of Kleenex.  Damn.

Mackey can’t get any deeper under your skin.  He’s so, so broken.  He has such a simple set of expectations for life (love and music) and yet he cannot get those met.  The only thing that works for him is his music and it’s his music that tears him from his love, which makes him self-medicate to the point of self-destruction.  Fortunately, Travis frickin’ gets it and gets him and finally, with his help, Mackey can have love and music at the same time.  I hope.  Amy Lane – you hear me?  He better get both!

I am nervous about Grant and what role he’s going to play in the upcoming segments… I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of him, and I have a feeling he isn’t going to be “a good thing” when he does return.

Of course this segment is as wonderful as parts one and two – maybe even the best so far, simply because I just love seeing the love between Travis and Mackey in its infant stages here.  I also love seeing the personalities of the brothers blossom and become full, rich, and complex characters.


Part Four


Mackey’s fragile recovery from his bout with self-destruction is complicated even further by his feelings for Trav—and Trav’s feelings back. Trav is older, and he should know better, but now that Mackey is drug-free and conquering his demons, all he can see is the stunning, brilliant man who existed under the stain of pain and excess.

Trav and Mackey struggle to find a balance between Mackey’s recovery and their growing attraction. Trav decides to make a rare leap of faith—but can Mackey find enough faith in himself to make it through life in the spotlight and a visit to the past that almost destroyed him?


Mackey comes back from rehab and he and Trav agree that though it isn’t exactly by the “12 step” book, they need each other.  Trav doesn’t want to just jump in bed – ok he does – but he wants this thing between him and Mackey to be REAL not just a way to make this part of Mackey’s recovery “feel better”.

Mackey just wants Trav.  He just WANTS him.

So they agree to date and it’s f*ckin’ hilarious and sweet and gut wrenching… pure romance.

There is some more confrontation with Mackey’s past – really painful stuff but some healing, too.

Finally there’s the hot, sweaty, skin on skin… well, you’ll see J


What I really appreciate about this section is that, yet again, Amy has given us this perfectly imperfect set of heroes and anti-heroes.  Trav isn’t perfect.  He craves, desires, wants, needs – even though it’s probably in no way the right thing for either of them right now.

Mackey is so much more than the right-brained, needy, creative, messed-up musician – he also loves, and loves deeply, and sees things in people others can’t or won’t – and he’s not afraid to say what he thinks.  Time and again he just cuts you off at the knees then gives you a hand up.

Each section keeps getting better and this is (of course) my favorite so far – but I’ll tell you – after I read this my first thought was “Oh no – what’s going to happen next? When is the next shoe gonna fall?” followed by “How is Grant gonna screw this up?”  and finally “Oh, poor Blake. **pets** I hope someone loves him soon!”

Part Five


Mackey is great at taking a leap of faith into a crowd—but taking one into a relationship and a future is a totally different animal. When he and Trav decide to take a risk that Mackey’s healing can hold up to them together, they know it’s going to be a long, difficult road. Mackey proves he can handle the stress of performing on his own, but when it comes to the demons that broke him in the first place, that’s a whole other song.

The first time Mackey tries to go home, it sends him into a palm-sweating, stomach-heaving anxiety attack, and Trav has to concede that Mackey is still on loan from the things that almost wrecked him when he was still a kid. When news arrives that affects the entire band, Mackey can either go home and face his demons or let them haunt them forever.


Mackey and Trav are together and it is hot. H.O.T.  Mackey is still a train wreck.  He barely makes it when Trav has to go to England for 4 days, but manages to stay sober by getting a sexy stomach tattoo and hanging on by a wing and a prayer.

The band is forced to get its own act together for a show in Oakland and they get a new member to the tribe: Briony.  Briony kicks ass and takes names as the bands new tech guru.

Trav and Mackey have the hottest rock star sex ever when Trav makes it back in time to see the show, and the first post-rehab show is a huge success.

Trouble is on the horizon though.  Mackey doesn’t want to see Trav’s parents for Christmas when he sees himself as still such a work in progress.  Trav feels he has to go so the boys are set to head up to Tyson on their own and Mackey freaks out in the airport – the idea of going home too much for his recently sober state to withstand.

Luckily Trav is there to catch him before he falls and the band ends up staying in LA together for Christmas where they get the terrible news about Grant.

Really terrible news.  Now Mackey has to face not only going home, but going home to say good-bye for good.

Amy knows how to kill us so very sweetly…


Part Six


For as long as Trav Ford has known the Sanders boys, one name has haunted the entire band.  Their first lead guitarist and Mackey’s first lover has left a stamp on the kids he’s known as family, an now Grant has one last chance to hurt the people Trav cares for the most.

Except Grant isn’t the monster Trav made him out to be and coming home is harder on the band – and Trav – than he ever could have anticipated.  When Trav is confronted with the reality of what Mackey and his brothers left behind – and with what they’re about to lose – he has to seriously reconsider if he’s strong enough to deal with everything that Mackey and Outbreak Monkey have come to represent.  Fortunately for Trav, Mackey’s learned a lot in the past year, and one of his best lessons is how to hold on to the people he loves.


Oooo, this one’s a tough one.  First off, let me yell CLIFF HANGER!!! Here we sit on the precipice of the end and we are left absolutely biting our fingernails!

The band makes it up to Tyson where Grant meets them looking beat to sh*t and barely hanging on.  If that wasn’t enough, when they play in their old bar, the locals FINALLY catch on that Mackey is gay and that one of their own might be too.  This, of course, causes a bar fight in which the entire band ends up in jail.

This freaks Trav, Mr. Control, right the hell out and he bails, leaving Mackey to deal with his feelings and his family by HIMSELF…  for one night… we hope.

Meanwhile Cheever acts like a total ass-hat and sets Mackey off on another rant about how Cheever can’t bite the hand that feeds him all the time.

On a happy side note, our good friend and techie Briony seems to be finding some warmth with dear sweet Kell and things are looking pretty favorable in that direction.  “You are …. Radius!”  One of the best lines!


While I was really expecting this segment to kick my ass, I think the shoe is really gonna drop in the last.  Grant is just too dang likable.  That’s Trav’s problem too.  He WANTS to hate him, but how can you hate a guy who was just young and dumb and trying to do the right thing for the wrong reasons?

I was so glad Cheever got his head bit off – I was really getting tired of hearing him bad mouth the brothers, even if it is understandable in a backward teen-agery sort of way.

Of course I’ve been rooting for Briony and Kell since she was introduced so I am ever so pleased they seem to be hooking up – man do they seem well matched.  And wow! – who would have thunk it – Kell has some pretty deep feelings after all!

I really like how Amy managed to demonstrate in a few short pages just how far Mackey has come, emotionally, and how ready he is to settle in to an “adult” relationship with Trav, at last.

I also really appreciated that Mackey was real with his mom in this part too.  Forcing them both to look at her “mothering skills” with a critical eye and acknowledge that no matter what she did she had a rough road to travel with Cheever, maybe even more than with the others.


Part Seven


The one lesson that Trav’s learned with the band’s return to Tyson is that it should be hard to say good-bye.

Mackey, Kell, Jefferson, and Stevie have to say good-bye to the person who helped make them and break them. They have to say good-bye to their bitterness and anger, and they have to say good-bye to lingering hope that one of the best parts of their childhood can be with them always.

But in the last two years they’ve grown a lot—and maybe they’ve grown enough to say good-bye to the past without forgetting it, and to embrace a future that they won’t regret.


So we left off with Trav in a hotel leaving Mackey BY HIMSELF to face the house full of craziness…

When we return, Mackey and Trav “make up”… yeah, that’s a description for it (aka have super hot monkey sex) and admit how important they are to each other.

Then the real hard part begins – saying Goodbye to Grant.  He is providing closure, taking care of his daughter, telling anyone and everyone the truth – and it hurts.  But it is also so beautiful.

Grant has made plans for his funeral and though they are tough, the boys agree and when the time comes, it can be said that no one will ever, EVER forget that funeral.  Things get said that should have been said years ago and all of it is “shocking”, and the song that gets sung (“It’s my life” by the Animals) is ever so appropriate.

Finally, it’s time to go home.  Their goodbyes have been said publicly, now they have to be said privately, and though not necessarily easier, certainly there is the acknowledgement of the happy part of Grant that only Mackey and the boys got to see.  Here the boys sing their version of Wish You Were Here, the Pink Floyd song written for their own lost band member Syd Barrett, and it too is ever, ever so appropriate.

Trav and Mackey are together and happy and willing to keep falling in love with each other every single day.

Hopefully you have bought the series and get to see the bonus material because part 7 is absolutely the BEST bonus material – in it we see Mackey on his way to see Trav’s family as he gets some of the most amazing news from Briony and Kell.


This was a very hard segment to read.  We went through times where we just wanted to strangle Grant, but it’s hard to forget how much love he had for Mackey and in this segment we see there was so much more there that we didn’t see … and such a potential for more that could never be …

Of course his dying was amazingly sad and the funeral scene is so touching and gutting but Amy finds a way to make us laugh through our tears.  To me however, the hardest part to read was the barn scene (you’ll know it when you read it) because it was so symbolically full circle.  Here are Grant and Mackey, together, the tables are turned though and it’s Mackey giving to Grant and it’s so beautiful, tender, loving but absent that passion from before because Mackey is Trav’s now, and that is undisputed.

I can’t recommend this series/book enough, it is funny, heartbreaking, enlightening, sweet, tender, passionate, sexy, loving… well… just amazing.

I give it 6 of 5 stars and you’re missing out if you don’t read this book!







Lyrics to It’s my Life by the Animals

It’s a hard world to get a break in
All the good things long gone been taken
But girl there are ways to make certain things pay
Dressed in these rags I’ll wear sable some day

Hear what I say, I’m gonna ride that serpent
No more time spent sweatin’ rent
Hear my command, I’m breakin’ loose, ’cause I ain’t no use
Holdin’ me down, girl stick around

And baby, remember
It’s my life and I’ll do what I want
It’s my mind and I’ll think like I want
Show me I’m wrong, hurt me sometime
But some day I’ll treat you real fine
I’ll treat you so fine, dear, you’re so real

There’ll be women and their fortunes
Who just want to mother little orphans
Are you gonna cry while I’m squeezin’ them dry?
Takin’ all I can get, no regrets, when I openly lie

And live on their money, believe me honey
You can have so much fun with that money
Can you believe, I ain’t no saint?
I ain’t got no complaints, so girl throw out, yeah any doubt

And baby, remember
It’s my life and I’ll do what I want
It’s my mind and I’ll think like I want
You show me I’m wrong, it’ll hurt me sometime
But some day I’ll treat you real fine

It’s my life and I’ll do what I want
It’s my mind and I’ll think like I want
Show me I’m wrong, hurt me sometime
But some day I’ll treat you real fine
I’ll treat you so fine, babe
I’ll give you everything, everything you want


Lyrics to Wish you Were Here


So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.



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