beneath the stainStory Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.75 stars

Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Length: 16 hours, 36 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Audible
Book Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK

The only good things for Mackey Sanders in Tyson, California were his brothers and Grant—Outbreak Monkey. Mackey loves his band. His brothers are the only thing standing between him and insanity. Them and Grant. Grant is the only one who knows the real Mackey—the only one who understands him. And after years of keeping their trysts secret, Mackey and Grant and Outbreak Monkey are about to get their big break. Except not everyone is on board.

Fame was made for Outbreak Money, but heartbreak was not. Especially when Mackey does everything to hide who he is and the secrets of his past. To cover it up, he follows his manager’s lead down a path of addiction. After their manager’s death by overdose, the record label hires a Trav to clean up the band’s act—namely Mackey’s—and get them back on track. But before things get better they have to get worse.

Facing his fears and his issues has never been Mackey’s strong suit, but with Trav pushing him, he’s willing to try. His journey to human is not without its bumps and stumbles backward. But the past has a funny way of sneaking up on him. And when Mackey and the band make a trip back home, his is faced with the one person who broke his heart. Trav is worried about the impact the trip home will have on Mackey, but when he comes face to face with Mackey’s first love, it’s not at all what anyone expected.

Old love and new love collide, but Mackey is determined not to break this time. Only to heal.

I swore after I read Beneath the Stain in serial format that I would never read it again. Not for the reasons you may be thinking. This book ruined me. It seriously broke me down into a blubbering, ugly-cry mess. But then the audiobook came out and I thought to myself that hearing someone else read it surely couldn’t be as bad as trudging along by myself. Oh, how wrong I was. It’s quite possible that this narrator found the characters’ hearts and used them along the way to give life to this story. It made me wonder how many times Russo broke down while narrating.

Okay, first things first. The story. Beneath the Stain is classic angst and pain from one of my favorites. Lane has taken the broken rockstar trope and added her own brand of hurt. And God, does it hurt so good. The story is gripping and addicting. It’s a maelstrom of emotion and plot centered around Mackey and Trav. In the beginning, I cheered so hard for Mackey and Grant, then I was pissed, and I wanted to like Trav but I was still a little hung up on Grant. But Trav proves himself worthy of Mackey, and turns out to be absolutely everything Mackey has always needed.

One of the greatest things about this book are the secondary characters. Kell’s overprotectiveness and hard headed ways set him apart as the leader of the group, but it also puts a big wall up between him and Mackey. Stevie and Jeff are an anomaly, but also provide the angst of this story with a breather. They are a beautiful pair. Grant… well, Grant is breathtaking and heartbreaking all in one—perfect, self-sacrificing, loyal.

But first and foremost is Mackey and Trav—the broken and the healer. The thing with them is that Trav is forever persistent. He is firm and bossy, but everything he does is for Mackey—even before he falls in love with him. Mackey carries the weight of the world on his shoulders but never finds a release valve until Trav. Their relationship is a struggle and yet so devastatingly beautiful. Their journey is perfection—heart breaking perfection.

As for the audiobook, I found this one wonderfully narrated. Nick J Russo does an amazing job with the voices, though I found young Grant’s country twang a little strange for Northern California. The inflections and pacing were spot on though. The emotion in the narration tugged at my heart in all the right ways. It was like experiencing this book in a different way the second time around. And this time I didn’t have to pause to clear the tears out of my eyes. I could just cry and listen. Then smile at the end.

There are so many wonderful things about this book that I’m certain I missed a ton of them. I loved this audiobook and look forward to more from both Amy Lane (including but not limited to Blake’s story) and Nick J. Russo. This is such a fabulous story in so many ways. Whichever format you choose to read it in, I suggest you do so. But be sure to have a box of Kleenex nearby.

Highly, highly recommended.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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