Rating: 4.75 stars
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When Vern Roberts leaves the miserable town of Dogpatch, his only plan is to get a decent job so he can move his mom away and they never have to go back. But when his plans to join a construction crew go awry, he finds himself accepting a job with Johnnies. Filming porn was never on his radar, but the money is great and it brings him to Reg.
Reg isn’t very smart, at least when he measures himself against the rest of the world, but after years with Johnnies he knows he’s good at porn. With the steady work and insurance, Reg is able to provide care for his violently schizophrenic sister, Veronica. He meets Vern on his first day and the new boy is christened Bobby Green, a name that suits him so much better than Vern. For Reg, Bobby is a breath of fresh air. Now instead of a life spent fighting with his sister to take her meds and waiting for her next violent act, Reg has found someone who loves him without reservation. But happily ever afters aren’t always easy and if the struggle to find peace doesn’t kill them, then Veronica just might.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: Amy Lane is one of my favorite authors and one of the best writers of m/m romance out there. She consistently melds romance and beautiful characters with plots that engage and draw the reader into the action. And if those stories are angsty, then all be better. Bobby Green, the latest in the Johnnies series, ratchets the angst up to classic Lane levels and I loved nearly every minute of it. Bobby and Reg are complex and sympathetic characters who each struggle to juggle two separate lives. Bobby has a fiancé he dislikes and he must periodically return home to see his mother and in doing so he is repeatedly drawn into an existence he no longer wants. When he’s at Johnnies and with Reg, that’s what he needs and the push and pull he experiences feels believable and relatable. Reg wants to keep his violent sister living at home because he feels he must be responsible for her care, even though the stress of it is breaking him. He clearly loves his sister and the hard realities of loving someone with mental illness are depicted with a frankness that I found refreshing. These two men are bound by their responsibilities until they find the strength and confidence to deserve something more.
My biggest frustration with the Johnnies series is really a minor one. Each book takes places simultaneously with the action in the rest of the series. So Bobby Green occurs at the same time as Chase in Shadow, Dex in Blue and so on. This makes reading the books somewhat confusing as you try to remember all the things happening in the background. In some ways, setting these books in such a timeline actually detracts from what is happening with the couple currently being explored. When I’m trying to focus on Bobby and Reg, I found my attentions being dragged back to the events with Chase and John and the rest of the Johnnies. So while I appreciate the interconnectedness of these books, there is a downside to it.
Amy Lane has once again given us two amazing characters in Bobby Green, each of them struggling to manage the impossible. Their journey is painful and sad, but worth it for the moments of joy that Bobby and Reg find in loving one another. I’m not sure that Johnnies actually has to be read in order, but given the frequent references to other books in the series, you’re going to enjoy it more if you start with the first novel in the series. Consider this one highly recommended.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.