A MelanieM Review: A Forbidden Rumspringa (Gay Amish #1) by Keira Andrews

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

When two young Amish men find love, will they risk losing everything?

Forbidden Rumspringa coverIsaac Byler’s life changed when his family moved from their Amish home in Ohio to follow their new bishop to northern Minnesota.   Their previous bishop and settlement, while holding to the Amish ways, was never as strict as the Swartzentruber Amish life they are expected to lead in Zebulon.  All it took to shake up their community was a horrible accident that cost their small Ohio town the lives of several of their teenagers on a Rumspringa.  Now in Zebulon, that outlet and glimpse into the English world is forbidden as is all but the smallest contact with the outside world.  Every aspect of their lives is rigorously charted, inspected and regulated by their bishop and laws.  And Isaac is feeling smothered and guilty about the fact.

Isaac is also turning 18, an age where he is expected to join the church and marry, two things he has been avoiding at all costs.  The reasons behind his continued postponement are ones Isaac refuses to acknowledge.  But that’s about to change as well.  His parents have apprenticed Isaac to the community’s carpenter, David Lantz, a young man supporting his mother and sibling after his father died.  Isaac has been avoiding David too because being near the carpenter raises unseemly and forbidden feelings in him that he is supposed to save for his wife.

When David and Isaac start to work together, their attraction and feelings towards each other grows as does their guilt and confusion over their futures.  David too shares Isaac’s desires, and he harbors another secret as well.  But can their love withstand the pressures of their  families, community, and religion to conform and marry?  Or will they take the chance on a life together outside in the English world and face the possibility of never seeing home and family again?

What a fantastic book!  I had heard rumors about this novel circulating around certain LGBTQ internet groups for a little while but it still I was unprepared for the engrossing stunner of a story that is A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews.   Andrews brings us into the heart of the Amish, in particular the  type of Amish known as the Swartzentruber, a super conservative, almost fundamentalist, religious sect within the Amish community that believes in zero contact with the outside world.  I mean a total rejection of anything that could be said to be modern, English, or prideful.  That includes rubber wheels for their buggies, shoes outside of church, and a rigid adherence to a strict “by the bishop” lifestyle where everyone is under constant surveillance and every part of their lives dictated by their bishop and religion.

Keira Andrews introduces us to this society and new settlement through the eyes of Isaac Byler, a 18 year boy, who is questioning their new lifestyle under their bishop and his future as it has been laid out for him by his parents and community. What little freedoms they had in their previous Amish community in Ohio have been left behind them when they fled their settlement because of an accident that killed several teenagers on a Rumspringa.   For those readers unfamiliar with the Amish lifestyle and religion, the Rumspringa is (in some Amish communities) “a period of adolescence in which boys and girls are given greater personal freedom and allowed to form romantic relationships, usually ending with the choice of baptism into the church or leaving the community.”  In other words, a time to get wild and get it out of their system before accepting communion and becoming a part of the church and community.  But due to that tragedy, an Ohio settlement shatters and a splinter group that includes the new bishop and several families leaves, heading to Minnesota in search of an isolated stricter life.

All this information as to their past history is imparted through Isaac’s memories and musings. How I loved and understood Isaac.  He is at a juncture in his life where he is expected to join the church, marry and start a farm of his own. None of which he wants to do.  Not only is Isaac (and his best friend) chafing under the new restrictions but Isaac’s beloved older brother has left for the outside world and been shunned for his actions.  Isaac is a bundle of questions,, guilt, and forbidden attractions towards men, especially the carpenter, David Lantz, to whom he is to be apprenticed.  Andrews pulls us completely into Isaac’s world, so intimately that we feel as though we are his constant companion, privy to all his thoughts and feelings.  We are so much a part of Isaac that we feel connected to him by his interactions with his family, his love for his brothers and sisters, the responsibility he feels towards his parents, everything that he treasures that is now starting to butt up against the clear realities of life in Zebulon.  Because nothing is thriving in Zebulon except the bishop.

Slowly as the narrative proceeds,  the author enlarges the reader’s view of Isaac and Zebulon to include the community’s farms, neighbors, and the group in general as Isaac interacts with various members of Zebulon. What a contrast between the healthy Amish community in Ohio they left and the starving, reduced one in Minnesota.  That no family can grow enough, make enough supplies or have enough resources to survive is adding to the  pressure for Isaac to stay and help support his family.  The portrait of this type of Amish community is startling.  I am sure that the pressures and strains represented here are the last ones to come to mind when you think of an Amish family but this story and its well drawn characters push the reader into forming other opinions or perspectives here.  Another gem of this story and author.

Especially well done is the familial bonds and community ties that hold Isaac and David in place.  You feel the emotions and love that tugs at them at the same time you totally understand the guilt and fear that threatens to overwhelm them.  David’s character is one that straddles both communities, that of the English or outside world and that of the Amish.  But deep within David remains that love and ingrained religious beliefs that continue to frame his life if not his thoughts. He is another great character, someone who is brave, troubled,and confused yet is still the impetus for the actions and events to come.

If those ties are all you have known, what amount of courage does it take to even think of leaving it and your families forever behind?  Huge questions posed by the author and characters on an intimate scale.  And every bit of emotional turmoil and pain is relayed from page to reader in believable scene after scene.  The descriptions, the dialog, and the settings are all so authentically elevated and yet on the same level as each other.  It all rings true.  Not one aspect appears more realistic or well researched than another.  The reader will throw their heart into this story and characters.  And that will make it hard to leave them all behind by the time this tale is over.  Luckily for us, Keira Andrews will pick up their story in a sequel to come.

A Forbidden Rumspringa is one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ best stories of 2014.  As is that remarkable cover, so evocative of the novel and the Amish community found within.   I highly recommend this book to all readers, add it to your TBR list today.

Cover Design by Dar Albert.  Best cover of the month and of 2014. Love it.

Sales Links:    All Romance eBooks (ARe)     Amazon          A Forbidden Rumspringa

Book Details:

ebook, 231 pages
Published September 3rd 2014 by KA Books (first published August 31st 2014)
ISBN139780993859823
edition languageEnglish
seriesGay Amish #1
settingMinnesota (United States)

 

Sophie Bonaste’s ‘Death Gets a Boyfriend’ Book Tour (contest)

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Sophie Bonaste has a new release at Dreamspinner Press.  Death Gets a Boyfriend is out now.  Check out the blurb and excerpt below.  And don’t forget to enter the contest.  There are 2 copies of Death Gets a Boyfriend to be awarded.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Please use the Rafflecopter link provided at the end of the post for the entry form and for additional contest details.

Sophie Bonaste is in our author interview chair today.  I am thrilled to get a chance to get up close and personal with a new author for me and learn more about her latest release, Death Gets A Boyfriend.  Here’s our interview:

Interview for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

By Sophie Bonaste

STRW:   You admit to being a fan of Harry Potter and Star Wars, the supernatural and the scify! Is that your preferred genre to write in?

Sophie Bonaste:  I don’t really have a preferred genre. With every finished project, I feel the need to move onto something completely different. It’s because of that need, I write in three different genres (YA, contemporary and sci-fi/fantasy). Which one I like the best depends on what mood I’m in. Right now, I’m on a contemporary kick. After that, who knows.

STRW:  . What draws you to those genres as opposed to contemporary fiction?

Sophie Bonaste:  I like creating worlds different from our own. When you write contemporary, you are bound by the rules of a reality that isn’t all that spectacular. But when you branch out and write fantasy and sci-fi, you can create a whole new set of rules to play around with.

STRW:  You originally wanted to be on stage and act. Now you write fiction. What similarities is there between acting in character and writing a character?

 Sophie Bonaste:  There are actually a lot of similarities, because at the core of it you are telling a story. You have to create a world that is believable and real and characters that people care about. Writing is a little harder because you have to create everything in your readers’ heads, as opposed to showing it to them, which can be especially tricky in character development. But at the core of it, the two aren’t so dissimilar.

STRW:  Why Death as a main character? And love interest? What was your inspiration for that?

Sophie Bonaste:  I actually got the idea from work. My nickname at work is the Grim Reaper, despite the fact that I am one of the least terrifying people in the world. But it got me thinking: if I am the Grim Reaper, then why did Death have to be a scary being dressed in black? What if he was just a harmless, nerd with an annoying job like me? And if that was true than didn’t he deserve love like everyone else? The story just wrote itself from there.

STRW:   There are so many wonderful famous last words. What would yours be?

Sophie Bonaste: That’s a great question and one that I haven’t really thought of. I would like to think I would say something epic, but odds are it will be something standard like saying “Goodbye” and “I love you” to my family. But, hopefully, I have a lot of years to think of something epic.

STRW:   Whose arms would you love to die in?

Sophie Bonaste:  I don’t know. Hopefully, by the time, I die I will be married and we can die in each other’s arms. (Is it obvious I’m a romance writer?)

STRW:  What is next up for Sophie Bonaste?

Sophie Bonaste:  Well, at this point I have quite a few novels I am working on. Nothing is under contract yet, but I hope to have some news soon. Be sure to stay up to date with all of my works at http://sophiebonaste.blogspot.com

STRW:  Thanks, Sophie!  That was a wonderful interview.  Now let’s take a closer look at Death Gets a Boyfriend.

 Death Gets a Boyfriend by Sophie Bonaste

Author Bio:

Sophie Bonaste is a novelist who never set out to be a novelist. As a child, she wanted to a Broadway actress and spent her childhood in numerous productions. But when adulthood set in and reality took over, Sophie chose to give up the theatre for a steady paycheck and instead turned to writing as a creative outlet. She stumbled into the M/M genre through fanfiction and never looked back. Sophie is quite happy with her change in artistic expression and doesn’t plan to stop writing for a long time.

A self-proclaimed nerd, Sophie is an avid fan of all things Star Wars and Harry Potter. (Sophie is a member of the Slytherin house, for those who were wondering.) Sophie also spends many hours watching and re-watching nerdy television shows. When she is not obsessing over the latest and greatest in nerdy entertainment, Sophie can be found screaming at her television during American football games. (Go Pack Go!) Sophie currently lives in Pennsylvania, about twenty minutes from her childhood town of The Middle of Nowhere.

  • Author Contact:
    Sophie loves to hear from readers! You can reach her by e-mail at sophiebonaste@gmail.com, on Twitter at  or on Facebook as Sophie Bonaste. You can also check out updates on Sophie’s writing and other musings on her website.

DeathGetsaBoyfriendFSTitle: Death Gets a Boyfriend by Sophie Bonaste
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Christy Caughie

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press
Death Gets A Boyfriend Blurb:

Death is in a lonely business. Since the beginning of time he’s been reaping souls then returning home to his little condo in the sky. It’s not a bad job. There are perks. But Death would kill to meet his soul mate, no pun intended.

Tommy Neilson is the next human slated for death. But when he can see Death, Tommy turns his whole world upside down. Curious, Death seeks Tommy out. The chemistry between the two is immediate and soon an unlikely romance starts to form. While Death may not be lonely anymore, he isn’t allowed to interact with humans. Consequently, he must make a choice: billions of souls or the one that makes being immortal worth it.

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 Death Gets a Boyfriend Excerpt:

I am Death.

Well, that’s one of my names anyway. I’m also known as the Grim Reaper, the Angel of Death, Azreal, and the list goes on. Some people have even called me Satan, but I would like to say right now, that’s a lie. I am not Satan. I know Satan. He’s not as bad of a guy as you would think. Sure he can get a little violent if you get out of hand, but as long as you stay on his good side, you’ll be fine.

And there I go getting off track again. You’ll have to forgive me. I’m not very good at staying focused. I guess that comes from the fact that I can jump around the world at an alarmingly fast rate. Thankfully that’s not very hard. Well, at least not for me. I guess, in the human population, that’s a skill many people want for some reason. I don’t know why, though, considering how scattered it makes your brain. It really does. That’s why I try to avoid using that skill. Causes headaches.

Anyway, this is a story about me. Don’t worry, though. It’s not too gruesome or anything like that. This is a story about how I fell in love. Yes, I know that’s kind of hard to believe. Death falling in love. Believe me, it shocked the hell out of me too. (No pun intended.) But it’s true. After thousands of years in existence, I finally found someone whom I wanted to spend my time with.

FinalBadgeDeathTour Dates/Stops:
9/15: Prism Book Alliance
9/16: Hearts on Fire
9/17: Love Bytes
9/18: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
9/19: Book Suburbia, Nephylim
9/22: Decadent Delights
9/23: Havan Fellows
9/24: MM Good Book Reviews
9/25: Wake Up Your Wild Side
9/26: Amanda C. Stone
9/29: Fallen Angel Reviews
9/30: The Novel Approach
10/1: SA McAuley
10/2: Velvet Panic
10/3: LeAnn’s Book Reviews
10/6: Book Reviews and More by Kathy
10/7: Louise Lyons
10/8: The Blogger Girls
10/9: Up All Night, Read All Day
10/10: Dawn’s Reading Nook
Rafflecopter Code:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rafflecopter Prize: 2 copies of ‘Death Gets a Boyfriend’. Use the link provided for the entry form and for additional contest details. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.