Tender Mercies (Men of Lancaster County #2) by Eli Easton
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht
Available for Purchase at Dreamspinner Press
Release date: Oct 27, 2017
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Eli Easton here today on her Tender Mercies tour. Welcome, Eli.
Exclusive Excerpt: Samuel comes out to Eddie
By Eli Easton
I’m celebrating the release of TENDER MERCIES, a romance set on a farm very much like the one I live on with my family. It’s the second book in the “Men of Lancaster County” series, though it features a new couple and can be read as a stand-alone. What each book in this series has in common is being set in Lancaster County, a rural area of Pennsylvania where there are a lot of Amish and Mennonite.
The protagonists in TENDER MERCIES are Eddie, a city guy who moved to the country to start a farm sanctuary, and Samuel, a young Amish man kicked out of his community for being gay. Samuel, having nowhere else to go, finds a job as a farmhand on Eddie’s farm.
I’ve long wanted to write an Amish protagonist. Growing up myself as the daughter of a conservative minister in the Midwest, I can relate to the frustrations and perils of growing up in a very restrictive, limited environment. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be for a young boy who knows he’s gay.
Below is one of my favorite Samuel scenes in the book, in which, for the first time in his life, he comes out to another person.
EXCERPT – Samuel comes out to Eddie
Samuel became very absorbed by books. He and Eddie read in the evenings, letting the cards languish on the dining room table. Samuel would read a book that wasn’t embarrassing when he was sitting in the living room with Eddie, and Eddie would read on his Kindle. It was sure good to have company, even if they didn’t talk a whole lot. It was like there was an extra stove in the room, this one thawing some cold and neglected piece of Samuel’s heart. Sometimes Eddie would laugh and then read something out loud to Samuel. Sometimes he made popcorn.
But no matter how nice it was to read in the same room as Eddie, Samuel would go to bed early, and there he would read a book he’d snuck from the right wall section of office shelves—the romances. There was no way he could be in the same room as Eddie and read those! If his blush didn’t give him away, other parts of him would.
He read a romance about a woman and a pirate, which was very, very dirty. It had crazy names for body parts like “manhood” and “cave” and “the milk of love.”
Then he read one about a woman who owned a big sports team. He found the information about the sports teams almost as interesting as the sex in that one. Almost.
Then Samuel found the other books. They were on the bottom three shelves of that right wall section. When Samuel pulled the first one, he saw two men on the cover. He pulled another and another. He read the back of the books. They were all about two men who met and…. Surely not. It couldn’t be what it looked like.
Eddie was in the kitchen making dinner when Samuel found those books. Heart pounding and half-afraid of getting caught, Samuel quickly picked one book and put back the rest. He went up and hid the book in his room. That night he went to bed real early, consumed by curiosity, and he read it.
In the story one man played ice hockey and he was famous. No one knew this man was gay because hockey players weren’t supposed to be that way, and he’d lose his job if they found out. The other man was a reporter, and his family and friends knew he liked other men, and they didn’t care. The reporter met the hockey player, and they started having sex and fell in love. It was a tough situation because they had to keep it secret and couldn’t be seen out together and such like.
Samuel didn’t touch himself when he read this book. He cried. He cried so hard he had to bury his face in the pillow because he was afraid Eddie would hear him all the way on the other side of the house.
He was overwhelmed by thoughts and images. Someone wrote a book about it, about men who like other men. And in the book, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It was a thing some people didn’t accept, but the men in the book were still characters worth writing about. Their story was worth telling. They were not terrible people or sinful or perverted or abominations. They were handsome and nice, and they tried to do the right thing. It was all right there on the page, that was what was so amazing. It was printed there as if the story of two men who loved each other had just as much right to be written and made into a book and printed on good paper as Beauty or Treasure Island.
That meant so much to Samuel his body couldn’t contain the feeling of muchness. So he cried.
For two days Samuel thought about that book as he went about his chores. He didn’t even want to read any more books right then; he just wanted to think about that one book and what it meant. He thought about what it meant that Eddie had the book, and a bunch more like it, in his library. He thought about how it might be connected to the fact that Eddie was not married and had no children, even though he said he was twenty-eight years old.
Those thoughts made Samuel feel itchy and twisted up inside. He liked Eddie and respected him. He respected Eddie’s kindness and his principles when it came to other creatures, he really did. Even if Eddie’s sensitivity about animals seemed excessive to Samuel, he could admit such compassion was more Christlike than many of the things Samuel witnessed growing up. But if Eddie turned out to be like that, gay, Samuel wasn’t sure how he’d feel about it.
He always believed “being gay,” as the romances called it, was something to be ashamed of, and he didn’t want to lose respect for Eddie. But the books also made him think his father, his church, had been wrong. It didn’t have to be a sinful, degenerate thing done in the cover of night as if hiding from God. Two men loving each other could have a normal life just like any other couple, just like in his fantasy of Green Valley. For real.
And if Eddie were gay, then….
Those what-if thoughts lurked hungrily on the edges of his mind, but they were too audacious to think directly. Samuel felt skittery and guilty anytime he started to think about them. As if Eddie would know somehow.
No. Those ideas were too big to dwell upon. It hurt too much to want like that. And it wasn’t right by Eddie. The man deserved more respect than to become a figure in Samuel’s sexy dreams.
But Samuel was curious about why Eddie had the books. Maybe it was just because he liked all sorts of things. Eddie wasn’t a pirate, after all. Maybe all English had such books. Curiosity started to eat Samuel up. He figured it was best to just come out and ask so he could stop fretting about it one way or the other.
So on the third night after he found the gay romances, when Eddie was putting supper on the kitchen island, Samuel slipped upstairs and got the book. When he sat down, he did what Eddie had done all those weeks ago with that towel. He put it on the counter facing Eddie. Then he picked up his fork.
Dinner that night was spaghetti with a tomato sauce and a salad. Samuel focused on his food and refused to be put off by nerves. He was hungry.
He’d finished half his meal before he looked up to find Eddie watching him warily.
“Are you asking me about the book? Or do you have something to say about it?” Eddie asked in his most careful voice.
Samuel thought about that. “Did you read it?”
“What did you think of it?”
Eddie still looked wary. “What did I think about it? Hmm. Well. It’s not my favorite gay romance, but I liked it. I thought the relationship development was well done.” He paused for a moment, then gave what looked to Samuel like a forced smile. “The hockey player was hot.”
Samuel felt a wave of embarrassment and looked down at his spaghetti. He felt himself blushing. He ate a few bites, chewing and swallowing more slowly than usual. Samuel thought the hockey player was “hot” too. But if Eddie thought so, did that mean he was gay? For sure?
All of a sudden, Samuel wished he hadn’t brought it up. Because he wasn’t sure he could not make a fool out of himself over the answer. It felt too important. He felt a little nauseous, truth be told. He put down his fork and twisted his hands in his lap, stared out the window.
“That’s not really what you wanted to ask me about, is it?” Eddie said. “You want to know why I have gay romance in the house. You want to know if I’m gay.”
Samuel’s heart thudded thick and heavy in his chest. “Ain’t none of my business.” He suddenly didn’t think he could stand knowing, one way or the other. It would be too much.
“Well. I am. I’m a gay man. I was in a relationship for a long time, but, well, now I’m not. Is that going to be a problem for you?”
Samuel felt faint. Was that relief he felt? Or shock? He hadn’t thought Eddie was gay, much less expected him to admit it so easily. How had he not guessed? Samuel felt ignorant and unworldly, one of those moments where the gap between his knowledge of the world, and Eddie’s, felt so broad it was a wonder they could talk to each other at all.
Samuel’s ears were ringing, and he was lost in his thoughts. He suddenly realized Eddie was still talking to him.
“Samuel? Can you please answer me? Is it going to make you uncomfortable living here now?”
“What?” Samuel jerked his head around to look at Eddie. Eddie’s face was guarded, and Samuel felt terrible.
“No, I don’t mind. I mean, I’m not uncomfortable.” Lord, he was so uncomfortable. “What I mean is….” He hesitated.
Eddie frowned at him, his face guarded as if prepared for Samuel to say something mean.
“I am too!” Samuel said abruptly, then he cringed. He thought he might throw up. “That is to say, I always felt that way. That’s why my da beat me with the switch that one day. And told me to get out. So it don’t matter to me none if you are.” He closed his eyes and clenched his fists on the counter. He couldn’t sound any stupider if he tried.
Eddie’s hand closed loosely over Samuel’s fist. His voice was soft. “That’s why your dad beat you? That’s inexcusable, Sam. You know that, right?”
Samuel opened his eyes, startled at the touch. But before he could even really feel it, Eddie pulled his hand away.
Eddie was glowering. He rubbed at the center of his chest. “First of all, you can’t help being gay. It’s something you’re born with, like brown eyes. And there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s certainly nothing you should be punished for. I’m sorry your father did that to you. God, that makes me so mad!”
Samuel had no idea what to say. He picked up his fork and twirled it in the spaghetti and chewed it, not hardly tasting a thing. Eddie’s words rolled around in his head like marbles. There’s nothing wrong with it. Eddie sure came from a different world. Samuel liked that world. The longing for it was sharp, a desperate ache. He wanted to be a part of it.
Then he realized that maybe he already was.
“You’re the first person I ever told,” he admitted.
Eddie smiled. “Yeah? How does it feel?”
Samuel considered it. “Like I’m about to have a heart attack.”
I hope you enjoy the rest of TENDER MERCIES.
About TENDER MERCIES – Eli Easton (Men of Lancaster County #2)
Eddie Graber’s dream of a sanctuary for rescued farm animals was about to come true when his partner backed out at the last minute. Now Eddie risks losing the twenty-five acre property in Lancaster County—and all the hopes he held for it—before the project even gets off the ground. He needs help, he needs money, but most importantly, he needs to rediscover the belief in a higher purpose that brought him here in the first place.
Samuel Miller worked hard to fit into his Amish community despite his club foot. But when his father learns Samuel is gay, he is whipped and shunned. With just a few hundred dollars to his name, Samuel responds to an ad for a farmhand and finds himself employed by a city guy who has strange ideas about animals, no clue how to run his small farm, and a gentle heart.
Samuel isn’t the only lost soul to serendipitously find his way to Meadow Lake Farm. There’s Fred and Ginger, two cows who’d been living in a garage, a gang of sheep, and a little black pig named Benedict who might be the key to life, love, money—and even a happily ever after for two castoffs.
NOTE: This title is set in the same region as book #1 but features a new couple. It can be read as a stand-alone.
About the Author
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.
As an avid reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.
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