We are thrilled to have Eli Easton with us today at Sinfully on the blog Tour to celebrate the release of her latest book A Second Harvest.
It’s Never Too late
By Eli Easton
I’m here to celebrate the release of “A Second Harvest” published by Dreamspinner Press. This is the first book of a new series called “Men of Lancaster County”, which will focus on m/m romance stories set in rural farm country, specifically in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where my husband and I own a 20 acre farm.
Lancaster County is probably best known for its large population of Amish and Mennonite. Riding around the country roads here, you’ll see an abundance of small farms with windmills for power, old-fashioned clothes hung on the line, large kitchen gardens, horses and buggies, and passels of free-roaming Amish children. I like nothing more than to ride my bike on a Sunday afternoon and enjoy the simple and beautiful rural landscape.
Above: A shot from my bike riding around Lancaster County, PA
I adore the bucolic beauty of this setting, and I feel a tug of nostalgia when I bike past a field where a man is plowing with horses or a family in a buggy. But though I can appreciate that life from the outside, I know that, personally, I could never be a part of a religion like the Amish. I know that for certain because I was raised in a fire and brimstone protestant church.
Above: The author, aged 4, in front of her father’s church in Palmerton, PA with her brother and his friend. Shades of “Deer Hunter”!
My father was a Church of God minister, and I grew up a preacher’s daughter. Though we certainly weren’t Amish, my father was extremely conservative and I had aunts and uncles who wore the long dresses, never cut their hair, and sang gospel with an unbelievable twang! (I remember those songs quite fondly.) I rebelled hard as a teenager. I left home at 17 for college and basically never attended church again.
Yet, even though I was able to cut those bonds of convention for myself, I can’t help but wonder about those who are unable to do so. I attended public school and the friends I made there were very ‘worldly’. What might have happened had I never been exposed to life outside my family’s faith? If I’d had to attend a Christian school, had my access to reading material and mass media controlled? If I’d never been able to go to college? Would I have stayed in the faith? Would a gay man raised in that kind of uber sheltered environment be able to break free? And if not, what would his life be like? That’s the premise of “A Second Harvest”.
Above: A storm approaches the garden, taken on the author’s farm in Lancaster County, where the story is set
One of the themes I wanted to explore with the new Men of Lancaster County series is that of indoctrination and freedom. It’s not a simple concept. Because there are wonderful things about Home, about Faith, about church and family, that go hand-and-hand with the restrictions those thing would place on our lives. But the choice between the two is often, unfortunately, all or nothing.
In “A Second Harvest”, one of my romantic leads, David, is a Mennonite man, 41 years old, who grew up on a Mennonite farm. He attended a small Mennonite school and never had the chance to leave home. His father died when he’s only 18, and he had to take over running the farm. He ‘did the right thing’ and married a Mennonite girl and had two children. At age 41, he’s widowed, his two children are in college, and he lives alone on his family farm, still doing the same chores he’s done day in and day out his entire life, and wondering when his heart will stop beating and it will finally end. It isn’t that his life on the farm is bad. Many would envy it. But then why does David feel so empty?
Above: The cows on the author’s farm.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a story if things stayed that way. David’s world is turned upside down when an incredibly attractive gay man moves in next door and strikes a deal to cook for both of them. The walls of Jericho, if you’ll pardon the analogy, come tumbling down.
“A Second Harvest” s is a story I’ve had in my head for a long time, working title “The Cook and the Farmer”. I am always inspired by our farm. I love it to pieces, and I’ve set many stories here (“Unwrapping Hank” for one). I’m sure I’ll set many more here as well! But I know that what’s a haven for me, having chosen this life as an adult, could be a prison for someone who never had a chance to do anything else.
I was so pleased to finally have a slot to work on this book. Like many authors in this genre, I tend to publish a lot of stories, but this one comes from a particularly deep place inside me. Not only is it set on our farm, but the themes of family and religion are based on my deepest and oldest beliefs and scars.
It was important to me that this story be realistic, to really be honest about what David’s life is like, about his frame of mind, and how that is slowly changed by spending time with Christie. David’s narrow world opens up, which is amazing and life-giving, but also there are hard decisions he is forced to make and things he has to severe in order to pursue what his heart wants.
David is also a very mature MC. I love the idea that it’s never too late to pursue change, that we can make new discoveries and drastically alter the direction of our lives in our 40’s, 50’s or even 80’s. Even if our choices and options are limited by circumstance or hardship today, that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. Doors can open when you least expect it. It’s never too late.
Above: A view of the barn and pasture.
I hope you can relate to some of the themes in this book and, of course, sigh and feel warm and fuzzy over the romance too! David and Christie have to work for it, but Lord, is it sweet when they come together. They definitely deserve their HEA.
Please let me know how you liked the story at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a review in the usual places.
Much love from Lancaster County,
Above: The author in her garden
A Second Harvest
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 1st July 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
David Fisher has lived by the rules all his life. Born to a Mennonite family, he obeyed his father and took over the family farm, married, and had two children. Now with his kids both in college and his wife deceased, he runs his farm alone and without joy, counting off the days of a life half lived.
Christie Landon, graphic designer, Manhattanite, and fierce gay party boy, needs a change. Now thirty, he figures it’s time to grow up and think about his future. When his best friend overdoses, Christie resolves to take a break from the city. He heads to a small house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to rest, recoup, and reflect.
But life in the country is boring, despite glimpses of the hunky silver fox next door. When Christie’s creativity latches on to cooking, he decides to approach his widower neighbor with a plan to share meals and grocery expenses. David agrees, and soon the odd couple find they really enjoy spending time together.
Christie challenges the boundaries of David's closed world and brings out feelings he buried long ago. If he can break free of the past, he might find a second chance at happiness.
::: LISA’S REVIEW :::
It was Saturday and the idea of doing more cleaning held little appeal. What else did he have to do with himself? Nothing. The temptation to go into Lancaster or Harrisburg was there, to seek out a gay bar, or even get on Grindr. Gay men had to exist out here. But… that wasn’t why he moved here. He came here to get away from all that for a little while.
His mind made up, he went to the grocery store in town with a long list. It was a big-chain grocery store, and he was pleased to find nearly everything he needed. The October day was bright with crisp leaves and a blue sky. When he got back home with his sacks of goodies, it was still early afternoon. He opened the windows in the kitchen—struggling against the one over the sink that stuck—turned up the music on his iPhone, and started dancing around, organizing his supplies and digging out pots and pans.
He made the curried carrot ginger soup, a lovely dish with fresh peas, green onion, and radishes, some savory cheese-and-herb swirled biscuits, and a basic herb-roasted chicken. He truly did love to cook, though the past few years, it never seemed worth the effort. There were so many great takeout places in the East Village. Plus Kyle was such a picky eater. He basically ate pizza and stripped-down salads, and that was it.
It occurred to Christie while he was prepping this meal that it was going to be a beautiful repast, and it was a shame he didn’t have anyone to share it with. He could freeze some of it, but it wouldn’t be the same. He thought of David next door, living alone, and of his TV dinner. Would that be weird? That would be weird, right?
Pushing it from his mind, Christie spent the rest of the afternoon jamming to tunes in the kitchen and working his way through the recipes, having fun and dancing in his stocking feet.
When everything was ready, Christie decided the meal deserved some pomp and circumstance. His aunt had a drawer of tablecloths, but they were not quite his style. He used a white linen towel for a place mat and put each dish on the table in the best china dishes he could find. He used a red cut glass for his water and lit a candle in an old silver candlestick he found in the cupboard.
He looked at the table and chewed his lip. Everything looked beautiful. It smelled amazing too. He sucked some chicken juice from his thumb—yum. It almost seemed like a waste to eat it. He wished someone were here to share the meal with him. Anyone, really. The idea he’d avoided thinking about while cooking poked its head out again.
Well. He’d never been exactly shy. If he was going to do this, he had to do it quickly. The food was getting cold.
With a nervous shake of his head, Christie decided. He cut the roast chicken in half and put it on a large plate with a little bit of everything else, covered it with aluminum foil, and ran out the back door.
He hadn’t been to the Fisher’s farm before, and it turned out to be a longer trip down the gravel lane than he anticipated, maybe a quarter mile. He kept up a jog, worried about the food getting ruined. Between that and his nerves, he had a fine sheen of sweat when he got there.
David’s farm was beautiful. The white barn Christie had seen from a distance was huge and picturesque. It made Christie’s fingers itch to draw it. The farmhouse was fieldstone with black shutters. Electric candles in the windows gave it a cozy Colonial air and made Christie realize how dark it was getting outside. Why hadn’t he grabbed his coat? It was fucking freezing. He was an idiot—a shivering idiot at the moment.
Determined to drop off his gift without further delay, he marched to the back door and firmly knocked.
Enthusiastic barking commenced. More than one dog—two or three. Christie felt a little nervous. He liked dogs, but these farm dogs might be territorial. And he was holding a plate of chicken. He might as well have bathed in bacon grease.
A deep voice silenced the dogs and the door opened. David’s face looked stern and worn for a moment, but when he recognized Christie, a smile softened it. “Oh, hi.”
“Hi. Sorry to bother you, but I spent the day cooking, and I made all this food. No way can I eat it all, so I thought I’d bring you a plate. You know, to make up for causing you to burn your dinner the other day, fixing my smoke detector and all.” God, he was overdoing it! Shut up, Christie.
“Oh.” David looked surprised. He glanced at the foil-covered plate in Christie’s hand. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“I was bored.” Christie’s shrug turned into a shiver. He held out the plate. His mouth was dry. He was starting to wish he hadn’t done this.
There was a reserve about David, a way he kept himself at arm’s length. Christie sensed that when David stopped by his house, but he put it down to the fact they were strangers. The vibe was stronger here, on David’s turf. Christie felt like an intruder standing at the back door. David was looking at the plate with an unreadable expression. Please just take it.
Then the wind shifted and a delicious aroma billowed up. David’s face grew curious. “Roast chicken?”
“Yeah. It was from a Thanksgiving magazine. I made some sides too.”
Suddenly David moved. “Heck, you must be freezing. Come inside.”
“Thanks. I can’t stay. I just wanted to drop this off.” But Christie was stepping inside as he spoke, welcoming any relief from the cold air.
“River. Tonga. Sit.” David shut the door. The dogs sat obediently. One was a golden retriever and the other a large furry black mix of some kind.
“Tonga?” Christie asked.
“It’s an island,” David said with an adorably bashful duck of his head. He took the plate from Christie and raised the foil, looked at it, and smelled. “This looks really good. You made this?”
“Sure. I just followed the recipes.” But David’s words made Christie feel infinitely better about bringing it by. “Well. I’ll leave you to eat it before it gets cold. I have mine back at the house.”
“Thanks. It beats the heck out of frozen food.” David sounded sincere. He put the plate on the counter. “Hang on.” He opened up an accordion door in the hall, revealing an overstuffed closet with a collection of coats, hats, and shoes. He selected a black woolen pea coat with large buttons and pulled it out. “You’re going to freeze to death.”
“It was stupid not to wear my coat. I didn’t realize it was so far over here.”
David got an amused smile, but he wasn’t looking directly into Christie’s eyes, so he still seemed uncomfortable. Instead of handing Christie the coat, though, he held it open and moved behind Christie.
Christie blinked. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone had helped him into a coat. He held back his arms and let David slip the coat onto him. It fit in the shoulders okay, but it was big around the waist and hips. David turned Christie in a matter-of-fact way and started doing up the buttons.
Christie’s eyes widened, and he swallowed hard. What the hell? Did David think he was a child? But there was something titillating about being taken care of, or maybe it was David’s proximity, his handsome face focused on his task, his rough hands so close to Christie’s body.
Yes, it was definitely the proximity. Wow, David was a good-looking man. Who knew rugged could be so hot? And to think of all the money Christie had spent on grooming!
There were only five buttons, and when David finished the last of them, just below Christie’s chin, he looked up and saw Christie’s face. He suddenly blushed, his nose and cheeks going red. He dropped his hands and took a step back. “Sorry. That was… sorry.”
“I didn’t mind.” Oh God, Christie’s voice had dropped in register and sounded rumbly to his own ears. That was a smexy voice! What the hell was he doing? “Um… thanks for the jacket, David. I’ll bring it back later.”
“No hurry.” David was avoiding his gaze again.
Christie yanked the door open, escaped the house with a silly little wave, and walked fast back to his aunt’s place.
Once inside he found his own food was only tepidly warm, but still flavorful and delicious. The herb glaze on the chicken was to die for, and it went beautifully with the floury-cheesy biscuits and the curried soup. He hoped David liked it too.
He kept the coat on while he ate, snuggling into the fabric and holding the collar close under his chin. It smelled of earth and hay, a slight trace of motor oil, and the smell of a working man—piney, sweaty, and altogether appealing.
He remained in the coat all through dinner. But only because he was cold.
Meet Eli Easton
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.
1 Winner - $25 Amazon Gift Card (Open International)
1 Winner - a copy of How to Howl at the Moon and How to Walk Like a Man in paperback, signed (US and Canada only).