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Thanks so much to Boys in Our Books for having me! I’m here today to talk about A Way Home, the third book in my gay Amish trilogy.
Just comment on this post and let me know where your hometown is, and you’ll be entered to win a draw for one of my backlist books. Be sure to include your email address in your comment. Contest ends Sunday, April 19 at midnight PST. Good luck!
One of the most surprising things I learned while researching this series was how many different sects there are within the Amish faith, and how different one group can be from another. For example, the Beachy Amish-Mennonites drive cars and use electricity. On the other end of the spectrum are the Swartzentruber Amish, who don’t have indoor plumbing. Just as all Italians aren’t alike, neither are the Amish.
I set A Forbidden Rumspringa in a fictional town in northern Minnesota called Zebulon. My characters are Swartzentruber Amish, and as such live very restrictive lives. One Swartzentruber tenet that I think symbolizes how they are different from other Amish is their refusal to use orange reflective triangles on their buggies. In Kentucky, some Swartzentruber men went to jail rather than compromise their belief that God will protect them on the road, and that shiny orange is just too vain.
This is the world to which Isaac and David must return in the third book in the trilogy, A Way Home. They’ve experienced the joys—and challenges—of the outside world in San Francisco in A Clean Break, and going home is fraught with emotion and anxiety.
This series was planned as a trilogy, and I hope it will be as satisfying a journey for readers as it was for me as a writer. I do have a few ideas percolating for a fourth book that would catch up with Isaac and David down the road, but first they have to find, well, their way home. :)
Will returning to their Amish roots renew their faith in each other?
Isaac and David never thought they’d go back to the Amish world. But when Isaac’s younger brother is stricken with cancer, they don’t hesitate to return. Their relationship is on the rocks after insecurity and fear drove a wedge between them in San Francisco, and David is determined to make things right. Yet if they thought navigating “English” life was confusing, being back in Zebulon is even more complicated.
Their families are desperate to bring them back into the fold, and pressure from the community builds. Isaac and David yearn for a future together, but each day it becomes harder to hide the truth about who they really are. They’re caught between two worlds, and if they’re not careful it could tear them further apart.
Can Isaac and David make their way back to each other—and find a place to call home?
This is the final chapter in a trilogy of forbidden Amish love.
Available now at:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940152182996
An excerpt from A Way Home
“Are you sure you’re up for this?” Aaron pulled into the Byler’s muddy driveway and put the rental car into park. “It’s been a long day of travel. And a long night before that. You look like you could use some rest.”
“I can’t wait. I need to see Isaac.” The sun was setting, splashing pink over the gray spring sky. When he and June had made it to the hospital only to be told Isaac had gone home with his parents, David had wanted to race after him. Even now he fought the urge to barge into the Byler’s house and take Isaac away.
As if he could read his mind, Aaron quietly said, “He’s not going to stay.”
David gripped the door handle. “I know.” He breathed in and out. “But I know he’s been dying to see Katie and the boys again.”
Aaron stared down the drive, as though he could see beyond the curve to the house and barn and his lost family. “I’ve never even met the little ones.”
“Maybe…if you ask, your parents might…”
Gaze still distant, Aaron shook his head. “They won’t. It wouldn’t be fair anyway. I knew what I was losing when I chose to leave.”
He’d never seen Aaron so withdrawn, and he hoped Jen wouldn’t be delayed. She’d texted to ask if David was okay and if the breathing exercises were helping. Her concern made him want to smile even when there was such little to smile about.
“Part of me wishes I could do that.” Aaron nodded in the direction of the house. “Put on my old Amish clothes so I could see them.”
As hard as it was for him and Isaac to come back, David could only imagine what it was like to be shunned. The ache of it rang through him like a bell. “I’m sorry.” He shifted in his old clothing. “You could borrow something if you wanted. My clothes would fit you fine.”
Aaron’s jaw tightened, “No. When I left Red Hills I swore it was for good. I wasn’t going to be one of those runners who couldn’t make it stick. I promised myself I’d never put on those clothes again.”
He sighed. “But thank you for offering. I appreciate it.” He stared at the muddy laneway.
“I never lived here, but it still feels like coming to a home I’ll never have again. Stupid, I know.”
“Not stupid.” David paused. “I know why Isaac and I left. But why did you?”
Aaron’s little smile was wistful. “I wasn’t cut out for this life. I remember when I was little, and I’d go with Dad to deliver the milk to the dairy. All the trucks and machines and bustle. Everyone seemed busy and important, and I thought, One day I’ll be one of those people. I never wanted to be a farmer. It was always too quiet at home. So much work to do when I knew there were English inventions that made it easy. It just never made sense to me. I couldn’t understand it. I guess I still can’t. Maybe I just don’t want to.”
David didn’t know what to say. He nodded, even though Aaron’s eyes were still on the horizon, where the pink sky was darkening to an orangey red.
“Is being gay the only reason you left?” Aaron asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. No. I guess I’m still trying to figure it out. But even if I couldn’t be with Isaac, I could never stay. I told myself I had to. I’d resigned myself to it. But I was miserable. I want…more. You know what I mean?”
He smiled. “I know exactly what you mean, David. You should go on now before it gets too dark.”
“I guess I should.” He ran a hand over his hair, wishing he’d been able to shower, but he’d been so anxious to see Isaac. And now that Isaac was at the end of the drive, he still hadn’t opened the car door. He could hear his heart beating like it was stuck in his ears.
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait until morning? Not that I don’t want you to see Isaac now. I just know you won’t be walking into an easy situation.”
“I’m sure. He doesn’t have his phone, and if I don’t come he might think I don’t care. Or that I don’t want to see him after all.”
Aaron shook his head. “He won’t think that.” He traced his fingers over the smooth leather of the steering wheel and cleared his throat. “So, Isaac told me a little about what happened between you. I’m going to have some choice words for Clark when we get home. I love him, but this was not okay. I’m sorry he hit on you like that, and I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you didn’t want any of it.”
David’s mouth went dry. “I didn’t. I swear.” He met Aaron’s gaze. “I would never.”
“I believe you.” Aaron smiled softly. “I know how much you care about Isaac.”
The relief was a warm rush, and David exhaled. “Thank you.” He shifted on the squeaky leather seat. “I probably should have realized. Isaac never seemed to like him much, and now I know why.”
“Isaac should have told you about what he overheard. He should have told you it upset him, and that Clark’s intentions were…fucked up.” He shook his head. “I’m sure Clark feels really bad now, but Jesus. He shouldn’t have messed with you.”
“He said he was sorry. I think he really meant it. It seemed like he did. I forgave him.” David frowned. “But maybe I shouldn’t have. Is that dumb of me? Maybe I’m being too Amish.”
“No. Not dumb at all.” Aaron sighed. “I’m sure he did mean it. He’s not a bad person. Just selfish and thoughtless sometimes, especially when it comes to his love life. Though he’s also the kind of person who took the BART out to check on Jen’s parents every single day and helped them around the house after they got in a car accident when Jen and I were in Australia. He never complained once. But he crossed a big line here, and he’s going to have to earn back that trust.”
“People are…they’re complicated sometimes.”
Aaron nodded with a chuckle. “You can say that again.” He grew serious. “All right. Go make up with Isaac.”
June’s words as she’d sent him and Aaron on their way echoed in his mind. “Go make up with your boyfriend, because you two are a pair of hangdogs.” “I will. I’m going to make it right.”
“I know you will. You both will. You sure you’ll get back to June’s okay? Maybe you should take your phone.”
“It wouldn’t be right. I’ll be fine. Got by for my whole life without one. Hard to believe sometimes, and I barely use my phone compared to other people.”
“Yeah, technology’s funny like that. Want me to drive up closer?”
“No. I’ll walk.” David unbuckled his seatbelt. “Unless you want to drive up and…see.”
Aaron shook his head. “I don’t belong here. It would make it worse for them. For me too.”
“Thank you for bringing me. And for everything.” Resolutely, David opened the door and stepped into the slush.
The engine hummed and the tires splashed through puddles as Aaron turned and drove away with a wave. Shivering, David started up the Byler’s driveway. His old Amish boots and coat had still been at June’s, tucked on a shelf in his dormant workshop. His plain pants and shirt were terribly wrinkled, but he hadn’t wanted to wait to iron them. Not that he knew how to iron. June surely would have offered, but she’d done enough.
He’d automatically skipped his underwear since he was putting on his plain clothes. It was both familiar and foreign to feel the rougher cotton of his pants brushing his privates. The strangest thing was to be wearing his Amish clothes without a hat. He ran his hand over his hair again, brushing his bangs forward as much as he could. He felt naked.
As he neared the Byler house, his heart galloped. Smoke curled toward the darkening sky, and the windows glowed with lantern light. In the distance, chickens clucked and horses neighed. A sheet fluttered on the laundry line.
Even though it wasn’t the house he’d lived in, they were almost all the same in Zebulon. He could imagine Kaffi bounding around the paddock, whinnying playfully. Anna’s teasing tone as she made Mary laugh despite herself, and the sweet giggles of Sarah and the girls. Their mother scolding them, but smiling just a bit all the same.
He stopped and pressed his hands against his eyes. There was no time for tears now. Isaac needed him. And Lord, how he needed Isaac. So near, but out of reach. David couldn’t rush to him and haul him into his arms. He couldn’t kiss him or breathe in his smell that was different from everyone else in the world.
Squaring his shoulders, David closed the distance to the house. When he knocked softly on the door, the murmurs inside ceased. He held his breath as he waited, smoothing down his hair again. With a scrape and creak, the door opened and Isaac’s father filled the space.
He cleared his throat. “Yes, sir. Hello, Mr. Byler.” He didn’t know what to do with his hands, and clasped them behind his back.
Mr. Byler’s gaze raked over him from head to toe and back again. “What do you want?”
“I…” His ears burned, and his skin prickled. Hatless and wrinkled, he was in no state to be paying a call to a neighbor’s home.
“David?” Isaac’s voice came from inside the house.
With a weary sigh, Mr. Byler stepped back, and Isaac edged around him, his face alight. “David. I’m so glad you came.”
David could only nod for fear that he’d sob if he spoke.
“Let me tell you what’s happening with Nathan.” Isaac reached back inside to grab his coat off a hook. “Please go ahead and have dinner without me, Father.”
Mr. Byler opened his mouth, but Isaac rushed past him and tugged on David’s sleeve. David could feel Mr. Byler’s gaze boring into him as he and Isaac retreated some feet away. “Isaac,” Mr. Byler intoned.
Isaac turned. “Yes, Father?”
He reached behind him, disappearing for a moment before holding out a black felt hat. “You forgot this.”
After scurrying back, Isaac put on the hat and rejoined David. Then the door closed, and they were alone under the rising moon. They faced each other, and David reached for him before he could stop himself.
Isaac jammed his hands in his coat pockets. “You know they’re watching,” he murmured.
David nodded and clasped his hands behind him again. “Sorry.” He swallowed forcefully and made sure to keep his voice low. “There’s so much I want to say…”
“I’m sorry, Isaac.” David wanted to hang his head, but he met Isaac’s gaze. “I’m so sorry. For what happened between us, and for Nathan. For everything.”
“I don’t care.”
Inhaling sharply, David almost staggered in the muck. Would Isaac really not forgive him? “I…please, Isaac.” His voice was barely audible.
“No, no—wait. That didn’t sound right.” Eyes glistening, Isaac shook his head. “I do care. Of course I do. I mean that it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m upset about what happened, and there are important things we have to talk about, but right now I’m just so glad you’re here. I want…” He glanced over his shoulder at the house. A curtain flickered. “But we can’t. They’ll see.” He whispered, “I missed you so much the last few days.”
“I did too.” David surged with relief. “I tried to get here as soon as I could.”
“I know. I’m sorry I left without you. I just had to get back. If Nathan…” He shuddered.
“But I talked to him today, at least. He seems all right. As much as he can be, I guess.”
“That’s good. I’m glad.”
“Have you gone home yet?”
David shook his head. “I needed to see you first. I…Isaac…”
“I know,” Isaac murmured. “I know.”
He dug his fingernails into his hands behind his back. “I want to hold you again,” David whispered.
“I know. We will. We just have to be careful.” He smiled sadly. “We’ve had lots of practice, at least.”
“I can’t believe we’re here again.” David waved a hand over them, indicating their Amish clothes. “I keep thinking I’ll wake up and hear the bus down the street, and that you’ll be beside me in our bed.”
Isaac closed his eyes for a moment. “I want that. But I need to be here, at least for now. How’s Aaron?”
“I don’t know. Quiet. I think this is very hard for him.”
Isaac shook his head. “I hated leaving him behind today. But I had to. You understand, don’t you? I had to see the kids.”
“I understand. Aaron does too.”
“Are you staying at June’s, or are you going home?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure how my mother will react.”
“She loves you. She’ll be glad to see you. Just like I am.” Isaac smiled softly. Then he stood up straighter. “I could take you over there in the buggy. We could be alone for a bit.”
Excitement whipped through him, and David nodded vigorously. “Will they let you?”
“Come on.” In the darkness, Isaac squeezed David’s fingers for a fleeting moment.
David followed Isaac inside, lingering by the front door. Down the short hallway he could see the living room with its wood-burning stove and twin rocking chairs for Isaac’s parents. The family was still eating in the kitchen, and David could hear Isaac speak to them in German.
“I’m just going to drive David over to Eli Helmuth’s. I’ll hitch up Silver to my old buggy.”
“At this hour?” Mrs. Byler asked.
“It won’t take long. It’s too far for him to walk.”
There were a few moments of silence, and then Mr. Byler spoke. “It is your brother’s buggy now.”
“He can use it. I don’t mind,” Ephraim said, and gratitude warmed David.
Mr. Byler added, “But your mother’s right. It’s too late. No. He can find his own way tomorrow.”
“But David needs to see his mother and sisters,” Isaac said. “Surely you don’t want to make Mrs. Lantz wait another day to see her son again?”
David had to smile just a bit. Not so long ago, Isaac likely would have backed down in the face of a plain no from his father. The silence from the kitchen grew long and weighty.
“Miriam surely will want to see her only son,” Mr. Byler said quietly. “Do not dally. There’s much work to be done in the morning before we go back to Nathan.”
Exhaling the breath he’d been holding, David kept his expression neutral as Isaac returned. As David had guessed, Mr. Byler followed. David cleared his throat. “Thank you, sir.”
Mr. Byler stared at him for several heartbeats. “I hope you have seen the error of your foolish ways and will obey your mother and the Lord once more. You came so close to joining the church and finding peace and salvation.”
All David could do was nod and turn away, Isaac on his heels as they hurried to the barn. David glanced back as they reached it. Isaac’s father remained in the doorway, a stark figure outlined in the warm light from inside. Then they were inside the barn, alone in the darkness.
Copyright © Keira Andrews
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”
Where you can find Keira:
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/keiraandrews