Review: A Way Home — by Keira Andrews

A_Way_HomeOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is book three in the Gay Amish Romance series by Keira Andrews.  It is highly recommended that you read the first two books first, otherwise you will be completely lost.  My previous reviews are here: Book 1 and Book 2.

Basic Plot:

David and Issac have made it out of their Amish background and are adjusting somewhat successfully with their new English way of life.  However, now there is a medical emergency back home that pulls Issac (and David) back to Minnesota. Will their love be strong enough to keep them to their dreams or will family and religion bring them back into the fold?

David & Issac:

This book review will not go into detail regarding David and Issac’s character development.  We continue to see their struggles individually with adhering to the new English world.  For David, his panic attacks and self medicating drinking has brought a wedge between Issac and himself.  Issac has been so focused on making new friends and reconnecting with Aaron that he lets David deal with his problems alone.  In A Way Home, we see them reconnect back and learn to communicate.

Theme Summary:

I feel in many ways, David’s friend June represents the reader.  In discussing her relationship with her deceased husband, June talks about how marriage is compromise:

Isaac stuck the rubber toe of his sneaker into the mud.  “I always thought once you loved someone, the rest just fell into place.”

June’s laughter echoed across the field.  “Wouldn’t that be nice?  Love counts for a lot, but you need a heck of a lot of patience and grit too.  Sometimes Conrad would frustrate me to no end.  I did the same to him.  But we’d talk it through.  Compromise.  But you and David can’t do that if you’re  not being honest with each other.”

These two men have been through so much throughout all three of these books, and most of the tension within the novels has been because of miscommunication.  They could not live in the life style of their Amish heritage, but at the same time living in the city is not an exact fit.  What they need to do is find a compromise where they can still honor their roots of heritage but still live successfully with each other and be honest to who they are.

Strong Points:

Andrews has the ability to draw the reader into the Amish culture and give the feel of suffocation of “properness” of the Amish to David and Issac.  I am not certain of the accuracy as I am not Amish, but I felt the isolation and how painful that was as Issac and David tried to hide who they were and their dreams.  I felt their pain so fully that I had a hard time reading through.

What could be better?

I like a little angst, but if there is so much angst I feel the urge to put the book into the freezer ala Joey I hesitate.  Toward the end, when we were dealing with the parents, I will be honest — I skimmed.  I was so afraid that they were going to be pulled back into the Amish world.  I felt a bit like I was watching a horror film and I was yelling at the book, “don’t go in there!”

I just had a week of my Mother-in-Law in my house, so in many ways I can relate to David and Issac.  I have come to realize that I will never be accepted by them because of religious reasons, and trying to be myself only seems to bring stilted conversation.  So I completely can relate to how David and Issac must feel:  wanting to fit back in but knowing that they would never be accepted in that world if they showed their true self.

Conclusions:

I am glad that we finally get a happy ending for David and Issac.  In the end, they find compromise and are still true to themselves.  I think that is something that we can all strive for in our lives.  I think that if you loved the first two books you will be satisfied with the conclusion.

Bea

Review: A Clean Break — by Keira Andrews

A_clean_breakOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is book two in a three-part series (Gay Amish Romance) by Keira Andrews.  I have previously reviewed the first book in the series, A Forbidden Rumspringa, which can be seen here. If you have not read the first book, then I suggest not reading this review as it will contain spoilers.

Basic Plot:

Isaac and David have made a break from their Amish community, straight to Isaac’s brother’s home in California.  Can the boys learn to live in the English life or will they find life together too difficult?

Isaac:

Isaac seems to have an easier time of assimilating into the English world.  Isaac’s struggle is with building new relationships and friendships.  The support of his brother Aaron keeps him balanced and his love for David gives him strength to move forward.

“Look!”  Isaac pointed as they rumbled across a street that dipped down.  “The water.”

Isaac glowed, and David found himself watching him more than the view.  To see Isaac so filled with eight calmed his worries.

Isaac reminds me of the person who runs head first into a challenge.  He’s scared of the newness, but he is so excited to be moving forward in his life.  There is still the guilt and concern to leaving his hometown, but for him it is worth everything to be with David.  That would never have been feasible for them to remain together in Minnesota.

David:

David is our tortured character.  We saw that in the first novel, the stress of trying to take care of his family lead him to question his relationship with Isaac.  For David, being the supporter of his family and then Isaac is all that is important to him.  We see this early on in A Clean Break:

For so long he’d tried to be a good Amish man.  But when it came time to give his vow to God and join the church, he’d faced the truth.  On his knees in front of Bishop Yoder and all of Zebulon, David had said the only thing he could: no.  To say yes would have been a betrayal not only of his heart and honor, but of Isaac.

Most of David’s conflict is with how difficult it is him to leave his guilt from leaving the family behind.  Andrews does an amazing job of letting us into the head space of someone trying to leave a conservative community.

Theme Summary:

It is difficult to decide to leave a life that is so different like being Amish.  For Isaac and David, this challenge is overcome by the love that they have.  They are willing to give up their old way of life to be together.

Exhilaration rushed through him at the thought that soon they’d work together again.  He didn’t know how or where, but they’d make it.  They’d build a life with new tools, piece by piece.

I think for any of us, we could relate to this.  Imagine that you had to move to another country, one that did not speak your language and had completely different cultures.

Strong Points:

The strongest part of this novel is the emotions that we feel as we read about their struggles.  There were so many times that I was crying, pulling my hair in irritation with the characters.  I wonder what type of research the author must have had to go to so easily portray the drama and emotions that David and Isaac go through.

What could be better?

There was a lot of sex in this book, which in the end I actually skipped some of the scenes.  I think that if it was a case of book length, I would have rather just merging book two and three together.  While book 1’s ending was natural, although there was the slight cliffhanger.  In A Clean Break,  the ending is jarring and the wait until the next book will be rough.

Conclusions:

I enjoyed this book, although I had to give it a 3-star rather than 4.  The jarring ending and the reliance of sex scenes made the read not as enjoyable as the first.  However, the emotion that Keira Andrews is able to depict in A Clean Break is amazing.   I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of angst and lots of steamy sex.  Just remember, there is a cliffhanger!

Bea

Review: A Forbidden Rumspringa — by Keira Andrews

a_forbidden_rumspringaOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is my first read of Keira Andrews’.  Finding a new author is one of the most exciting opportunities for a book blogger.  Opening the book might bring hours of fun, tears, and angst — OR hours that you wish you could get back.  At first I was hesitant to agree to read this book, after all, Amish?  Really?  I was ready to roll my eyes and prepare for the worst.

However, I was pleasantly surprised and I can now put Keira Andrews on my Goodreads Favorite Author list.

Basic Plot:

Issac Byler and his family have moved from Red Hills to Zebulon, Minnesota, a much more conservative Amish community.  Issac has not joined the church yet, but the time approaches, his first step is to work as an apprentice for woodworker David Lantz.  David is under a tremendous amount of pressure to provide for his family now that his father has passed away.  While David and Issac become friends, will they discover something about themselves and can they afford to seek it?

Background:

As I said, Amish story sounds rather hokey at first, a trope that could be taken into an overly dramatic manner.  Keira Andrews must have conducted some serious research on the Amish community, because how we see David and Issac struggle with the community appears realistic.  It is interesting to consider that just calling someone “Amish” can mean many things and each community set up their own rules and orders (Ordnung).  We don’t have to be Amish to understand how it feels to be trapped in a life we do not want and have no hope to ever escape.

Issac Byler:

This book is from his perspective.  He is 18 and realizes that he is attracted to men.  He struggles with the urge to explore this and the fear of leaving his family and life behind.  Where would he go?  What would he do?  This community does not allow a Rumspringa, so there is no opportunity for him to explore his sexuality.  We certainly feel how trapped he is, some of the strongest scenes are his with his family, as we see he can not question his Father and he is not given any questions.  I liked how they talk about his older brother who left, yet we do not know a lot about Aaron.

Excesses.  In Zebulon — as was the Swartzentruber way — they never uttered the word rumspringa, and the  younger children had no concept of it.  Thoughts of Aaron flickered through Isaac’s mind, unbidden.

I loved the scenes that Issac had with his younger brother.  I hope we see more of him in later books.

David Lantz:

We only see David through Issac’s eyes:  David is older, more worldly than Issac.  However, he is closer to having to join the church and marrying; he has more to loose than Issac.  His family depends on him, so he feels like he has no choice but to sacrifice his happiness for the greater good.

“I’m sorry if you regret going tonight.”  David’s words were bitten out.

“David, I don’t.  At least, I don’t think I do.”  Isaac’s heart skipped.  “Are you angry with me?”

Head down, David laughed, but it was razor sharp.  “No, Isaac.  Only with myself.”

“Why?” Isaac touched the sleeve of David’s coat.  “I wanted to come. I’m glad you trusted me.”

When he looked up, David’s eyes shone with unshed tears.  “I was selfish to bring you here.  Please forgive me.”

I loved how Andrews showed us the difference in the characters.  They might still be gay, but that does not mean that both are equally ready to accept their sexuality and needs.

Theme Summary:

On some level, a theme could be, “be true to yourself.” Yet, these men are not even really able to understand that concept because of their restrictive upbringing.  So for me, this novel is about the inevitability of curiosity and personal growth.  We see through many characters of the younger generation as they struggle with finding tech, going to the movies, drinking, and smoking.  Because they are forbidden any of these (including the rumspringa), they still find a way:

“We’re all curious.  We’re all tempted.  The tighter they try to lock us away from the world, the more we wonder.  They try to prevent rumspringa, but they can’t stop it.  Most of the time I feel like I’m drowning in sinful thoughts.  A zipper and a movie aren’t so bad, really.”

I imagine that the next book’s theme will focus more on they exploring their relationship and how to integrate themselves into the English society.

Strong Points:

The background research of the community made me appreciate the group, but not feel so overwhelmed with details.  We get the feeling of how restrictive it is and how our protagonist want out without spending hours talking about how they farm and make quilts.  With a simple interaction with a tourist, we get insight of the community:

Darren tilted his head, still smiling easily.  “So Michelle and I are what you’d call English, right?  Why English and not American?  Or Canadian as the case may be.”

“I asked once when I was a boy, and Father said it’s just our way.  He says that a lot.”

And this quote pretty much sums up why Issac and David struggle within Zebulon:  Don’t question, just follow the rules.  Which reminds me of a time I was in a Bible studies group one Sunday.  The Bible study was going through the lesson and we were having a group discussion.  I asked a question (using the scripture) to make a point that was not the point he was making.  After the session I was basically told not bring up things like that, that we were following the lesson as is.

So, we eventually left the church because we were not allowed to question.  In A Forbidden Rumspringa, Issac and David face this type of of problem, but magnified.  We could leave the church, imagine if you had to leave your brothers and sisters behind, never to be able to contact them again?

What could be better?

Not sure if I would call it “better”, but I am certain that Amish people might not like how they are portrayed here.  There are a few of the Lantz girls who seem to be “modern”, but most of the older generations seem very black and white.  They weren’t portrayed as “evil”, but there was no scene where we got to see how some folks were trying to make change from within.

That being said, they are very insular community and we do get a few side descriptions of the “liberal” community they left behind. I just wanted to see a more mix environment.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  I could have liked to see a less black and white view of the Amish and see some more development of the secondary characters.  However, if the author wanted to portray the feeling of isolation; Andrews was very successful.  I look forward to reading the second book next year!

Bea