A Second Harvest (Men of Lancaster County #1) – by Eli Easton
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. He married, had two children, and goes to church every Sunday. 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 that he’s thirty years old, 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 and get his life back in order. His aunt left him a small house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and he heads there to rest, recoup, and reflect.
But life in the country is boring, despite glimpses of the hunky silver fox next door. When Christie’s exuberant creativity latches on to cooking, and he started gourmet-ing up a storm, 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 enjoy spending time together. A lot.
As a huge Eli Easton fan I was so excited to read this. I loved the dynamics and the story, and hell, i loved everything about this book. A proper romance, with solid family dynamics, and a forever romance. Lovely.
David sat against the rough wooden boards of the cow stall and watched Gertrude die. She opened her big brown eyes once toward the end and gazed at him for a long moment. In the glow of the lantern light, her lashes cast deep shadows so David couldn’t see what emotion might be in those eyes. Was she grateful he was sitting up with her? Did she know it was time to go? Was she relieved to finally be leaving this farm where she’d spent her entire long life?
But she was just a cow. Probably she thought none of those things. When she closed her eyes again, it was for the last time. An hour later she stopped breathing, and she was gone.
It felt like an era passed with her, silently and stealthily. David was there when Gertrude was born. She was the first cow that was his, designated as such while still in the womb, a birthday present from his parents. He raised her and showed her at the Harrisburg farm fair when he was in eleventh grade. She was a beautiful brown jersey with classic lines, and she won a third-place ribbon that day. David was proud enough to burst. For years afterward Gertrude was a reliable, strong milking cow.
A farmer didn’t get sentimental about animals. That was plain stupid. But David was not able to kill Gertrude when her milk production fell off. She’d half performed for another decade until he eventually retired her to pasture. If anyone asked, he told them it was good to have a mature cow around to show the rebellious younger ones what was what, teach them the routine. And Gertrude was a leader by personality. She knew how to put other cows and heifers in their places. But the truth was, David just couldn’t bear to load her in the truck and take her to the slaughterhouse.
She was a part of his boyhood, and it was right she was dead now. God knew the boy in him was a far distant memory.
He turned off the lights in the barn and walked back to the house. It was foolishness to have stayed up with her. The day’s work had to be done whether or not he had a good night’s rest. He was too old for this.
The light in the kitchen was on as he approached the house. He checked his watch. It was just past 5:00 a.m. Amy must be up.
For the past two years, Amy had come home from college for the summer to work as a nursing intern at the Lancaster hospital and to help him run a CSA program on the farm. It was Amy who did all the customer work. She made up the flyers, packed the boxes of produce, and met with the customers every week when they came to pick up their shares. She was good at that sort of thing. He wished he could pay her more, but like every other operation on the farm, the profit from the CSA was a very faint line of green. David honestly didn’t know how most farmers made it. His grandfather had paid off the farm, but still, between property taxes, upkeep and maintenance, animal feed, and everything else, he made just enough to get by. As his dad used to say, the gravy was thin.
He opened the sliding glass door and saw Amy in her bathrobe pulling some fresh eggs from the fridge.
“Hey, Dad.” She yawned. “What are you doing out at the barn so early?”
“Aw! That’s a shame.” Amy didn’t sound too broken up about it. Then again Amy learned young not to get attached to the animals.
He grabbed a glass from the cupboard, went to the fridge, and poured himself some orange juice. But when he went to lift it to his mouth, he was surprised to discover a hard, thick lump in his throat. He put the glass back on the counter and breathed. Ridiculous. He hadn’t gotten particularly choked up, even when Susan died. But then she was sick for a few years. Her death was a blessing in the end.
“Things live. Things die. That’s the way of it.” His voice was gruff, but the lump eased. He drank his juice.
When he put the glass down, Amy was watching him with a frown. “You sound so cynical. I worry about you, Dad. You should take Mrs. Robeson up on her offer for dinner. I think she really likes you.”
“I’m not interested in Mrs. Robeson.”
Amy rolled her eyes. “You should give her a chance. Mom’s been gone two years now. She wouldn’t want you to be alone forever. And Mrs. Robeson taught both Joe and me in Sunday school. She’s a very nice lady.”
David gave Amy a warning look. “I don’t care to discuss my love life, thank you. Are you gonna cook those eggs, or are you waiting for them to hatch?”
Amy snorted a laugh, but she opened a cupboard and brought out a skillet. “Slave driver! I just worry about you. I hate that you’re all alone here when I go back to school. Joe hardly ever comes home.”
“I don’t mind.”
“I know! That’s the problem. You’re turning into a crusty old hermit. Next time I see you, you’ll have a beard down to your belly button. I know you live on TV dinners, hotdogs, and chips. It’s not healthy. You should get remarried. I know Pastor Mitchell thinks so.”
“Pastor Mitchell wants to get some of his old maids and widows married off so he doesn’t have to handhold them so much. I’m not interested.”
David was half teasing, but Amy still gasped. “Dad! That’s a terrible thing so say!”
David waggled his eyebrows, unrepentant, and exited the kitchen.
He went upstairs and took a shower. The sleepless night hit him along with the hot water, and he knew it would be a long day. Why had he felt compelled to sit up with Gertrude? She probably hadn’t even known he was there. But at the thought of her, another wave of sadness hit him. An image ran through his mind—one of falling leaves and the boy he’d been playing in them, laughing. He had no idea where that came from or why.
Out of the shower, he used a hand to wipe off the fogged mirror. He looked at himself critically to see if he could get away with not shaving this morning. His reflection surprised him briefly, as it always did. He felt so old. He always expected to see white hair and a sagging face when he looked in the mirror. But there were only a few strands of gray at the temples of his dark-brown hair and in his close-cropped beard. His face was not young, but it wasn’t sagging yet either. He’d lost a good thirty pounds since Susan died, so he actually looked younger.
Fine. He might not look old, but he sure felt it. And he suddenly understood why he sat up with Gertrude. He wanted to watch her as she escaped the farm at last, as she simply left her body and went away, gone where no one could prevent her going and no one could follow.
One day David would leave too, maybe just that way. He’d shut his eyes and vanish, leaving a shell behind. But dear Lord, he was only forty-one this past May. Even if he died when his dad did, at age fifty-eight, he had years to wait yet.
Just to… wait.
Christie challenges all the boundaries of David's closed world and brings out feelings he’d buried long ago. Can he find the courage to break free of the past and take a second chance at happiness?