Reviewed by Christine
TITLE: Tender Mercies
SERIES: Men of Lancaster County #2
AUTHOR: Eli Easton
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 216 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2017
A Men of Lancaster County Novel
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 clubfoot. 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 Benny who might be the key to life, love, money—and even a happily ever after for two castoffs.
What a pleasure to revisit the lovely, bucolic setting of Lancaster County! I loved the first book in the series, A Second Harvest, and was thrilled to see the newest installment was soon to be published.
In this newest story, Eddie and Samuel, a rather odd couple who desperately need one another, find themselves working together to help Eddie get his farm animal sanctuary off the ground. Samuel’s experience and Eddie’s determination are not enough, however, and these two find it is going to take more than hard physical work and money to see the farm succeed. They will need faith in their dreams—and in each other.
I was not disappointed in this lovely tale of two lost souls who find purpose, hope, and each other on a farm animal sanctuary in Lancaster County. David and Christy from A Second Harvest treat fans of the first book to a cameo, but other than this sweet, brief catching up with these previous characters, this book is a true standalone and a brilliant addition to the series. Potential readers should note that there are scenes and depictions of abuse, both human and animal. Though I felt as I read that these were carefully handled and portrayed, those with triggers in these areas may want to be forewarned.
I am impressed with the way Eli Easton weaves a special point of interest into her Lancaster stories. In A Second Harvest, it was food that helped bring her characters together. Here, the reader is treated to an intimate look at rescuing farm animals as the main characters work their way towards each other. Yes, there is a strong social message regarding animal cruelty, but overall the vegan activist slant is informative rather than off-putting. Again, scenes revolving around abuse and neglect are treated with subtlety and a distinctive lack of gratuitousness. Just detailed enough to give the reader an accurate picture and make a point, these sections help to solidify the resolve and purpose held by the characters and are crucial to the plot.
Eddie and Samuel are wonderfully crafted, and the pace and development of their relationship is believable and satisfying. Samuel, in particular, is an immediately sympathetic character, with an introduction that is heartbreaking and gut wrenching. Eddie is a bit hard to pin down at first, as it is difficult to understand why a Manhattanite would be starting a farm animal rescue venture with no experience whatsoever. Yet as his character is developed and his background revealed, his motivation and deep-seated beliefs become painfully clear. As a result, he becomes more likable and sympathetic beyond what may appear to be simply a jilted lover looking for an escape. These two work incredibly well together, and their concerns about their attraction and their skirting around one another feels genuine and is commendable in its honesty. What is most gratifying, however, is the growth of these two characters, both as individuals and as a couple. Their belief in themselves, their relationship, and their purpose is continually put to the test, and they must learn how to blossom and thrive as they struggle to put faith in their dreams.
I have one more character to discuss: Benny! “This little piggy” steals the show and the heart and is a clever, charismatic plot device. He brings a special presence onto the farm and graces the pages with personality plus.
I highly recommend Tender Mercies, along with its predecessor in the series, A Second Harvest. With its simple yet gorgeously detailed backdrop and its beautifully drawn characters, it is a true pleasure to visit the world within its pages. Thank you for this wonderful reading experience, Ms. Easton. Hopefully there is a third story in the making!