Review: ‘Tender Mercies’ by Eli Easton

35076747Published October 27th 2017
216 pages

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 club foot. 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 Benedict who might be the key to life, love, money—and even a happily ever after for two castoffs.

‘Tender Mercies’ was cute as hell. Slow-build romance, animal rescue, total sweetheart MCs, it was ridiculously lovely. If you like your romance with a lot of angst and grit, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you want something warm and cosy you can wrap yourself up in, this is the one.

Eddie is a bit of an animal justice warrior. He’s got big dreams of building his own animal paradise, but really the man is clueless. When Samuel hobbles up to his farm in search of his own sanctuary, Eddie ends up with exactly the man he needs. Both to fix up the farm, and heal his wounded heart. Both of these men are kind, gentle souls who learn a lot from each other because of the completely different worlds they come from.

Although the romance is the central element to this story, it’s so entrenched in the enveloping setting of the farm that it isn’t always at the forefront of the action. The sanctuary and the animals are a huge part of it, and for someone like me who loves animals and used to work in rescue, it’s a really engaging storyline that I’d have been interested in even without the romance aspect.

As I was reading this I found myself thinking that maybe the romance was little too slow-build for me, Eddie and Samuel barely even touch each other until over half way through the book. But once they give in to what they want and tentatively become more than friends, I forgot to care that it took a while to get there, I was just happy to see them together. There isn’t a huge amount of sex in this book, but what there is has a good amount of heat without being too adventurous or raunchy. It is Samuel’s first experience of such pleasures, so the excitement comes from the newness of it all and his desperation to feel it all at once.

The pace of the writing is a little ploddy, you kind of meander through the book instead of it driving forward, but it does fit the setting of an idyllic country farm so it’s not out of place. The only thing I felt wasn’t quite right was the difference in narrative voices, in that there wasn’t really a difference. It’s written in third person, but there’s a subtle shift in points of view between the MCs, and I found the shift too subtle. It was still clear whose eyes we were looking through, but given the difference in the characters and their backgrounds and their views on the world, the voices still never really differed.

It wasn’t enough to put me off though. There was just too many things to like for it have any kind of negative impact. The story really is wonderfully angst free. There’s a fair amount of internal worry, mostly from Eddie, stressing about the farm and his finances and not wanting to fail the animals or Samuel. And Samuel struggles with his self-confidence and not feeling good enough for Eddie. But it’s mostly fleeting moments that they work through and find comfort in each other for. They’re not the best at talking to each other about their worries early on, but once they get more serious as a couple the communication gets much better and far less frustrating.

As placid as this book was, it still made me feel things. I was glued to the pages when the farm was in serious trouble, so desperate for Eddie to not give up and find a way to make things work. I got so attached to the animals, especially Benny the pig who was a star character all on his own, needing them to be safe and secure. And I got swept up in the big rescue at the end, wanting to get stuck in and help them out myself.

The whole thing was a gloriously sweet read, maybe a little sickly sweet at times but it was a nice change up from some of the heavier, grittier things I’ve been reading lately. The epilogue was perfect, a heart-warming happily ever after that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. It was a real pleasure and I’m looking forward to the next one, there were far too many breadcrumbs left about Eddie’s friend Devin for him not to get his own story at some point…

4/5 stars

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