K-Lee Klein has a new MM contemporary western romance out: “Finally Home – Josiah.” And there’s a giveaway! My review is at the bottom of this post.
Josiah Nelson left the family home where his father’s bullying and his own fears made life a penance, swearing never to return. Now he has a funeral to arrange, another joyless Christmas holiday to survive, and a ranch to sell, before he can finally wipe the last dust of his childhood off his shoes and settle into his lonely big city life.
When he arrives in his hometown, Wyatt Ames is still there, still out and proud and everything Josiah secretly wanted when they were growing up. He can’t help feeling a tiny, fragile hope that this time, things might turn out differently. Especially when Wyatt seems set on teaching him that home isn’t the house you live in. It’s the place where your heart belongs.
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It was like a bad dream come to life. Not the kind where a monster is hiding in the closet ready to eat your face, but more like an unending loop of being stuck somewhere you just didn’t want to be.
Josiah Nelson hadn’t thought of the old ranch that way in a long time. Yet there he was, ramping up the old weathered steps to his childhood home, and regretting every minute of it.
The high-pitched squeal of the old weathered screen door shook the silence of the chilly night air when Josiah tugged it open. It startled him, bringing a rush of memories to the forefront of his mind, some good but mostly bad. Stepping over the broken door frame, he slipped inside the all-too-familiar house. That particular board had been broken since he was a child and someone should have fixed it long ago—maybe he should have taken a little more responsibility around the old place, but soon, it wouldn’t be his problem.
The musty smell hit him first; earthy, damp like like a moldy pair of wet socks. He wrinkled his nose when the underlying scent of pine cleaner assaulted his sinuses next. Someone had obviously tried to scrub away the history of the place, the bad memories that held anger and dysfunction. It was probably the most disconcerting aspect of walking into the house. After Josiah’s mom died, his daddy’s domestic skills hadn’t changed, hadn’t improved, in the least. Anything that didn’t involve horses, trucks, or beer had been half-assed at best and apparently age hadn’t changed his daddy’s habits.
Gosh, had it really really been eight years since him mama had been gone? He supposed they were together again—if you believed in that kind of thing—thought his mom was more suited to heaven while his father should be further south. Cancer had taken them both; different kinds, different years, but the same body-ravaging killer.
His mama’s death had been the hardest time of his life. The offered sympathies he’d been offered when she passed still burned a hole in his heart—she’s in a better place, at least she’s not suffering anymore, she wouldn’t want you to be sad. It had disturbed him, made him angry. Did they expect him to not mourn? To just let her go and wash his hands of all she’d meant to him? Josiah hadn’t been ready to let her go, but how much of a monster would he have been to want to prolong her last few months of suffering.
Losing her had made Josiah’s world so much smaller, so much unhappier and dark. It was cliché to say she’d been his rock, his best friend, but it was true. He’d been left with a father who was practically a stranger, and well, that was a whole different can of worms.
Coming home brought back so many deep-buried regrets, guilt that rocked him to the core on bad days. Josiah imagined most people felt those same things and learned to deal with them, but he wore his like a badge of disgrace or failure or both.
He closed his eyes, concentrating as he inhaled deeply then slowly let it out. The unwanted, unsummoned, emotions that threatened to send him huddling into the corner like the child he’d once been, had to be set aside, shoved back in that overflowing box at the back of his mind. If he was going to fall apart it couldn’t be in the first five minutes of stepping into the place. His mind and heart had to be clear and open, and he had to be able to deal with everything before any feelings could be allowed to run loose. Sprawling into an emotional abyss of emptiness would have to wait.
He reminded himself that it was only for a few days, at least he hoped that’s all it would take to get things in order and leave the rest in the lawyer’s hands. A few days and he could leave all this behind again, go back to the sad life he’d built himself. Sad but exempt from the pain of the past.
But good intentions didn’t always pan out and Josiah’s true feelings scurried to the surface as he trailed shaky fingers over his mom’s cherished antique buffet table His was breathless and hot tears stung his eyes when he caught sight of the plain, white urn. It was pushed to the side of the credenza like an after-thought, rather than holding a place of honor where it belonged. Though he supposed the glass vase’s importance had been lost when it’s intended use had been ignored and overruled.
Before her death, Josiah’s mama had picked out her own urn. She liked the pretty dragonflies pressed into the base and the simple shape and color. Josiah’s biggest regret was buried deep in the bottom of the empty vase. Mama had wanted to be cremated, had made it very clear when she brought her purchase home.
“Sprinkle some of my old ashes by the pond, Josi. Then I’ll always be here to watch over you. I’ll always be close.”
He missed her so much, not a day went by that he didn’t think about what he’d lost that sorrowful day. And even worse, he’d failed her last request.
Because the awful fact was that she was buried in a dark box in the wet ground, rather than being scattered around the pond and spending the rest of eternity in that stupid urn. Josiah’s father had made the final decision. The stubborn old bastard refused to pay the extra cost of cremation.
Instead he’d put his beloved wife of twenty-eight years in the cheapest casket he could find, then buried her in the local cemetery. Josiah had been afforded no say in the matter and his father had dismissed his wife’s last request like yesterday’s news. Knowing the man better than he’d ever wanted, his decision shouldn’t have been a shock to Josiah.
Now eight years later the rage remained, fueled with unsaid words for his dad. And Josiah would be damned if he’d fulfil any wish his old man might have—Christmas or not.
K-lee Klein grew up in the beautiful mountains of British Columbia and now lives only two hours away in Calgary, Alberta. Her life is blessed by three now-grown (but still spoiled) kids and a new, adorable grandson who calls her Gwaa Gwaa. She has a patient husband of over thirty years and spends her days being bossed around by a kitten named Poe, a senior feline called, Miss Chili, and a canine, Princess Chewie.
K-lee’s writing muse is terribly temperamental so to keep him close by and in-check, she had him inked on her left calf. Yet she still writes on his schedule and inspiration, and quite honestly, he can be a bit of a drama queen. K-lee writes mostly contemporary but has forayed into paranormal and urban fantasy, and her favorite tropes to write and read are hurt-comfort, friends to lovers, opposites attract, and relationships with children. Her biggest accomplishment as an author was overcoming all the hurdles to transition from publisher releases to her first self-published book.
Although K-lee considers herself to be an extroverted introvert and revels in her solitude, she very much enjoys traveling to conferences to meet up with friends old and new. She’s grateful for all the people in her life who accept her as she is and support her through the ups and downs as a mom, wife, friend, and joyfully obsessed writer.
Author Website: https://kleeklein.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/kleemoon
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Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/k-lee-klein/
This novel is Book 1 of the Where The Heart Is series.
I really enjoyed this story, where a young man returns to his family home after his estranged father’s death, intending to empty the place and sell up as soon as possible. Whilst there, his one-time friend and secret crush, Wyatt, tells him some home truths, and gradually Josiah’s wounded heart begins to heal.
This story was so charmingly written, and really got to the bone of how hard it is to grieve for someone who has done you so much harm. Wyatt’s family is lovely, with just enough in the way of whimsy to make this a gorgeous Christmas Story as well. I loved how the author didn’t shy away from the difficult subjects of survivor guilt and anger at the dead – in this case, Josiah’s father, who sounded repellent from the get go. There is a warm and lovely twist which balances out Josiah’s mental agony, and a feel-good factor that we really do need right now. Obviously not all parent/child relationships are going to pan out the way they do in Finally Home, but at this time of year, when estranged families all over the world are feeling loss more than ever, it’s a lovely wish-fulfilment story with deep roots in realism.
I’ll be picking up Wyatt’s story next as I was so impressed with the quality of the writing, the world-building and the storytelling. It isn’t a long read at 119 pages, but with the clout of a much longer novel. That isn’t to say it’s heavy. Not at all. But it’s hard to get characters to stay with the reader over the course of a shorter book, and the author has achieved this incredibly well. Definitely a re-read for me in the future.