When Heart Becomes Home

by Pat Henshaw

When Heart Becomes Home - Pat Henshaw
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: 9781646567669
Pages: 195

Is there a time limit on love and forgiveness?

Fifteen years ago, Manny didn’t show up to take Wes to the Shelby High School prom as he promised. Instead, Wes found Manny’s letter jacket at their meeting spot without a note or any explanation.

From college to his current job in Monterey, California, Wes has carted the jacket around as a memento of his teenage love and rejection. This year he decides enough is enough. He’s attending the high school class reunion, returning Manny’s jacket, and going home free to find the real love of his life.

When Manny sees Wes at the reunion tour of the new high school facilities, he’s determined not to let his teenage lover leave without them clearing the air and possibly getting back together.

Through reunion activities such as a quiz bowl, meet-and-greet meals, and a formal banquet with a prom-like ball as well as outside activities like the quinceañera of Manny’s niece, Wes and Manny work through the lies and misunderstandings of the past.

With so much to reconcile and forgive on both sides, will they end up together? Or go their separate ways with only memories of the past?

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Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
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Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Genderqueer
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Cultural Differences, Interracial Relationship, Second Chances
Word Count: 65,255
Setting: Small Northern California town
Languages Available: English
Excerpt:

From the outside, The Trap had looked just like it had when we were in high school and wanted to be twenty-one so we could go inside and drink. We’d heard “our kind” weren’t welcome here, but like flies to flames, we talked big and said we were going to drink there anyway.

I always kind of thought I’d be disappointed once I stepped inside. As far as I was concerned the hype had to belie the reality.

“Live music? Have I landed in an alternate universe? The Trap wasn’t supposed to have entertainment. Remember? Old grizzled guys guzzling beer? War stories? Tales of woe told over hard liquor? What happened? What’s going on here?”

“Your mother didn’t tell you?” Zack whispered to me.

The guitarist had started singing with his audience happily clapping along.

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I shook my head. The performer wasn’t half bad, singing sea shanties and folk tunes that seemed to go with the rustic setting around him. I looked more closely at the audience.

Twenty-somethings. A few people our age. Not an old timer among us. I turned back to Zack, putting my hands out in an “I give up” shrug.

“A few years ago they finished building Shelby Community College out by the reservoir. Two-year majors in forestry, nature preservation, and fire safety. It’s been going strong since it opened.” His forehead creased. “I wonder why she didn’t tell you. Or why you haven’t heard.”

I shrugged again.

“Got me. But it’s great for the town, right? Income for everyone?” I gestured around the table at our friends.

“Yup. It brought a lot of people who bailed back to town when they bombed in the Bay Area.” He ran his hand up Teddy’s arm. “I found Teddy in the city and brought him home with me. It also lowered the average age in Shelby by a few decades. Hence…”

His eyes went around the room.

Okay, one unrealistic dream about a decadent hometown bar destroyed. Not a bad development, I guess.

I leaned back and relaxed. The group of us sat and listened to the music, occasionally commenting, but more solidifying ourselves into a group again. Like feeling arms close around me in a hug, I settled into becoming one with my old friends. Coming home for the reunion didn’t look so bad now.

With relaxation came fatigue.

“Look. I’m beat. I’ll see everyone tomorrow. A tour of the school, right? Then golf in the afternoon?”

Egghead looked up and shook his head—as did everyone else around the table.

“Nope. You won’t see us again until the Big Reunion Trivia Quiz where we are going to trounce the competition from previous years and then the banquet and prom reenactment on Saturday night.”

“What? I thought there were other reunion activities all week. Including an all-important golf tournament.”

“Do you play?”

“Me?” I was as appalled as I sounded. “Not on your life. You guys?”

They all shook their heads.

“So why aren’t you going to the school tour tomorrow morning?” I was starting to panic. Would I be stuck socializing with all the people I hated and had escaped to get away from?

“Tomorrow we work.” Zack was looking at me funny. “I thought you had a job, too.”

“Yeah, I do. But I took the week off to be with you guys.”

“Well, not all of us can take off a whole week for reunion activities. We can’t fix plumbing, wire a business, interview a dying client for a will, and the list goes on while we’re goofing off. Some of us even have kids who need to be towed to and from games and whatnot. Anyway, it’s why we wanted to have some time to sit down with you before the reunion hoopla began.” Zack patted my hand. “Don’t worry, baby. We’ll get together again on Tuesday to get ready for the Quiz Bowl. Some of us will be at the ‘concept meeting’ in the morning to see what this year’s rules are.”

They were all standing, checking phone messages, muttering to themselves, and generally getting ready to leave like a lot of others in the audience.

The singer had said he’d be back in a few, so I thought we’d shoot the shit some more until he started up again. But I was wrong.

Getting more exhausted by the minute after my long drive, I rose. Fatigue hit me, and I stumbled forward a little to give everyone a hug. We all said goodnight. I assured them I’d be around all week if anyone wanted to get together.

Zack and Henry followed me to my car.

As I unlocked it, Zack leaned against the front fender.

“So, are you going to tell us why you really came to the reunion? It’s not like fifteen is your favorite number or anything, is it?” He smirked up at me. “It doesn’t have anything to do with you-know-who, does it, Wes?”

I must have looked guilty.

“Oh, no! God! Wes?” Henry asked. He stared at Zack, then at me. “Oh, no, no, no. I can see it on your face.”

I sighed. I’d have to tell them at some point.

“I’m returning the jacket.”

Clam and oyster shells crunched as guys walked to their cars and left the parking lot. Zack and Henry were silent, staring at me. No judgement, just waiting.

“It’s time for me to leave high school behind. To make a total break, I have to return Manny’s jacket and walk away.” I sighed again. “He’s never going to contact me and ask me to return it. I’ve asked my mother whether he called to get my phone number. But no. There’s never going to be a miraculous second chance and happily ever after. I need to go out there and find someone I can get so close to I want to marry him. I’m tired of being alone. And dammit, I’m tired of comparing every guy I get together with to him. I’ve got to erase him.”

Both of them looked at me a moment and nodded.

“You know he’s still a hunk and a half, right? I’ve seen him around town a time or two.” Henry’s glasses and the glare of the bar’s security lights made his eyes invisible. Was he warning me or merely making a statement of fact?

I shrugged. They sighed.

“Good luck, baby.” Zack gave me a half-hug.

Henry touched my arm.

We went to our cars and drove away.

They understood. It was all I could ask.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jay on Kimmer's Erotic Book Banter wrote:

**** 4 Hearts
The past is not always as it appears. Rash decisions, the innocence of youth, and bigotry create a fifteen-year separation that subconsciously holds on to those years. When Heart Becomes Home, by Pat Henshaw, addresses aged hurt and reveals truths, providing a second chance that transcends time.

The love Gordon Westerhouse (Wes) and Manuel Garcia (Manny) held for one another was shattered the night of their senior prom. Homophobia and bigotry prevented them from experiencing their rite of passage, resulting in years of heartbreak and stagnant living.

The class reunion reaffirms that the years after high school change the dynamics of a group and the lives of inexperienced youth.

The Fifteenth Shelby High School Reunion, for Wes, is a time to break the cycle and move on. He will return Manny’s letterman jacket that he took that fateful night and let go of Manny once and for all. However, Manny has a different plan. He needs to explain that night, make his apologies, and get his man back.

The weeklong get together provides an opportunity for Wes and Manny to talk out their past and reconnect with old friends and foes. The class reunion reaffirms that the years after high school change the dynamics of a group and the lives of inexperienced youth. The clicks that existed during those days have gained real life experience and closely guarded secrets are now out in the open. Albeit there is a small contingent who hang on to the “glory days” of their youth, for the most part there is a sense remorse and regret for past actions.

There is hurt, comfort, drama, and a slew of realities bestowed on the Shelby High School Reunion attendees that mimic life in general, with its good and not so good realities. A situation with Manny’s mother is tough to swallow, but then again bigotry always is. And “Flip” needs to just stop… you will find out what this is all about.

There is hurt, comfort, drama, and a slew of realities bestowed on the Shelby High School Reunion attendees that mimic life in general, with its good and not so good realities.

When Heart Becomes Home is Wes and Manny’s journey to happiness told from Wes’ perspective. Fifteen years of torment come full circle for Wes and Manny as they finally get the prom they should have had so many years ago. With trepidation they work through the events of their past to bring themselves to their happily-ever-after.

A copy of When Heart Becomes Home was provided to Kimmers’ Erotic Book Banter, by Pat Henshaw at no cost and with no expectations in return. We offer our fair and honest opinion on behalf of our readers.

Fay on MM Bookworm Reviews wrote:

4.5 stars.

A great start and yah once I started reading I forgot about taking notes for my review as I do. Wes was on a mission to return a jacket. I loved the first meeting for Wes and Manny again setting eyes on each other again. What happens things kinda go wrong and Manny needed to make his apologies. They both find out their past prom had interference that stopped them from enjoying the night. I felt for them both when they finally get to talk about what happened.
A second chance romance with past hurts and feelings to work through. Different living locations for each to work out in the communications. A few scenes of forgiveness as life deals, poor John I was conflicted with this part.. Yah things ain't easy especially with Flippy and Manny's mother but they get through with a few dramas. Includes homophobia and bigotry.
Written with Wes POV and includes much more into the story and finishes with a HEA.

Wes 33 yrs was attending his high school reunion to return a jacket. Manny was once a high school boyfriend but it ended badly at prom night.

Kat on Love Bytes wrote:

Do you ever wonder about the one that got away?

Manny has been on Wes’s mind for the last fifteen years. Every since Gordo, now called Wes, found Manny’s mud soaked letterman’s jacket when he got stood up for their date to the prom. Wes left the very next morning for college and never looked back. But here he is is at his High School reunion to finally give the boy his jacket back so he can finally get on with his life! But what happens when your high school love is standing right in front of you and trying to tell you what you thought was reality of that night isn’t the truth?

I loved this misfit group. I love how varied they all were but how fiercely protective of their band of nerds they each were. Wes had all his friends on his side as he moves forward with his plans to get rid of the old baggage of his life and move forward.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to meet up, discover the last 15 years had been a lie and then realize there was something still there that never died in either men. I did appreciate that the author didn’t have Wes immediately fall at Manny’s feet in mad love but that they had to learn to trust each other again. But, when the truths start emerging my heart hurt for all the wrongs that had happened to both boys at the hands of those that were suppose to love them completely.

I did have one part that bugged me. When Cee-Cee kept thanking her uncle it didn’t make sense. Manny was an only child. It would make more sense that she was a cousin or possibly second cousin but not her uncle.

Also, it was obvious that Teddy, Zack’s husband, didn’t go to high school with the rest of the team so how come he got to be a member of the team when actual alumni were set as alternates by the reunion trivia board? And what school anywhere in this country wouldn’t have ADA accommodations mandatory, especially in California?

All in all, even with these blunders, I liked this sweet story of second chance romance.


About the Author

Pat Henshaw, born and raised in Nebraska, has lived on the U S’s three coasts, in Texas, Virginia, and now California. Before she retired, she held a number of jobs, including theatrical costumer, newspaper features reporter and movie reviewer, librarian, junior college English instructor, and publicist. She also loves to travel and has visited Canada, Mexico, Europe, Egypt, Thailand, and Central America as well as almost all fifty US states.

Now retired, she enjoys reading and writing as well as visiting her older daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren on the East Coast and playing havoc with her younger daughter’s life in NorCal. Pat's pronouns are she / her.

She thanks you for reading her books and wants you to remember that
Every day is a good day for romance.
 


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