Lighting the Way to Happiness
For most of us, home conjures memories of warmth and security. Family dinners with laughter and noisy discussions about politics and what’s new at the movies, the house that now looks smaller. Comfortable couches with the corners of the armrests a bit threadbare, fading draperies that looked stylish in the 90s and now look a little passé. The old TV that’s bigger than a Mini Cooper but “still works, so why should we replace it?” Those are the things EM Lynley and I had in mind when we wrote Lighting the Way Home, our just-published gay romance from Dreamspinner Press.
The funny thing about home and all those warm memories? For some of us, it takes time to arrive at a place in our lives where we can look back with nostalgia. Children spend their early adult lives making their way in the world—the last thing many want is to settle down at home. Home is a known quantity. The bigger world beyond the old neighborhood is infinitely more exciting. And sometimes, there are memories and pain associated with home that we’d just rather not revisit. That’s where Josh Golden is when his parents ask him to come home to New York City and help out at the family restaurant while his mother recovers from surgery.
Josh should have been happy to come home. His family is a loving one and his parents accept his homosexuality and encourage him to find a partner. But home to Josh also means memories Josh’s former best friend, Micah, the boy he fell in love with and who broke his heart into a million tiny pieces. Memories Josh has spent ten years running away from.
Josh has been living in Paris and he’s made a name for himself there as a chef in a top notch restaurant. He comes home begrudgingly, but what he finds is a different world from the one he ran away from. More than that, Josh begins to see that his exciting Parisian lifestyle may not give him the satisfaction he craves, either in his social life or his career.
The world EM and I created in Lighting the Way Home is a familiar one, populated by people who will no doubt feel familiar. They say it’s hard to come home. That’s probably true. But for Josh Golden, home may be just the beginning of newfound happiness. We hope you join us on Josh’s journey! -Shira
Lighting the Way Home is part of the Delectable Series of food-themed gay romances from Dreamspinner Press and is available in ebook and paperback formats.
EM’s Website: http://www.emlynley.com/
Shira’s Website: www.shiraanthony.com
Blurb: World-class chef Joshua Golden is homesick for Paris before he even arrives in New York, but he’ll endure it—his parents need him to help run the family restaurant while his mother recovers from surgery. Running a place so far beneath his talents is bad enough, but bad turns to worse when Josh discovers his former best friend and lover, Micah Solomon, is living at his parents’ house with his ten-year-old son, Ethan.
For ten years, Josh has done his best to forget how Micah shattered his heart into tiny pieces. Now Micah’s back, fresh out of prison, and helping out at the restaurant. Micah may not be the kind of sous chef Josh is used to, but he is more helpful and supportive than any of the other employees. But Josh finds it hard to keep his distance when, time after time, Micah proves himself a better man than Josh thought. Reluctantly, Josh realizes there is more to Micah than his lousy life choices… but that doesn’t mean Josh is ready to forgive him.
Excerpt from Chapter One:
“SO, TELL us all about your restaurant in Paris?”
They were in the car driving toward Manhattan, stuck on the Long Island Expressway. They had barely made it a mile from JFK. His father’s shoulders were visibly tense—Josh knew how he hated dealing with the traffic. Why hadn’t he just taken a cab instead of letting them pick him up? He could afford it.
“Well, Mom, it’s called Le Petit Cerisier.”
“Sounds very French,” his mother said, in a tone that implied it might be better to sound Martian.
“It’s named after the Japanese cherry blossom trees. We cook European-Asian fusion and—”
“What the hell is that when it’s at home?” his father interrupted, turning his head toward Josh.
“Dad, pay attention to the road.”
“We’re going two miles an hour, where’s it going to go?”
“That’s not the point, Dad.”
“Sure it is.”
A taxi cut in front of them, nearly hitting the front right bumper.
Just his father’s name. That was all his mother had to say—in just the right tone, with heavy emphasis on the first syllable—and his dad shrugged and turned his attention back toward the road ahead of them. Amazing, really. He still couldn’t figure out how she did it. It had worked on him, too, when he was a kid. It’d probably still work now, he thought wryly.
“Go on, Josh.” His mother patted his hand. “What kind of food is it?” It was her usual smile this time, but he noticed the wrinkles around her mouth were more pronounced than he remembered. When had her hair gone completely white?
“You wouldn’t like it.” He wouldn’t even try to explain why he was cooking traif—non-kosher foods Jews considered unclean, like pork and shellfish. They’d never eaten any of those things when he was growing up. He hadn’t tasted shrimp until he was in college, and even then he felt guilty for liking it. And once he’d moved to Europe, it was as if an entire new universe of tastes had opened up for him.
“Fine.” She let out another heavy sigh, and Josh immediately felt a touch of guilt at having foreclosed that part of the conversation. She meant well, didn’t she? “Do you like it?”
“I love it. We’re really hitting our stride, and we just got another star.” He smiled, partly out of pride, but partly to reassure her.
Josh repressed a sigh. He knew she was more proud of him than she let on; she just didn’t quite understand how important his career was to him. Neither of them had understood why he’d left home, left Goldens, their family-run restaurant, and headed off on an international culinary adventure through Asia and Europe, eventually ending in France where he’d washed dishes and peeled potatoes to pay his way through Le Cordon Bleu. It wasn’t all about food at the time, but he put his passion into his cooking rather than dwell on the real reason he’d left.
He’d finally got up enough courage—chutzpah, his dad would call it—to walk into Raymond Vessy’s kitchen and ask for a job. He was right out of culinary school and with no experience working in any professional kitchen other than his parents’ and half a dozen little places around Asia and Europe, learning local cuisines and techniques. Raymond had just stared at him as if he’d lost his mind.
“I do not hire children,” Vessy said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Come back when you have lived a little.” Undaunted, and knowing no explanation of his travels and experience would suffice, Josh had offered to prepare him a meal, and surprisingly, Vessy had relented.
Josh had done everything himself, working from early in the morning to have dinner prepared for the chef. The look of happy surprise on Vessy’s face had been worth every Band-Aid on his fingers.
“I’ve never had dumplings like this before. Duck confit pot stickers? Where did you learn this?”
“I made it up.”
“Really? Why this combination? And five-spiced pineapple.” He pursed his lips in the way the French had that could be interest or insult.
Josh had struggled to express himself in French.
Vessy pelted him with more questions. “What wine would you serve with the dumplings?”
“Petite sirah.” Josh made sure to state it with confidence, even though he felt anything but. He could see by the raised eyebrows he’d impressed Raymond, who’d made an exception to his “no babies” rule and given him a job on the spot. He started as a kitchen assistant, tasked with the scut work in the kitchen—peeling, boning, and cleaning up after the more experienced staff—but once a week Raymond asked him to prepare staff lunch, and after six months he’d been promoted to the lowest rung of station chef.
Five years later, Josh was number two in the restaurant and all but ran the place.
The drive to his parents’ house, only twenty miles, took two hours in typical traffic. They’d hit rush hour. Jet lag and the late nights at the restaurant caught up with Josh, and he fell asleep curled up on the backseat of the car.
By the time they’d parked the car in the garage and Josh’s mother shook him from his slumber, it was six o’clock. Josh sat up and moved to wipe the back of his hand across his face, but his mother’s glare put paid to that intention. He hoped he hadn’t drooled while he slept. He ran his fingers through his hair to smooth it down as his father shuffled around to the trunk.
“Dad, I’ll bring the luggage.” Josh put his hand on his father’s shoulder and with a forced smile, placed himself between his father and the trunk. He was here to help them, wasn’t he? His dad didn’t need to be schlepping his bags.
“That’s okay. I’ll be fine. You go and have a nap.”
“You better not sleep too much, or your clock will be all messed up,” Miriam added with a frown.
Josh shrugged and realized he’d reacted the same way his dad had earlier in the car. Shaking off the horrific thought he might be turning into his dad, Josh lugged the suitcase out of the trunk in silence and began to roll it toward the back door.
“I could have gotten that.” His dad sounded slightly insulted.
“What happened to that nice suitcase we got you?” his mother added as she studied the hard-case spinner suitcase he’d picked up in Paris.
“Mom, that was when I graduated from college. It was years ago.” He remembered the suitcase well: fake carpetbag paisley. He’d taken it when he’d left home, but it had been too impractical for his travels, so he’d replaced it with a sturdy backpack long ago.
“I still have the same suitcase I had when your father and I….”
Josh tuned her out. He loved her, but it was times like these he realized how much he’d changed since he left home and begun his own life. His parents would never understand why he did what he did, why he’d chosen a different life from theirs. He’d given up explaining himself, but then they asked so many questions. He was caught in the middle. Somewhere between the kid and the adult.
He stifled a yawn as he wheeled the suitcase in through the kitchen, letting it bounce over the raised threshold that separated inside from out. The kitchen looked the same, with its drab linoleum floors, ruffled curtains, and metal cabinets. The clock over the sink was the same one Josh remembered from when he was a kid—the electrical cord ran from the bottom up and over the pass-through to the dining room. “Why get a new clock?” his father had said when Josh had suggested a battery-operated one on a trip home from college. “This one works fine.” The kitchen smelled good, though. Comforting. Familiar.
“Oh, Josh, honey. Wait a minute before you go upstairs,” Miriam called to him as he made his way along the familiar hallway toward the front entryway.
Thundering feet rushed down the stairs and a blue and red blur sped past him.
Was that a kid? His gaze followed the blur toward the kitchen, and sure enough a boy of about ten was settling himself in at the kitchen table. His mother smiled at the boy and ruffled his hair, just like she had always done when Josh was that age. Whoever the boy was, Josh was too tired to have what promised to be a strange conversation with his mother about him. He turned back toward the stairs, came face to face and nearly collided with a man who had just stepped down.
Not just any man.