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Gay & Lesbian

Shunned - Jay E. Hughes


Author: Jay E. Hughes
Book title: Shunned
ISBN: 1607778793
ISBN13: 978-1607778790
Publisher: Ravenous Romance (March 16, 2010)
Language: English
Category: Literature & Fiction
Rating: 4.2/5
Votes: 510
Pages: 224 pages
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"This was my first M/M Amish romance, and from the first sentence to the last I was captured by Jay Hughes's writing style, his descriptive abilities, and his knack of keeping the story moving and always interesting. I learned things about the Amish community I didn't know, and I fell in love with the characters along the way. And most of all I enjoyed the romance that blossoms between a simple young Amish boy who is trying to find his way in the world, and a slick Main Line Philadelphia lawyer who is far from innocent." --Best-selling author Ryan Field THE SHUNNED is the gay version of WITNESS----only with a happy ending. James Semerad is a young gay man who grew up Amish in the secluded Amish community of Lofstad in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He's trying to build a new life in the modern world after fleeing the repressive Amish world of his youth, which rejected him. Just as James is growing accustomed to living a modern-day life in the big city of Philadelphia, though, he meets Fred Billingsley, an old-money Main Line lawyer who is also a flamboyantly gay man. Fred picks James up after going through his checkout line at Whole Foods, and they go out on James' first date ever with another man. But what starts out as a fun date turns into a wild shootout-----Fred is a lawyer to the Philadelphia mob, and he has unwittingly dragged James into the middle of a mob war. Their only safe haven is to go into witness protection in the secluded Amish community of Lofstad, the repressive, devout place where James grew up.
Reviews: (7)
Writing a novel is difficult. I know, because I've done it too. I have worked as a writer professionally for many years. During some of that time, I also owned a business in which I worked closely with the Old Order Amish in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I have called them "friend", sat in their kitchens. I have known many individuals for nearly two decades. Because of these experiences, I was angered and dismayed by this book.

The question arises: how much research detail is a writer responsible for? I think that any writer never gets every detail right - that is an unrealistic expectation. However, this writer has vilified and sullied an entire group of people by writing a book full of not only little errors in the details of Amish life, but in some really big errors. I find it fascinating that a writer can be so vehement about the unjust treatment of one group, while he blatantly engages in stereotyping and slandering another!

I am horrified that the casual reader will use this book as a tool - as the first reviewer did - to obtain any real understanding of the Amish. These people are not "mean-spirited", "primitive", "rank", - all adjectives used by this author. While domestic violence exists in any group in the world (including gays btw) it is not the norm amongst Amish families, mostly because the community so closely regulates its own. Amish parents are by and large firm but loving parents.

The issue of gay youth amongst the Amish is a real one. However, to present a character who was raised Amish as never looking back, as holding no sense of nostalgia or conflicted feelings, is absurd. The character of James talks about "hating" the Amish. Nonsense.

One huge issue with the book is that a teen would NEVER be shunned. The practice is only put in place in the case of a baptised member who has committed a grave sin against the community. James was not baptised - most Amish are not until shortly before marriage, and then are considered fully committed to the life. Until then, they are not considered committed and banishment would not be considered. Even when it is, it is not one disgruntled parent - even a bishop - who would decide that. It is a council of elders. This idea of James being shunned - twice - is ridiculous. If shunned, he would have not been given "Kitchen scraps" and "denied nourishment", or made to stay in the barn. Good grief. The Amish do not intend shunning to be dangerous or cruel. Again, the author's lack of preparation is obvious. (The shunned individual goes about the usual chores, lives in the house, but indeed is not spoken to. He/she does take the usual meals and food everyone does, but at a separate table.)

So many small details around Amish life are inaccurate, and this doesn't seem to be the place to list the dozens I made notes of while reading. I would only warn the reader - there are dozens. Most troubling is the author's disregard for Amish philosophy. These people don't live this life because they are "inbred", ignorant, stupid. They do it for deep religious reasons, some of which the "English" world could learn from. No group is all bad or all perfect - this author seems determined to see this story in black and white, and as a result the story seems immature and the characters shallow. Very disturbing was the author's idea that the Amish frown upon play, fun, laughter. Untrue. The Amish I know engage in all, quite regularly. Games, recreation, joking, all are part of their lives. It occurs to me that if the author could have presented the Amish as multi-dimensional, touching upon their reasons for living as they do, the author could have made the book much more convincing and of better depth. The same goes for the gay characters - they are generally one-dimensional (James being the better developed, but there was still little depth, evolution, clarity of motive).

Another big issue: the characterization. Like many readers, I have issues with the old middle-aged man, barely-legal youth thing. It is not only overused in M/M literature, but it is an old man's fantasy and not realistic. This story provides no reason whatsoever for James' attraction to Fred. Fred is painted as a jerk, shallow, selfish. Why James is ever attracted and in the last pages - after "hating" Fred (a word James throws around a lot, as he does "love") - is suddenly in love and making a life commitment, is not clear. Additionally, the old idea of anonymous sex between gay men is alive and well here, and not one condom in sight (in the real world no one would have let Fred near them without one!). Real emotion be damned, it's all about getting off. Most hilarious ( and not in the sense that it was intended to be hilarious ) is a scene where amidst bulletfire, the James that 'hates' Fred only hours before is suddenly having sex with him as bullets fly. No real emotion about the danger, conflicted feelings for each other. Nothing. Evidently getting shot at is "sexy" (the author's words). Never mind that the livestock is dying around them in a hail of bullet fire. And this man who was raised Amish - caring for livestock daily for years - apparently feels nothing. Amazing. These characters fall in and out of "love" and "hate" like 12 year olds. Not grown men with any depth of feeling.

The author's ignorance of farm life was apparent, and again would not have been difficult to research more thoroughly. If 80% of your book happens on a farm, you need to do your homework. I knew we were in trouble the minute a pair of Amish horses tied to a buggy (most buggies are pulled by one, not two) were referred to as "steeds". Bigger trouble when a man is plowing a non-furrowed, half-frozen field tied to the plow himself (ain't possible, Folks). I was laughing by the time two men are having sex naked on a bed of "soft, warm hay". Well, hay is not soft, it's prickly. Very prickly. Hilarious.

One thing I also found terribly disturbing is the blatant misogyny in this book. The Amish women are out and out called "ugly" "stocky" "submissive"( a stereotype) and other such names by the author, who several times alludes to their lack of brains and attractiveness. Funny, I have known several very pretty women amongst the Amish. The young women in the town in the book fawn on men like they themselves are brainless idiots who at one point are hiding behind a tree. They "giggle" and "twitter" and "blush" and do little else. The Amish women I have known are smart, strong-minded, not given to frivolous activity or display of emotion, and are too busy fulfilling their role as a partner in running a farm to be running around chasing men. In this book, they are mere accessories and annoyances. It's disheartening to find any male author with no real understanding of women's actual emotional lives or behaviors. Like it or not, both men and women are part of this world, and if you want to describe the world, you need to understand and respect both sexes.

The author missed the mark completely with courting practices. These people would not be taking walks down roads in broad daylight. In fact, Amish courting practices are much more interesting, and involve large gatherings (singings) by young people - a big party that happens in the evening. The young man courts in a buggy for privacy - buggy rides are the common thing, not walks - and these happen at the end of the day after chores, and most often under the cover of darkness that offers privacy and anonymity. The young man often visits the young woman's home late at night, when the two are allowed to sit up and talk alone for hours unsupervised, often in the young woman's bedroom.

From a technical standpoint, the writer has a lot of potential because he understands moving the plot (although a course in structure is in order) and has some great ideas for a storyline. If he could learn to improve writing skill (at this point it is naive in tone and haphazard in structure) he could write some good books. He needs to understand the golden rule of writing fiction "Show, don't tell" - he mostly tells and doesn't seem to have the tools or insight into his characters to show. As a result the writing is stilted and the characters shallow. They speak like teens, their motives are unclear, changes in behavior are thus not believable (such as the change in the father at the end - it came abruptly and made little sense because there was no depth in its evolution; the son's abrupt forgiveness had me shaking my head and laughing).

I am sorry to be so negative about this book. Again, writing a book is tough, and this writer shows some potential, which I would not wish to discourage. I really hope he will get some coaching. I often felt he was at a loss how to build the characters, how to deal with character development within the story in a way that it is believable, and how to structure and pace plot. But he obviously has a strong imagination and some good instincts.

Meanwhile, I felt a need to defend a people who are already little understood, and are deserving of far, far more respect than this book offers. Bigotry is bigotry; it's ugly no matter who the victim is. And this book is a bigoted piece of anti-Amish writing.
I did a lot of eye-rolling while reading this. A lot. The series of events that led the main characters where they needed to be was laughable, but it served its purpose. I wish their relationship--if you want to call it that given the seriously short amount of time they know each other--could have been more believable. But that is not to say that I didn't enjoy The Shunned. I can't speak for accuracy with regards to how the Amish community was portrayed (though the mafia stuff was silly to the point of caricature), but overall I actually liked the story. I was in the mood to read a gay Amish story and I got one. Mission accomplished. Now on to the sequel...
This is the story of James, a gay teen runaway from an Amish community. His overzealous religious father saw his difference when he was young child and tried to beat the sissie out of him.

James , a virgin met former chef and current successful lawyer Fred, an American aristocrat and ended up in a mafia shoot-out at his castle-like mansion. They go into witness protection to an Amish town...
The book needs to be edited. Lots of errors, especially character name confusions. I have read more interesting stories.
An very unflattering look at Amish culture from the eyes of a gay Amish youth. It is probably true, but I would like to see other views. The adventures described in the book are fascinating. The hypocrocisy of the Amish elders is mind blowing. Throw in the Mafia and the FBI and you will be on quite a twisty-turny journey. There is some sex, but it is definitely not formula sex. I was not happy about the ending where some nasty souls became good people and honey was spread thickly. Maybe it was just the contrast with the rest of the book which I really enjoyed, hence the 4 instead of 5 stars.
Yellow Judge
It's not the best m/m romance I have read, but when love is involved I can always find something to like about it. The story was a bit out there, but that's why they call it fiction.
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