Coming Home Series, Book 1
With the odds stacked against them, will they be able to overcome, or will their pasts push them apart, forever?
Gib clings to family, while being afraid to trust them. As a former foster child, he clings to security denied to him in early childhood. When he begins having feelings for one of his best friends and fellow medical school student, all his issues are expanded.
Allan has everything a kid from a wealthy New York family could have. When he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Harvard trained doctor, he didn’t anticipate meeting and falling for the enigmatic Gibson Ridley.
With Allan’s daddy issues, and Gib’s fear of intimacy, the stakes couldn’t have greater risks. Can these two men work through their issues and give love a chance, or will they lose it forever?
NOTE: A Long Road Home is a low-heat, sweet, high drama romance.
Triggers: Death, loss of family members, orphaned children, trauma, fear of loss, recovery, homophobia…
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An exclusive excerpt from A Long Way Home
Dreamy, drop-dead gorgeous. I couldn’t breathe.
Gib Ridley was tall, at least six foot three. Beautiful dusty-blond hair fell across his forehead, longer than it should’ve been, but still suiting his handsome face. He had an air about him that said controlled and well put together. I wanted to take him apart the moment we met, and that was before hearing his sexy-as-hell Southern accent.
I turned into a blubbering idiot whenever I was around Gib, and continued to flirt with him as if my life depended on it. Unfortunately, the guy was clueless. Fuck, I thought, he’s straight. I finally meet a man who ticks all my boxes, and he’s fucking straight.
I resigned myself to my secret crush. Over the weeks I watched him, getting to know him as a friend, and hoping against hope he was gay, and maybe I had a chance. Gib was quiet, but not what I’d call shy, to say nothing of his occasional dark expressions and contemplative brooding. He was more of a take me or leave me kind of guy. There was also something about the way he held himself, almost like he was a proper Southern gentleman from another time. Of course, that pushed all my buttons.
It took a long time to fully break the ice with Gib. He was friendly, but guarded, and wasn’t forthcoming about his family or background. We knew he didn’t have a scholarship, so he must come from money, but nothing about him seemed to convey that.
I doubted Gib ever worried what others thought, and for that, I was really jealous. I might have been out and proud, but I still obsessed about how I looked, how I moved, and if I was being too femme, or not femme enough. I was a total queen, and I knew it.
After the first month secretly pining for Gib, I’d had enough. I needed help figuring this out, or I was going to drive myself mad. “Alexi, help!” I finally asked, when we were alone together.
“Help what?” she asked as she started the coffee machine I kept in my room.
“Is he gay? I have to know!”
Alexi looked at me knowingly, and asked, “Who?”
“Ugh, you’re such a bitch! You know who.”
Alexi just smirked. “Here’s a clue, you’ve literally thrown yourself at the guy since you met him. He’s not made any moves, right?”
I sighed and lay back on my bed. “That doesn’t mean he’s not gay. He could just be shy.”
Alexi laughed out loud. “Listen, if it’ll make you feel better, we’ll find out.”
I jumped off my bed and grabbed Alexi in a bear hug, nearly causing her to drop her coffee. “You’re the best friend ever!” I exclaimed. She just shook her head.
I sat on the lonely bench nestled in the trees, ignoring the coolness of the air. I loved spending time in the small hidden alcove when I wasn’t in class. The other students bustled around me, but unless they looked straight at me, they rarely knew I was there.
My classes were hard. I knew they would be, of course, but knowing and experiencing were two very different things. The university I’d gone to for pre-med had done absolutely nothing to prepare me for Harvard Medical School.
As I hefted my monster textbook onto my lap, regretting my decision to buy a real book, instead of using the e-book option most of my classmates used. I noticed two men making out across from me. Either they couldn’t see me, or didn’t care, and I was trying not to be too much of a perv by staring, but even now, seeing two handsome guys kissing and in public sent chills through my body.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly as I tore my gaze away. That’s never going to be me. Even if by some miracle someone decided they liked me, I doubted I’d ever feel comfortable with PDAs like those two men.
I’d always known I was gay, long before I ever acknowledged it to anyone, myself included. Growing up in a conservative, small Southern town, being out wasn’t really a viable option. I also knew as long as I stayed there, it was unlikely I’d ever have a long-term relationship with anyone. One of my hopes in attending Harvard, before I’d actually experienced it at least, was that maybe I’d find love here. My hopes had yet to materialize in the form of a man, though.
Other than hooking up with the occasional stranger, I hadn’t made any friends during undergraduate school either, and mostly just studied and kept to myself, exactly like I was doing now at Harvard. Seeing men openly kissing and holding hands here on campus felt liberating, but also made me feel even lonelier.
I flipped my textbook closed and forced the monster into my already overpacked bookbag.
I quickly glanced over at the two kissing men and sighed inwardly. No, I’d never have that. I was pathetically shy and missed my siblings, although I couldn’t really call them that anymore, could I? It was bad enough that everyone on campus probably thought I was a redneck, because I spoke with a Southern twang. If they knew the two people I’d grown up with and considered my brother and sister were now married and had a kid, well, that would pretty much stick a fork in what was left of my reputation.
I missed Olivia and Chase so much sometimes, it hurt. We’d never been far away from each other before. In high school and college, the other kids thought we were cliquish and pretty much avoided us anyway, because Olivia was a bit of an overly protective jerk. I just didn’t think they understood what it was like being foster children who, at any moment, could lose everything that meant anything to us, including each other.
The alarm on my phone went off, pulling me from my thoughts, and telling me it was time to go to class.
I arrived early enough to sit near the front. I was easily distracted, and sitting in the back didn’t help, so I made a point of getting to all my classes early to grab a prime seat.
“Today, students,” our elderly professor said, looking as if he could drop dead at any moment, “I will pair you up with partners for this course. Make sure you combine your schedules, because your grade will depend on how well each of you perform.”
I sighed. I hated group participation. I always seemed to get stuck with a lazy partner, and more often than not, my grades suffered when they couldn’t or wouldn’t pull their weight.
Gibbon Ridley, you will be paired with Alexi Jones. I looked up just in time to see a beautiful woman, also sitting in the front, stand and walk toward me. Her smile was bright, and it lightened my sour attitude. Before I knew it, I was smiling back at her.
“Gib,” I said, when she shook my outstretched hand.
“Alexi,” she replied. “Hope you like studying.”
I prefer it to failing!” I said, letting the smart-ass side of me slip out.
Instead of offending her, she literally laughed out loud, causing several other students to look over at us.
She blushed a bit before smiling again. “I think we’re going to get along fine.”
That afternoon, as I met Alexi in her dorm room, she introduced me to her friends Fiona and Allen. The three were intense, to say the least.
As they rambled on about several topics at once, Alexi must’ve noticed me staring with a look of surprise and maybe a little envy. “I’m sorry, Gib,” she said. “We’ve known each other since we were kids. We can be a bit much.”
I laughed. “I have siblings and we’re the same way. Trust me, I get it.”
The three welcomed me into their world after that. Apparently, no one wanted to spend time with them, because they were kooky and loud and didn’t give a damn what everyone else thought.
Even though Alexi and I were officially paired together for the entire semester, we were all in med school together, and the three friends came as a package deal, so that is how I became one of the Apple Fritter Gang. The name was a take-off of an old nineteen seventies film called The Apple Dumpling Gang. The moniker didn’t hold much meaning other than cause one of us to pick up apple fritters once a week from the bakery just off campus, which was a perk we all enjoyed.
It wasn’t long before the four of us became inseparable. We really were our own gang, if you could call a small group of geeky med students who studied more than partied a gang. For the first time since my relationship with Olivia and Chase had shifted, I felt like I had people who just got me.
A long way home was an emotional read for many reasons. Gib comes from a foster care background and has spent his life being abandoned over and over, the two people he connected with and considered siblings take their relationship in a romantic direction and he feels he has lost them as well and doesn’t deal at all well. I both could and couldn’t empathise with how he felt, but his reaction to this hurt both them and him and caused him to have issues letting people in once he gets to university.
Allen has a father who only cares about himself and is an ass, he’s also a doctor and has high expectations for his son to follow in his footsteps. Allen is very smart and comes from a rich background, very different to how Gib grew up.
Once Gib and Allen meet, along with Allen’s friends Fiona and Alexi they all form a friendship bond that will see them through many ups and downs. But as Allen’s feelings for Gib grow and Gib fights his feelings because he is afraid, something has to give.
Oh man, Allen wore his heart on his sleeve and was all in when it came to a relationship with Gib, but Gib continually held back and I was so sad for Allen every time he pulled away. When things were good they were great, but Gib has never dealt with his feelings of being abandoned and not enough and this causes its own issues in their relationship. Thank goodness their friends and Gib’s foster siblings are there to talk some sense into him.
There is a traumatic event in the last part of the book that had me in tears and leads to more changes for Allen and Gib, but by this time they are solid in their relationship.
There are some important topics raised in the book, sexual misconduct allegations, abuse of power & homophobia are the main ones and though they caused issues and me some angst for what they had to deal with, they were handled well.
The book spans quite a few years, so you really get to experience their journey as they both grow and change and make life decisions, both big and small. It has a HEA which I am so glad about because there were times I wasn’t sure if they’d make it and I don’t need that negativity in my reading, I need my romance books to have HEAs.
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About the Author
Blake Allwood was born in west TN, then moved to Kansas City MO after attending college in Lamoni, Iowa. He met his husband in 1995 and they officially married in 2015, once gay marriage was legalized. In 2017, he and his husband sold their home, purchased an RV and began travelling the country with their two dogs. Their travels provide the inspiration and settings for many of his novels.
Typically, Blake can be found relaxing in the RV or by the fire with his laptop and their Jack Russell Terrier, Buddy, curled up between his legs demanding attention. Denver, their Siberian Husky mix is often asleep at his feet or playing tug of war with Blake’s husband.
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