Title: My Only Home
Author: Pepper Espinoza
Publisher: Rainbow Trail Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary m/m
Length: Short novel (35K words)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Leslie
In a nutshell: Luke and Noah reunite after five years apart, have misunderstandings, and finally figure it out in this somewhat predictable romance.
The night before Noah Hill left his hometown of Mountain View, he had a drunken sexual tryst with his best friend, Lucas Wesson. Deeply in the closet, Noah is horrified at his behavior, and terrified of what Lucas would think of him. He left the next morning without saying goodbye, and effectively cut off all ties. He returns five years later to help his father, and runs into his old best friend almost as soon as he reaches town. And nothing has changed. He still loves Lucas, and he still can’t stand to meet the other man’s eyes.
Lucas has been through a lot in the past five years without his best friend’s support. A marriage. A divorce. A child. Running his own business. He also remembers his one night with Noah with perfect clarity. For five years, he only wanted Noah to come home. But now that Noah is back, things have changed too much to ever be the same between them…
The blurb says it all.
Noah left Mountain View five years before. He is coming home, now, to try to help his father. He doesn’t want to see his old best friend but within an hour of arriving in town, of course they bump into each other. Luke owns the local diner and Noah stops in to grab a bite to eat and…
This story held no surprises for me and I knew where it was going from the first minute Noah took a bite of his chicken fried steak in the diner. He and Luke had had a big misunderstanding five years before and they continue to have misunderstandings, which is the major source of conflict that drives the plot. However, they are no longer teens. Luke has grown up, been married and fathered a child, and is now divorced and raising his daughter as a single parent. He is also running the diner, which in and of itself would be stressful, even without the other worries of his life.
Noah, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have grown up much at all. He comes home, ostensibly to help his father, but then doesn’t even interact with him, leaving town with nothing resolved. He also has the same ineffective way of coping with his fear of intimacy and commitment as he had when he was younger: he runs away. I wanted to bash Noah over the head for his immature behavior which is a large part of why this book didn’t work for me. I have a tough time investing in a book when I don’t care for one of the main characters.
Luke seemed like a genuinely nice guy and so I had a hard time understanding why he was such a doormat when it came to Noah, quickly forgiving him—not once, but multiple times—for his transgressions. So even though I wanted to like Luke, I also had some problems with him, too, since the strong man who could fight his evil ex-wife for custody of their daughter, run a diner, and be a single parent seemed to evaporate into the ozone the minute that Noah set foot on the scene.
The two men work through their issues, eventually getting to a slightly implausible HEA (is it really possible to run a diner long-distance?). Luke’s adorable daughter Lily was a bit of a scene-stealer and provided some lightness and fun and kept the story from veering off into heavy-handed soap opera-land.
Glancing around at various reviews on the Internet (the book was first published in 2007 so it is not a new title) I see that many people rated this book much more favorably than I. I suspect that the problem is mine: I’ve never been been a big fan of formulaic romance and that’s what this felt like to me. Others may disagree and fall in love with Noah as a flawed character and find Luke’s vulnerability and the way he wears his heart on his sleeve to be equally appealing.
If you are a fan of this author or a fan of romances that focus mostly on the struggles of the two main characters to get together, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. On the other hand, if you like a bit more bite to your fiction, as I do, then this book may be a letdown. I’d suggest reading an excerpt and letting your own taste guide you as to whether you want to pick this one up or not.