Title: Take Me Home
Author: Sloan Parker
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Length: 91K words
Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: Endless unresolved relationship tension, slightly off-kilter plot points, and lots of repetition made for a frustrating read.
Aspiring television writer Evan Walker has been in love with his best friend since high school, but Kyle doesn’t do boyfriends. Never has. Never will. Evan knows it’s a bad idea to give in to desire when he wants more than a friend with benefits. He has a new dream job. Now all he needs is the dream partner.
Kyle Bennett is a mystery novelist with a severe case of writer’s block. He needs a change. He has three days on their cross-country train trip home for the holidays to figure out how to tell Evan he’s staying there for good. He also has to write the overdue pages for his editor. Only, he’s a little too distracted by the close quarters in their sleeper compartment—and Evan’s ass—to get much done.
The sparks that fly between them are hotter than ever. Good thing they have a real-life mystery to focus on: why people all around them, including Evan’s new boss, want to get their hands on a journal that once belonged to Kyle’s grandfather.
When a blizzard traps them in the mountains, Kyle and Evan steam up the train’s windows and must finally face their true desires.
I’m not sure if this story qualifies as a big misunderstanding or not, because all the doubt and evasion is justified based on what Kyle and Evan knew of each other from their youth and the subsequent years. In this friends to lovers tale, every time they try to talk about the changes something interrupts them or they are otherwise derailed; they are talking, but damn, is it slow.
Kyle’s always been the one who didn’t want permanence, who went from man to man. Everyone in the story but he and Evan knows it’s because Kyle really wants Evan. A youthful almost-relationship between them gets referred to often. Considering that Kyle had pushed Evan into situations he didn’t want and that were extremely unsafe, abandoning the relationship early sounded like a really good idea to me, even if Kyle later took corrective action. That Evan would still be pining for Kyle even through a ten-year committed relationship with another man, enough to prompt certain actions from that man, seemed on the far edge of believable.
Kyle does some rethinking during the six months he has a post-breakup Evan in the guest room, but saves most of it for when we have to endure it. Listening to the endless dithering, which pervades the entire book, well past a place where it would be reasonable to have made a decision, gets rather old. Prolonged to the screaming point by the constant interruptions, it made me want to slap him and shake Evan, and tell them both to just get on with it already! Hours alone in a remote cabin should have given them the talk-time and moved the relationship farther forward. Why they were out at the cabin at all, and the visitor they had, also defied good sense.
The external plot, regarding Evan’s screenwriting job and a journal left to Kyle, had both several unbelievable points to it and the most interesting part of the story. The journal, written by Kyle’s grandfather, detailed an important year in his youth and the decisions he made, and I was left yearning to have read that story in full detail rather than the scattered journal entries. Another stretch—how everyone and their brother knew this journal just had to contain enough keys to the mystery to make a considerable amount of skullduggery from several parties worthwhile. A character Kyle refers to as ‘Dickhead’ had the most sensible reaction to the skullduggery’s resolution, but Kyle and Evan went out to do something foolish instead.
So many plot points demanded more suspension of disbelief than I could muster that the style became a secondary issue. The voices of the two characters are very similar, and while I wasn’t exactly seeing headhopping, it was sometimes hard to know who was POV. I found myself scrolling backwards to be sure I knew whose head we were in, because it felt like there was a change, although usually there wasn’t. The read felt otherwise monotonous, probably due to the nearly unvarying sentence structure, and because certain plot elements repeated several times. And no, I do not want to know some stranger’s gastro-intestinal problems with broccoli. This chunk is definitely part of the 15k bloat the book is carrying.
The ending, with all its frustrations, was satisfying; all the various subplots came together coherently. This is the strength of the book, even if it required contortions to get there. Kyle and Evan get their shot at an HEA, although I found myself not caring all that much, since I hadn’t managed to like them all that much. My favorite characters were actually ‘Dickhead,’ for his willingness to act decisively if occasionally stupidly and his late interjections of good sense, and especially the deceased grandfather, who had romance and heartbreak in his journal snippets. I wanted to like this story, but mostly I was just glad it was over. 2.75 stars