Buy Link: Take Me Home
Author: Sloan Parker
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: Novel

Rating: 4.5

Mystery writer Kyle Bennett has writer’s block and he is hoping a trip home for the holidays (or even a move back to Ohio from California) might help break it.  The problem isn’t helped by the fact that he is totally hot for his best friend Evan Walker who is currently living with him after the breakup of Evan’s long-term relationship.  Kyle has always been a one night kind of guy, and he knows that Evan doesn’t do the casual thing.  Kyle realizes that he has strong feelings for Evan, and definitely wants him, but he doesn’t want to hurt Evan.

Evan has been in love with Kyle since they met in high school years ago.  Even with his relationship, his feelings for Kyle never really went away.  The guys had one “not quite” night way back when they were young men traveling to college together, and Kyle’s panic (and subsequent hook up with another guy) hurt Evan badly.  Although he really wants Kyle, Evan worries whether he can trust him in any kind of commitment.

In addition to Kyle, Evan has some other problems as well.  He has just been offered his dream job writing for a top television show.  He is thrilled at the idea of finally making it in Hollywood after years of struggling, only to find that there may be more behind the offer than what it seems.  Evan is approached by a top network executive who wants Evan to convince Kyle to share a journal he recently received from his grandfather’s estate.  The network believes there is valuable information in it that would help their amateur treasure hunters show and puts pressure on Evan to convince Kyle to share it or lose his job offer.  Evan has no intention of selling Kyle out, but the added turmoil and potential loss of his dream job weigh heavily on him.

The guys had planned a trip home for the holidays by plane, but Evan decides to surprise Kyle with a trip on the train instead, hoping the more relaxing and time consuming trip will help break his writer’s block. The trip turns out to be exactly what the guys need, despite a snowstorm and other travel delays.  Days (and nights) together in a tiny sleeper car finally allow both guys to admit their feelings for one another and take their relationship forward.  Yet problems are still lurking.  It soon becomes clear that someone is after Kyle’s grandfather’s journal and they must find out what secrets are hidden there that someone wants so desperately to find. And Kyle and Evan must figure out what they really want from each other and whether Evan can trust Kyle to be there for him for the long haul as he has promised.

Oh, this was such a sweet, yummy friends-to-lovers story!  I loved the setup of the two guys living together and then sharing the tiny train car, forcing all their feelings for each other to come to the surface. Even though I know intellectually that those little sleeper cars are probably cramped and uncomfortable, Parker does an amazing job showing the romance of the train, from the little bunks to the snowy scenery outside the observation car.  I could totally believe in the magic of the trip and how it helps the guys finally admit how they feel for one another.

I thought their relationship dynamic was really interesting. Kyle is the one night stand kind of guy, so I really appreciated that we know right away that Kyle is in love with Evan (even if Evan doesn’t).  There is no question in the reader’s mind about his commitment, it is really a question of whether he can admit his feelings for Evan and if Evan will believe him.  Evan is more of a relationship guy, although he has been hurt many times (the worst most recently) and Kyle feels quite protective over him, something which started in high school.  Yet even though Kyle is clearly the more confident one (both in general and in believing in their relationship), when they get together sexually Evan is the more dominant partner.  I really liked this twist because it keeps a nice balance between the two guys and shows Evan can be a strong partner as well.  And it makes for some smoking hot love scenes between the guys!

I loved the way the story incorporates the mystery element of Kyle’s grandfather’s past through the journal.  As Kyle continues to read the journal we learn more about his grandfather and the secrets he hid his entire life. I enjoyed trying to anticipate what was really going on and trying to figure out who was after the journal.  It definitely kept me guessing throughout the story.  I also enjoyed the way reading about his grandfather’s life offered guidance and parallels to Kyle and helped him work out his own feelings for Evan and what he really wants out of life.  I think this part was really well done.

This is a friends-to-lovers story so there is an inherent “will they or won’t they” element to this trope. I did feel it went on a bit long for me.  Even once the guys ultimately get together, there was a lot of second guessing.  Maybe it is just because I don’t like any conflicts getting in the way of my guys!  But I feel like some of the pacing in the early part of the book could have been picked up a bit if there wasn’t so much indecision.  I think the mystery plot and other story elements could have carried the book forward even if the commitment issue had been resolved earlier.

But overall I really loved this story.  Great dynamic between the two guys with just the right combination of tender, sweet moments and scorching hot scenes, something Parker does so well in her books.  I thought the intertwining mystery was great and kept me engaged throughout the whole book.  And the train setting works wonderfully. I recall an old Amtrak commercial with the slogan “There’s something about a train that’s magic.”  And Take Me Home really highlights that beautifully.  Great story, definitely recommend.

P.S. For more background on the story, check out my interview with Sloan