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REVIEW: Take Me Home by Inez Kelley

Take Me Home by Inez Kelley

Dear Ms. Kelley,

I first heard of Take Me Home when you posted about it in the author promo thread, and was intrigued by the West Virginia setting – not a particularly common one in romance – as well as the characters’ backgrounds. This is a difficult book for me to review, as there were parts of it that worked very well for me alongside some that really didn’t.

Matt Shaw grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, but poverty and misfortune eventually forced his family off their land when he was a teenager. Twenty years later, Matt works as a forester/logging manager and is assigned to a job at site of his old home. The property now belongs to Kayla Edwards, a former army brat who longs to put down permanent roots. Living in a place with a rich family history appeals to her, as does the mountain landscape and the possibilities for her organic food business. Kayla wants to clear some trees and sell the lumber for extra income, which she needs to grow her business. While the job itself is a standard one for Matt, doing so at a site that holds so many memories is a far greater challenge.

Both Kayla and Matt are looking for a place that can be a true home for them, Kayla due to being constantly uprooted and Matt mostly in order to feel truly secure. Both are more focused at first on finding a physical home rather than an emotional one – Kayla works very hard and loves living in the mountains, but has no real friendships at the outset, while Matt shares very little of himself with most of the people in his life.

At the 25% mark or so, my impression of Take Me Home was almost entirely positive – you had written two likable and interesting characters who behaved like adults, had great chemistry, and seemed happy to follow through on their attraction to each other. I wondered, however, how you would be able to keep them apart for the remainder of the book in a believable way. As it turned out, this was indeed a problem, because there just wasn’t enough there to sustain the conflict for me.

Because Matt finds it so difficult to deal with his past, let alone discuss it with others, his old link to Kayla’s home remains a Big Secret for much of the story, longer than I would have liked. It’s not that he has come back to carry out some far-fetched revenge plot, nor does he blame Kayla for buying the property when she had the chance. But there is a fair bit of moping and Matt going hot and cold when confronted by various memories and people he’d once known.

When so much of the plot and conflict hinges on a big secret, I feel that there should be a truly compelling reason for it to remain that way. It was clear that Matt was deeply affected by growing up poor, the traumatic eviction from his childhood home and the difficult circumstances his family faced afterward, which included temporary homelessness, losing his girlfriend and many of his friends, and the premature death of his father. What was less clear to me was why he did not discuss any of it, even briefly, with Kayla – perhaps not at first, but certainly as their relationship developed over a period of several months (I think; there were a few jumps in the narrative) and moved past the lust stage to a more serious commitment.

I also had some issues with Kayla’s reaction when she finally found out what Matt had kept from her. While his silence definitely needed to be explained, I felt that she overreacted and attributed some rather shady motives to him, and on very thin evidence. This was explained in part by a betrayal she had suffered in a past relationship, but because this was only explained afterward, it came across as more of a convenient justification rather than being true to her character. Consequently, Kayla and Matt’s willingness to walk away from their relationship so quickly, and for what turned out to be a fairly lengthy period of time, was something that didn’t really work for me.

There was a lot that I did like about Take Me Home, including the way you brought the setting to life – having never been to West Virginia, I’ll assume it was indeed authentic – the details of Kayla and Matt’s work, and parts of their relationship as well; they seemed like real people with real lives, interests and concerns. I’d also add that Matt’s shame about growing up poor and some of his father’s choices could strike some readers as problematic. On the other hand, his parents come across as loving, caring people who tried very hard to make things better for their family. Having read several books in which poverty was linked with various forms of abuse, addiction and neglect, I appreciate your choosing to go in a different direction.

Take Me Home is not a bad book, but I do feel it could have been a better one, and considering how promising I found it at the start, I really wish I could have enjoyed it more.

C+/B-.

Best Regards,
Rose

Rose lives in a country where romance readers are few and far between, so discovering romance websites was a welcome development. When not busy with reading and graduate school, she can often be found online discussing romance novels or sports –occasionally both at the same time. She has no TBR pile and is forever looking to change this unfortunate fact; recommendations for historicals, romantic suspense and contemporaries (preferably of the non-small town variety) are welcome.

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4 Comments

  1. Zoe York
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 10:59:38

    Rose, it’s really interesting that I’m nodding along as I read your review, agreeing with each point, and I end up at a very different place with my final assessment of this book. In the interest of full disclosure, I know Ms. Kelley as an acquaintance through writing circles, but this was only the second of her books that I’d read. I enjoyed Turn It Up, a previous Carina Press single title release, quite a bit, but it didn’t make me run out and buy her back list.

    This book did.

    I agree, reading your review, that how Kayla reacted to Matt’s Big Secret (which it should be said is NOT a secret to the reader; it’s revealed right up front) is not ideal. But at that point in the book, I was so emotionally invested in Matt’s story that while I cursed Kayla for being way too stubborn, it didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the book at all.

    What I loved about this book was the war between pride and desire. I adored Matt, and that he worked a regular job, and had what felt to me to be very realistic grown man reactions, and the WV setting sucked me right in. But most of all, Ms. Kelley’s voice just really worked for me–alternatingly funny, poignant and sexy, I can’t wait to read more.

  2. Rose
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 11:33:26

    @Zoe York:
    I agree that there is a lot in Take Me Home that really works well, which is why I was on the fence with the final grade. But for the secret and then the separation to last so long and play such a major part in the story was something I couldn’t really buy into, considering the characterization of both Matt and Kayla. It might have worked better for me as an extended novella or a short category, with the secret revealed earlier.

    Ultimately, how we react to a book owes a lot to whether we are sufficiently invested in it to overlook flaws (or not even perceive them) or not. I didn’t get to that point with Take Me Home, but that doesn’t negate the parts that I did like – it’s just more of a mixed impression. So I won’t be rushing to buy Ms. Kelley’s backlist, but I’m not opposed to reading her again in the future.

  3. Anna Richland
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 14:57:08

    I’m just intrigued by someone who lives in a country where romance readers are few and far between! I can’t figure out where that is. Is it a place where people are just few and far between? Where literacy is very low? Or is there truly such a desolate spot?

  4. Rose
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 16:05:37

    @Anna Richland:
    None of the above? But unfortunately, the romance genre is not universally popular – the usual reaction to my reading preferences is for people to bring up Danielle Steel. Even when I am able to talk friends into trying romance novels, there is almost nothing available in translation.

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