Take Me Home by J.H. Croix

I really wanted to like J.H. Croix’s contemporary romance Take Me Home.  As a near life-long romance reader, I am always excited to discover a potential new author and the premise certainly sounded like my kind of jam – as someone who HATES the billionaire, bad-boy, TSTL heroines/victims, and abusive alpha-hole males that flooded the market in the last few years.  Instead, this sounded like a great, slow burn romance with heat and competent characters.   Ex-seal Gage has returned home to a small town in Alaska to restore his family’s old ski lodge and find some peace with the tragic loss of his best friend.  Marley suffered from a robbery and brutal beating that left her running for home and now trying to regain her sense of independence and confidence.  I presumed both characters would have some PTSD from their experiences, and I really love with authors include mental health in their works.

Alas instead of a great story of two people who needed each other coming together, working through their issues, and falling in love in the process, a nice new friends to lovers…we get pure insta-lust from the second they meet.  And yes, it’s a romance, the two MCs should at least have some attraction to each other at first glance, but this was “OMG I just met you I want to strip you now!”  And yeah, I don’t mind some heat in my romances (I won’t touch those damn “wholesome” ones because ugh so unrealistic), but these two just took it to such ridiculous levels!

Within a few chapters, I questioned whether they were actually the adults I presumed they were or a pair of horny teenagers.  Any time they were in a room together, all they could think about was sex with each other and how hot they were, and once they finally gave in to having sex, it only got worse!  Seriously, what kind of over-sexed trashy people would be running late to pick up from family from the airport and be so unable to control themselves that they stop on the side of the road for more sex and arrive late? Even at a dinner with his sisters, they are close to just going at it in the restaurant.  Like I said, heat is fine, heat is good, but this read almost like a porn book with some story thrown in to try to avoid it being labeled as such and stuck in the Amazon dungeon.  Most of their conversations were short, meatless, and led to them either panting and wanting each other and being incredulous at how hot the other person was (before they gave in and had sex) or to them having sex, very repetitive sex I might add.  Gage is supposed to be a former Navy Seal, but had lacked even the normal basic self-control with Marley that any decent person would have??  Again I point to them literally just riding in a truck resulting in him having to have her so much that they were late picking up family at the airport to have sex on the side of the road???  Yeah, no, the story pretty much lost me and I just kept reading to see how this train wreck would end.

Buried in all the sex is an attempt at a story.  The two MCs issues were thrown out early and often, so there really was no wondering about what happened to either.  There was a little added attempt at suspense over Marley’s attack and the truth of it all, but it felt like it was thrown in at the last minute just to add some actual story to this thing.  The person who attacked her lacked any real motive, the reason for it felt just stupid and incredibly forced, and it did nothing to explain why she was beaten so badly versus just robbed.  The guy had no personal issue with her, no reason he would have pistol-whipped her when she hadn’t recognized him or anything.  Later in the story, he comes after Marley finding her through the most stupidly hand-waved away method ever and tried to kill her and it just made zero sense!

I’d like the say it was at least well written, but from the very beginning, the writing had issues.  There was a lot of awkward phrasing and several paragraphs needed to be better broken up because they jumped from one thing to another in an unnatural way without a pause.  And there was so much repetition, OMG, SOOO much.  I don’t know if this book was never edited, poorly edited, or the author just ignored her editor’s changes, but the same scenes were described multiple times and often the same ways.  In the first chapter, Kachemak Bay was sparkling/glittering in the sun twice. It sparkles again a few chapters later and glittered again some more after that. Yes, we get it, look, Kachemak Bay, you’re in Alaska, you know spots, yay!  Marley sees some moose, more than once, and jays…very common animals up there.  And don’t forget those mountains the incredible views, so incredible they are described in almost the same terms every single time…and how excited everyone will be to have the lodge reopened…

And then throwing out a $5 word like artifice?  Yeah, that’s gonna stand out.  Gage thinks of Marley as having no artifice FIVE times! I seriously counted.  And I lost count of how many times he thought about how he’s supposed hard-honed and iron control was toast around her because you know, he was a SEAL and all and was supposed to have all this control that he somehow didn’t have?  (yes, I’m harping).  And Marley had her nose “stuck/buried in books” all her life (as we were repeatedly told) so she never noticed how hot she was and how many guys wanted her…yet she wasn’t a virgin, so clearly she did have at least some boyfriends.

There were some good points – Marley’s sister Lacey seemed fun, even if Marley was incredulous that the sister she grew up with knew her well, even though they were clearly close?   even if Marley nearly cried not just the first time they reunited, but apparently every time??  And I really liked Don, he seemed like a smart, sensible guy and his story for wanting to help was sweet and one of the most authentic parts of the story.  And I liked his daughter who wasn’t fully confident in jumping up to running the kitchen, but managing to do it and make herself indispensable – would have loved more of her story there, but alas, all that’s apparently skipped by her book next.

And as a side note, being a mobile app developer does NOT instantly mean she can also make a website – two different skill sets people.  That is one of my big pet peeves when authors (and anybody else) presumes “oh you do computers” means you can do anything on them.  We get that shit enough in real life!  At least she wasn’t an actual web developer – sounded more like she just threw him up a WordPress site.  (It was nice that Gage was a techno idiot instead of mansplaining stuff at least).

I’d picked this book up along with the second in the series, featuring one of Gage’s brothers and his new cook, but it seems to follow the same kind of formula so yeah, I’m thinking that one may never get read.