Spotlight & Giveaway: Take Me Home by Melanie Sweeney

Posted July 8th, 2024 by in Blog, Spotlight / 16 comments

Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author Melanie Sweeney to HJ!

Hi Melanie and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Take Me Home!


Please summarize the book for the readers here:

Hazel is a conflict-avoidant people pleaser who never learned how to fix a damaged relationship. When things fall apart, she cuts her losses and moves on. Which is why she hasn’t returned to her small hometown in years – until she’s summoned back for her semi-estranged father’s holiday wedding.

To make matters worse, she gets stuck road-tripping across Texas with Ash – her ex-boyfriend’s broody best friend and the annoying guy who keeps stealing her favorite study spot in their college town. Along the way, they face obstacles, including a winter storm and a B&B with only one bed. But by the time they make it home, this trial-by-forced-proximity dispels many of Hazel’s old notions of the kind of guy Ash is – so much so that she turns to him as a buffer from her father, his new family, and all the emotional baggage of home she’s not ready to unpack.

While navigating obligatory holiday activities and supporting each other through respective family issues, they finally put to rest their frenemy dynamic and start to fall for each other. But when things inevitably get complicated, Hazel must decide between burning yet another bridge and finding the courage to stay.

Please share your favorite line(s) or quote from this book:

“’Pretty sure I’m falling for you… Don’t panic, okay?’”

“He wanted to fix everything, patch up every injury, seen and unseen. He wanted to kiss every hurt. And then he wanted to put his mouth on all the places that might make her feel better, feel good. He couldn’t parse the parts of himself that wanted to soothe her from the parts that wanted to do these far less tender, far less noble things.”


Please share a few Fun facts about this book…

  • The first idea that came to me for this book was of a guy and girl fighting over this really great wingback chair in their local coffeehouse. That remains the opening scene.
  • There is another scene in the road trip portion of the book where Hazel and Ash eat at this quirky, small-town diner. Originally, that restaurant was just a Subway. But my editor wisely pushed me to make it more specific, and I remembered this diner from my childhood, a place where you ordered your food by phone from your table. (This was in the early 90s, before cell phones, so it was a very novel idea!) I wrote my own, weirder version of that diner, added in a quirky waitress, and suddenly the whole scene came to life in a new way. Readers tell me it’s the funniest part of the book.
  • I have a playlist for this book as well! If Take Me Home ever gets adapted to film, “Home” by Good Neighbors would be the perfect song to play over end credits. It’s upbeat and literally says the title in the chorus. You can’t do much better than that!
  • I really love Josiah and the Bonnevilles, who plays indie country/folk music. His song, “The Line,” is not only the right sound for the West Texas setting, but it also captures the metaphorical dance Hazel and Ash do, gauging each other’s interest and trying not to be the first to show their cards. It opens with this: “I drew myself a line between your heart and mine. Pretty little line tells me I’ll be fine if I stay here on my side.”
  • And if anyone is wondering which Taylor Swift song fits the book: I wrote most of the book to folklore and evermore, but I was working through edits when Midnights came out, so I associate Hazel most with “Labyrinth” – “Oh no, I’m falling in love again” and “’It only hurts this much right now’ was what I was thinking the whole time” and “You know how much I hate that everybody just expects me to bounce back, just like that.” Hazel is very much an “I Can Do It with a Broken Heart” girl, too.


What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?

Hazel and Ash knew each other in high school, so some of the attraction, at least on Ash’s side, begins off-page in the past. He’s struck by her compassion as much as by her beauty.

In the present-day, after avoiding each other through college, when they re-meet at 23, there is physical attraction there – grudgingly, in Hazel’s case because he’s the annoying friend of her horrible ex. But as they get to know each other for real this time, she realizes her old impressions of him weren’t accurate. She comes to see just how loving and connected he is with his big family, that he is hard-working and considerate, that he “always found the softest way to say hard things.” He is a counterpoint to Hazel – willing to fight hard to fix the things he cares about, expressive, and patient, which are all qualities she appreciates and wishes she possessed herself.

Ash admires her commitment to improving the lives of children through her psychology PhD research and of her general academic competence. He loves the soft, vulnerable parts of her that she lets him alone see. I think they both also just really enjoy their particular bickering-as-a-love-language dynamic. They are both funny and kind of take the gloves off with each other, say things they know the other can take because the flirty-mean banter thing is fun.


Did any scene have you blushing, crying or laughing while writing it? And Why?

Oh, gosh. Well, yes, I definitely blushed writing a few of these scenes! Two made me teary. But let’s stick with something fun! This is from a scene that takes place in a barn, where Hazel and Ash go to escape the cold:

“Are we trespassing?” she asked suddenly.

He shook his head, then moved in close behind her and rubbed warmth into her arms. That wasn’t much of an answer, and this was clearly private property – they’d passed a house on the way in – but she lost her conviction as soon as she felt him at her back. She tried to spin around, but he stilled her. One hand slid across her stomach, the other to her hip and then her butt. He nipped at her ear as his hand dragged up to her breast. Just like outside, she thought she might collapse from the relief of that wide, warm palm.

“God, your body,” he murmured. “Don’t know where to touch you first.”

The heater hummed, low and steady, an echo of the thrum of blood in her ears. It was either incredibly efficient, or she was so turned on she could no longer register the chill.

All Hazel could do in this position was receive his hot, open-mouthed kisses on the back of her neck, the electric promise of his fingers tracing her waistband, dipping just inside to skim the top of her underwear. She endured the agonizing bliss of it until, finally, desperate, she turned in his arms.


Readers should read this book….

…if they want character-driven romance that delivers lots of fun tropes – only one bed, small town, road trip, grumpy x sunshine – without sacrificing emotional heft.

Also, any readers out there who need to see a prickly girl be loved and accepted whole-heartedly by a flawed but patient, green flag guy – this one’s for you.


What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have in the works?

I’m in revisions right now on my next book, another contemporary romance, which is set in Houston in the aftermath of a hurricane. It’s a story about resilience, recovery, and hope after disaster, told through the lens of a super-swoony romance. It’s also a love letter to librarians and to people who protect accessibility to natural, green spaces.

Thanks for blogging at HJ!


Giveaway: A print copy of TAKE ME HOME by Melanie Sweeney


To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: What does it feel like to return home as an adult – to your childhood house or hometown, to visit old friends, or to stay with your family of origin? Do you ever revert back to old habits or patterns? Do you feel comforted by these places and people, or do they sometimes fit like a too-small coat? If you could be seen in one new way as an adult by the people who knew you as a child, what would that way be?

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Excerpt from Take Me Home:

What the guy at reception had not mentioned was that their room had a name. Ash stopped short at the brass sign on the door that said: THE LOVEBIRD SUITE. Beside him, Hazel let out a soft snort.

Just ignore it, he decided. It was just a room. Just a place to sleep before getting back on the road tomorrow. They didn’t even really need to address the issue of the lone, queen-size bed because of course he would insist she take it.

But when he pushed open the door, the casual line he’d rehearsed on the short walk upstairs dissolved under the assault of mustard-yellow bird wallpaper on every wall, a peacock-feather-patterned comforter, brass flamingo bedside lamps, and a gallery of pink-and-teal picture frames holding crudely drawn bird sketches. He jumped back when he realized even the carpet was a sea of alternating right- side up and upside-down bird silhouettes.

Hazel pushed past him and turned in a slow circle in the center of the room. “This is . . .”

“Disorienting,” he said. “Oppressive. A hell custom-designed by Lisa Frank.”

“Amazing.” She dropped her bags just past the entryway, where Ash was still standing, then threw open the closet, gasped, and yanked a robe off a hanger. Immediately, she pulled it on over her gray sweater dress. It was a muted spa green on the outside, but the lining had colorful parrots printed all over it. She cinched the belt and pulled a second matching robe out for him.

“Uh, no.”

“Put it on, Asher.”

“Ash. And you look ridiculous.” Ridiculously cute with her bright eyes and open smile, but whatever. She was swimming in the material, and he was pretty sure she’d taken the man’s robe and was offering him the slimmer- cut woman’s version.

“Well, I like it.” She tightened the belt for emphasis and trust-fell onto the bed.
Aaand he’d missed his chance to get ahead of the bed conversation. Her shoulders tensed as she sat up and studied her hands against the peacock comforter. “So, how should we . . . ?”

Ash let the door close behind him. The room became way too quiet. “Uh, you paid for the room, which— I’ll add it to your gas money. But I can just sleep on the . . .” He gestured aimlessly at the floor, where the endlessly flip-flopping birds made him feel like he was swaying. He crossed to the closet, hoping for an extra blanket, but found only three extremely flat pillows. He grabbed them anyway, then turned and collided with her.

“You don’t have to pay me back,” Hazel said.

Shaking his head, he dropped the pillows into the narrow space between the bed and the wall. He suspected the manager had jacked up the price when desperate people began turning up. “I’m paying my half. It’s not your fault there was a warm air wedge.”

“If you’re paying for half, you should get half the bed.” Uncer¬tainty flitted across her face, but she committed. “I mean, you should. We can be adults about it, right?”

Ash expelled a tight laugh. “Yeah, no problem. We are adults.”

But he’d already spent several hours in her passenger seat trying to look at anything other than her thighs in her smooth leggings, her soft curves in her dress, the low neck of which kept slipping down and exposing her right shoulder. Multiple times, when she’d gone quiet, he’d fallen into a daydream-like state and vividly saw himself leaning over to kiss that little curve of exposed shoulder.

At some point, she was going to sleep in something else en¬tirely. Who knew what Hazel Elliot wore to bed? He didn’t want to know.

Actually, now, he desperately wanted to know.

Ash yanked the comforter off the bed like a matador with a cape. “I’ll take the top half.”


“Yeah.” He tossed it into the corner. “You take the mattress. That middle blanket looks warm enough. And I’ll take the com¬forter.” A completely sane plan.

“That’s not what I—”

He folded the blanket in half like a sleeping bag and lay down on top of it, crossing his arms behind his head.

“Are you sure?”

“Yep.” And because he was nothing if not committed now, he closed his eyes.

A moment later, the bed creaked as she shifted above him. “Hey, Asher,” Hazel whispered.

He cracked one eye open to find her face hanging over the side of the bed inches from his own. “Ash.”

“It’s only six o’clock.”

Well, hell.

“We should eat.” She opened the nightstand drawer. “Do you think they have room service here?”

Ash sprang to his feet. He needed out of this room. “I saw a diner down the street. My treat.”

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Book Info:

Hazel Elliot never looks back. If a door closes, she burns the whole house down. But when she’s invited to her father’s wedding, she’s forced to return to Lockett Prairie, Texas, for the first time since she fled for college.

Ash Campbell has been in love with Hazel since she dated his best friend in high school. Now, Ash and Hazel’s relationship is limited to playful feuding over the best chair in their favorite coffee shop, but his attraction to the prickly girl from home has only grown stronger.

When Ash’s car breaks down just as family obligations pull him home, only one person can get him there on time. But Hazel has a condition: Everything between them must stay the same. And if it doesn’t? She gets the coffee shop. So the frenemies endure bad music, inclement weather, and B&Bs with only one bed—and that’s just the drive across Texas. When they finally arrive, Hazel must face that, in a small town, there’s nowhere to run . . . and maybe, for the first time, she’s found a reason to stay.
Book Links:  Amazon | B&N | iTunes | kobo | Google |

Meet the Author:

Melanie Sweeney is the author of the forthcoming rom-com, Take Me Home (Putnam, 2024). She writes romance with humor, heat, and heart. Melanie lives near Houston with her husband, three kids, and too many cats. When she’s not writing, she’s ice skating, embroidering, or learning Taylor Swift songs on her ukulele.
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16 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Take Me Home by Melanie Sweeney”

  1. Mary Preston

    I don’t have a childhood house or hometown to return to. We move around a LOT. The closest would be where we holidayed each year. The memories would come flooding back. All good.

  2. erahime

    It was an uncomfortable experience at times, considering that my birthplace felt like strangers from townspeople, nostalgia for iconic institutions, and unable to talk to them via language barriers with weather that derailed exploration everywhere (among other factors) made me want to return back home.

  3. janinecatmom

    My mother doesn’t live too far away, so I go home often. I just don’t venture out into town anymore. There is no one living there that I wish to see.

  4. Mary C

    I rarely visit my hometown. Most two -three family homes have been sold by the owners and converted to condos. Family and neighbors have moved away.

  5. Summer

    I definitely lean more towards comforted by it, I like feeling nostalgic.

  6. Amy R

    I don’t go back to my hometown, all my family and friends have moved away.

  7. Bonnie

    I moved away from my hometown many years ago and don’t have any remaining family or close friends in the area.

  8. Glenda M

    My parents had moved away from the town we lived in before I left the state. I’ve visited friends and some had grown up some had not despite their ages.

  9. psu1493

    It’s hard to say. My childhood home no longer exists, but when I would come home from college on breaks, it was weird being home because I was used to the freedom I had at school.

  10. Anita H.

    I find my childhood home a place of comfort and full of happy memories

  11. Ellen C.

    We go back several times a year because we still have a lot of family in the area. We enjoy going back and getting together with Mom and my siblings. Still a lot of neighbors in the area that I know.