Review: Train to Somewhere (Before... and After #3) by Susan Laine

It was only a game. Wasn’t it?

At a party one night, Charlie Dean’s childhood friend Will Tucker accepts a dare and dresses up as a girl: clothes, hair, makeup. Seeing Will that way incites a riot of confused emotions in Charlie—and he responds by lashing out. He never meant to hurt Will, and now he must do some serious damage control.

During a school trip by train, Charlie and Will share a sleeper cabin. Charlie intends to mend fences, while Will figures it’s as good a time as any to broach the subjects of attraction and sexuality. They want to get their relationship back on track. But after the secrets they both reveal, their friendship can never be the same.

Oh boy.
First let me say I really adored the first two books in the Before and After series. They were super sweet watching two best friends turn into lovers so I had high hopes going into this one.
But this was one hell of a jumbled mess with a lot of things gone wrong.
Unable to accept it, he’d freaked out and acted like a madman.
First, there should be a trigger warning on this book for abuse. What Charlie does to Will, his best friend, in the first chapter is abuse. Getting turned on by seeing your best friend dressed as a woman is not an excuse for the abuse Charlie dished out to Will. The author tells us from Charlie’s POV how Will is crying and begging Charlie to stop as Charlie decides he needs to destroy what Will has become to make himself feel better. Sure, Charlie feels bad for doing it while doing it but he doesn’t stop. He has flown into a blind and violent rage of emotion and took it out physically on his best friend.
Stomping into the connecting bathroom, Charlie slammed the door shut and locked it. Then he started to yank off Will’s dress. But it was tight and wouldn’t come off, certainly not with Will finally protesting and trying to pull back from the onslaught.
Charlie didn’t relent, though, and he tore at the dress. The sound of ripping fabric was stark in the confined space, echoing from the tiled walls.
“Charlie, please stop,” Will pleaded, fighting to shove Charlie away.
But driven by adrenaline born of rage, Charlie shredded Will’s dress till it lay in tatters on the floor, a scant few pieces still clinging to Will’s body. Then Charlie attacked the silk stockings, which came off without a hitch in thin strips, this time almost soundlessly.
“Ch-Charlie… stop…,” Will begged, tears in his eyes.
Will sat huddled in the bathtub in his wet underwear, hugging his knees. Black smears of makeup ran down his cheeks, and red smudges of lipstick still covered the sides of his mouth. He looked like a soaked puppy, miserable and confused. Charlie had never seen his best friend so despondent.
He looked… abused.
I think what may be worse is the way Will reacts to it after it’s over. He just needs to find Charlie, ask why and then forgives him? WTAF? I don’t care how long you are friends for, I would not want to see the dude who just abused me, HURT me so that I could find him, make sure HE is okay and then forgive him? Nope. That would never happen.
I was shocked by this event happening within the first pages and then the story just rapidly moves on to the friends now being okay because Charlie admitted he liked the way Will looked all femmed up. What’s super weird is this all happens in Will’s POV where he firmly states, “Neither of them was gay, bisexual, bicurious, or sexually fluid.” Now, I am not saying that people can’t go into a self-discovery mode and explore things they never thought were part of their sexuality but both Charlie was dating a woman at the time and Will had dated women before. Why do I mention this? Because after all is forgiven, we turn the page and the boys are now boarding a train for a school trip where Charlie has upgraded their tiny sleeping car to a suite so they can figure things out.
It was a bit of a whiplash experience being in this book. Everything happens fast and all of the sudden Will goes from being the abused boy to basically a teenage psychologist on LGBTQ labels with his degree awarded by Dr. Google. Again. WTAF?
“Charlie? You need to resolve this or you’re gonna end up in real trouble. Not just friend stuff but, like, mental issues.”
This book was a hot mess and not in a good way. It was way too short to tackle a subject matter like this. Charlie flew into a rage and hurt his best friend and Charlie did his because of his sexual reaction to a boy. There should have been some sort of counseling involved to deal with his rage reaction but no one tells anyone what happened up there, it’s kept a secret and the boys just go along being friends. That scene… it was sickening and reminded me of a brutal rape scene. I almost stopped reading right there but I wanted to see how or if anything would be resolved.
While on the train, Will decides with his new degree to try an experiment out on Charlie who has already hurt him once and who he is LOCKED in a train car with. This experiment? Will wants to see how Charlie reacts to him in heels and makeup, you know, to see if he goes any further with the abuse than he did the first time? Again. WTAF? I know they are all “I am sorry, I will never hurt you again” and “I trust you not to hurt me again” but really? How is this experiment anything that should have taken place? It was risky and it wasn’t smart at all.
A pain he couldn’t explain or account for wrenched Charlie’s heart and twisted his face. “Is… is this what you want to be now? Is this… who you are after all?” His voice cracked, and he had to look away or throw up. And he hated himself for feeling this way.
Especially when his dick stiffened, ferocious as a dog salivating after a bone.
“No,” Will replied.
Charlie’s head whipped up. He saw Will shaking his head and felt a profound confusion.
“Then… why?”
Will locked gazes with him, his eyes mesmerizing and steadfast. “To see your reaction.”
Charlie barked out a vicious laugh. “What, you testing me or something?”
“Verifying a hypothesis, I suppose.”
With all of this going on it’s not a surprise that there was never a connection for me with Charlie and Will as a couple. I barely wanted them to be friends after Charlie attacked Will. I read through the book with a feeling of unease and an upset stomach. I don’t think being confined to a small space with someone who hurt you less than a week ago was the next step this story should have taken. I definitely don’t think you decide you are what your friend needs to figure out their new sexuality. It was frustrating and frankly disgusting to have these two go down the path of a physical relationship in any matter so quickly.
On top of all I’ve already talked about, we turn the page and jump 10 years into the future?! Yeah, so after all Dr. Will and his Google degree have diagnosed Charlie as Demi/BiSexual and Will as Fluid with his sexuality, they decide they aren’t going to be boyfriends BUT if they are both single in 10 years, they will take on a relationship. So Charlie has been in love with Will for the last ten years that he’s been dating men and women and Will was in a relationship with a trans girl since about right after the train trip. But of course they are both now single and Charlie has booked the same room on the same train… a train to somewhere. *facepalm*
I wanted to fall in love with this book as I did with the first two but this tried to tackle some heavy issues and have it wrapped up in less than 100 pages. There is no way that could have been accomplished. There honestly was not one single thing about this book that I liked and it’s not one that I would recommend at all.

A copy provided for an honest review.

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