Close to You
About This Book
A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.
Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.
Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.
When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?
Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make: I have never read a Tolkein novel.
Did I see all three Lord of the Rings movies on their opening days? Yes. Do I own them all on DVD? Naturally. Have I watched all the extended-edition extras? Of course. Heck, I’ve even visited the pub in Oxford where Tolkein and his Inkling friends used to socialize and brainstorm. But actually read one of the books? Nope.
Which makes me the perfect candidate to relate to the hero of Close to You, an LOTR-movie-watcher-only stuck on a tour of Middle Earth (a.k.a. New Zealand) with people who know way more and care way more about Tolkein than he does. And with that expectation, plus the fact that I have a slew of distant relatives who live in Middle… er, New Zealand… I was thoroughly prepared to adore Kara Isaac’s debut novel.
And for the most part, I did. Isaac has crafted a solid debut novel full of strong, descriptive writing and the kind of zinger-laden, pop-culture-infused dialogue that I and my fellow Gilmore Girls fans love. From first page to last, this was a solid “chick flick” romance absolutely perfect for light summer reading. I particularly loved the gaggle of secondary characters to round out this tale, and actually liked them more than the hero and heroine, who sometimes came across as a bit too whiny and self-centered for my tastes.
But like many of those chick flicks, a bit too much of the action felt formulaic to me to really love this book. There were just a few too many points in the story where I was consciously aware that I was supposed to be laughing… but I wasn’t. The ending of the story, in particular, felt way too out-of-sync with the rest of the story, and what should’ve been a cheesy, lovable romantic ending actually made me snicker. And, unfortunately, not in a good way.
Still, Isaac has incredible storytelling talent, and I look forward to seeing it improve and mature in future stories. She’s definitely one to watch!
Available April 26, 2016 from Howard Books