Books Read in 2017: ‘Close to You’ by Kara Isaac | #amreading #bookreview
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?
My GR Status Update(s):
01/02. . .marked as: currently-reading
01/18 . . .12.0% This is a fun book, but I can see that it might have a limited audience, given the overabundance of Lord of the Rings/Hobbit references.
01/24 . . . 17.0% This feels like it should be a faster read than it is so far. Of course, maybe it’s because I’m not making a concerted effort to set aside reading time daily.
01/27 . . . 36.0% The level of physical abuse the heroine, Allie, is taking at the hands of her author is really starting to bother me. I like a good awkward moment between characters, but not when it involves the heroine needlessly falling on her face (or other anatomy) in front of the hero and being humiliated by him twice within just a couple of chapters.
01/31 . . . 50.0% DNF. Here’s where I quit reading: “Chapter 17: . . .Allie tripped over her laptop cord and barely missed clocking herself on the bedside table. . . . since her day traipsing around the wilderness with Jackson, it was like what little coordination she did possess had gone on strike. Walking into doors, pouring juice into her lap, dropping stuff–you name it, she’d probably done it.” STOP ABUSING YOUR HEROINE!
01/31. . .marked as: did-not-finish
This is a DNF, however, I still gave it two stars because there were parts of the first half that I read that I did like (mostly the setting).
As I posted in my status updates, I just couldn’t put up with the abuse the Heroine was receiving at the hands of this author (and the delight the “Hero” seemed to be taking in these mishaps). Falling into a mud/manure pit. Tumbling down a hill. Tripping over her laptop cord. “Walking into doors, pouring juice into her lap, dropping stuff—you name it, she’d probably done it” (Kindle p. 194). While she’s klutzy and ends up covered in mud/manure or he’s laughing at her for being covered with grass after taking a tumble down a hill (while trying to intervene in a bad situation he was in), when he falls into a pond, he’s compared to Mr. Darcy’s wet-shirt scene from Pride and Prejudice. In other words, her mishaps make her laughable/worthy of humiliation; his make him sexier and worthy of admiration. No thanks.
However, the abuse of the heroine wasn’t the only problem I had with this novel. The conflicts—her weird is-she-or-isn’t-she-married situation and his run-of-the-mill/cliched evil-ex-girlfriend-ruined-his-life/business backstory—were too complex to try to deal with in a story like this. This would probably have worked better as more of a “road romance” (two strangers fall for each other while traveling and must overcome the conflicts that the “road”—the journey—brings their way) than a “we both have such complicated lives that we cannot talk to each other about anything honest/truthful about our pasts, so, therefore, what’s keeping us apart is our lack of communication” story.
Then, there’s the fact that when I started reading this book, I had no idea it was actually inspy/Christian romance. I was happy that it seemed like a sweet/clean read, since those are rare and hard to find. In fact, up to almost halfway through this book, there was no indication that it was “Inspirational” fiction. Nothing in the book blurb (on the library’s website for the ebook or on Goodreads) mentioned anything about a faith element being part of this book. And, no, I don’t make a habit of looking to see who published a book for an indication as to whether it’s mainstream or religious. (For anyone reading this who doesn’t know me, I am published in the inspirational romance category, too, so it’s not like I have a problem with reading inspirational fiction.) I’ve always been of the mind that fiction with a religious element needs to make it clear in the back-cover copy so that the book doesn’t get a whole bunch of bad reviews from people who read it and then feel like they were “duped” into reading something with a religious message. But I know that could have been a decision by the publisher, not the author, to leave that part out of the blurb.
My problem with discovering that this is “Christian” fiction is that it’s not an organically integrated part of the story/characters. In the first almost half of the book, the only mention of God is when one of the secondary characters randomly asks Allie if she believes in God. And then that’s about all there is to the conversation. It jarred me out of the story completely. Up to that point, it had been just a fun, clean (“sweet”) romance novel—or so I thought. Then, apparently, in the second half, the religious element really takes off; however, I’m relying on having read other reviews to know that, because I didn’t actually make it that far. It would have been nice to have seen this as an element that was woven much more subtly and evenly throughout the whole story, not just the last half.
For the most part, I do like Ms. Isaac’s writing style. However, even with as much as the setting of New Zealand and the inclusion of the Lord of the Rings stuff should have been catnip for me, I just couldn’t bring myself to like it enough to force myself to finish reading it.
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)
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