Close To Home by Rachel Spangler is the third book in her Darlington Romances series. If you haven’t read the first two yet, don’t let that stop you from picking this up because it fully stands alone and it’s wonderful.
Kelly Rolen’s life is exactly what she wants, revolving around working beside her dad as a CPA and being the perfect, closeted Darlington resident. She hasn’t touched anyone or been touched since her last relationship ended a few years prior, and yet it’s enough. When her father has a stroke at the beginning of tax season, everything is turned upside down and she’s nudged into hiring an intern to get through the weeks leading up to April 15.
Elliot Garza is in her last semester at Bramble College in Darlington. She just needs an internship and a few more classes before she can take off and find a job in Washington DC, where she can use her smarts and drive to effect real change for low income families. The young, dapper butch didn’t expect to be Kelly’s best friend or anything, but she didn’t expect her to be so cold or closed off either. Kelly’s beautiful, and when she loosens up, there’s something Elliot can’t resist, even if her boss is as straight as straight can be. Or that’s what she thinks, anyway, until a late night office encounter teaches Elliot that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Kelly and her sexuality.
If Kelly’s name sounds familiar, that’s because she was Beth’s girlfriend in The Long Way Home (and possibly showed up in Timeless, although I don’t know because I haven’t read it yet). In my review for that book, I said I was curious to see how Rachel Spangler could make her someone I could connect with, because Kelly wasn’t likeable at all. And frankly, she’s not likeable for a lot of Close to Home either. She’s guarded, prickly, occasionally harsh, and is the ultimate ice queen. Turns out, that just makes it all the more delicious to watch her thaw as she grows to trust Elliot. Kelly has some good reasons for being exactly who she is and she’s not a bad person, she’s just prioritized her image and keeping up appearances in Darlington. Her big scene near the end just about broke me in half (no, YOU were the one that got teary!), and her complete transformation by the last page is so, so good.
Elliot doesn’t really change much over the course of the book, nor does she need to. Close to Home is Kelly’s book and Elliot really is the perfect person to thaw her. She’s brilliant, driven, and idealistic, determined to use her knowledge to help others and has a warmth that draws people to her. Elliot lives her truth openly and is always her authentic self, no matter who she’s with, and I loved every moment I spent with her.
If you’ve read the other Darlington books, you’ll be glad to know that we see quite a lot of Beth and Rory in the run up to their wedding. The couple from Timeless also show up and even though I haven’t read that book, it was still enjoyable to see them.
The Writing Style
I don’t know what happened, but it’s like Rachel Spangler unlocked a whole new level of her writing in every possible sense. The language is more elegant, the characters are better developed, and the story is tighter. I hesitate to talk about plotting because Close to Home is very much a character driven book and not particularly plot driven, but the plot that’s there is well developed and satisfying. Seriously, look at this paragraph from the end of the first chapter:
Early hints of orange light crept across the horizon, casting frozen fields in a warm glow, but it was a false heat. The ground lay icy, dead, unmoving. Changing the light didn’t change its essence any more than sitting in the waiting room all night had changed her father’s condition. And Beth’s presence for a few moments hadn’t changed anything about their relationship any more than their three years apart had changed the parts of Kelly that had allowed Beth to walk out the door the first time.
There’s so much packed into that and it’s fantastic.
Literally everything, including that gorgeous cover. It’s perfect for this book.
Not a one.
I know it’s early days yet, but I’m going to go on record as saying that this will be one of the best romances to come out in 2017. Close to Home isn’t always an easy read, but it’s a worthy, beautiful, excellent one. I highly recommend it.
Excerpt from Close To Home by Rachel Spangler
“Kelly?” Elliot whispered from the doorway.
When she failed to respond, Elliot moved closer and laid a hand gently on her shoulder. “Come on, Kelly.”
“I can’t,” she said, barely recognizing her own voice.
“Yes, you can,” Elliot said. “I’ll help.”
“You can’t help me.”
“Sure I can. I’m a very helpful person.”
“Why would you even want to?”
Elliot chuckled. “That’s the same question I’m asking myself.”
“I have no idea, but I’m going to drive you to the hospital, okay?”
She took a deep breath and summoned the strength needed to lift her head off the desk. She had to pull herself together because somehow having Elliot beside her made her think she could.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781612940816
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Rachel Spangler Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Close To Home by Rachel Spangler. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.