Kelly is a CPA who has grown up working with her father in their small town all-service accountancy firm. When her father is taken to hospital at the start of tax season she is left facing a mountain of returns to complete alone, while trying to visit her father and deal with her worry and stress.
Elliot needs a CPA internship to get her qualification, then she will be off to follow her dream of fighting for the unprivileged who suffer from the complexity of tax laws. When Elliot gets placed with Kelly the sparks are bound to fly. Kelly is extremely closeted and determined to stay under the radar, including keeping her distance from the young brash intern, while Elliot is determined to give everything to her work, including exploring her snappy boss’s character.
All three of the Darlington Romances are well done and different, despite the commonality of place and the growing cast of characters they share. The Long Way Home saw the black sheep returning to the small town she hated, Timeless is an unusual story of a coma induced flashback, while Close To Home is the more traditional ‘overcome the odds’ romance.
All three are well written, plotted and edited, but Close To Home feels like a step up, a more sophisticated writing style and a deeper engagement with the characters’ emotional journey. Whether due to a natural growth for Ms Spangler or a change of publisher, this story is more mature. Nothing really happens other than the day to day data entry and processing of tax files, yet we watch both women embark on a voyage of development. Kelly, a fairly unlikeable character in the earlier novel and the start of this one, has a huge course to travel and while Elliot’s growth is less pronounced, she has her own learning to do.
The small town setting, the close-nit community, knowing each other’s business, reminds us of the challenges we face to be ourselves and the courage it takes to come out. We see how the support of friends is critical, and yet those very friends can hold us trapped inside the person we have become by doubting our ability to change. For an author it is far easier to take two likeable characters and put a surmountable obstacle in their way than to take a distinctly unlikeable character and convince the reader that they want them to change, take that step, become the better person.
Overall this was my favorite of the three, and probably my favourite from Ms Spangler to date. I felt more engaged, despite the simplicity of the plot and traditional format, somehow i was convinced to care more deeply about a character I didn’t even like, and had distinctly disliked in the earlier story. I am looking forward to seeing where Ms Spangler’s more mature style takes her next.
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(publisher review copy received)
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