Close to You by Kara Isaac: My Review, or, An Unapologetic Torent of Fangirling

Oh my giddy aunt. Holy chalupas.
I have just closed this book. For the last time. I don't know how to cope.
This novel, ya'll. This. novel.
I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob.
This is not just any rom-com novel. Chock full of heart, hope and humor, Kara Isaac's debut blew me away from start to finish. The premise--a romance set amidst the vivid backdrop of New Zealand Tolkien-world sites--gets my vote for Most Unique Setting of the Year. Pair that with two leads both broken, jaded and just trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps after hefty betrayals and loss--it was quite an adventure not unlike the one Frodo takes with the One Ring.
Having been an admittedly lightweight Tolkien fan by extension of my brother, youngest sister and mother, props to Ms. Isaac for bringing us into Tolkien world with adept trivia for seasoned Tolkien fans, and enough background info on both the books and movies that non-Tolkienites can easily follow and not be lost in a world of Elvish. Speaking of Elvish, I'd be remiss in not tossing up a 10 points to Gryffindor sign for Ms. Isaac's bevy of hilariously colorful secondary characters in this story. Oh, my word. While there was a fair number of them, there was no difficulty in remembering them (other than the octogenarian twins--but then again the main characters had trouble telling them apart!) nor did they detract, only enhance, the journies of Jackson Gregory and Allie Shire.
At odds from the beginning, the two leads reminded me a lot of Lizzie and Darcy of classic Austen fame--but they were so much richer. Yes, I said it. Multi-faceted, while I as the reader rode to Gondor and back with them (sorry--couldn't help it.), they continually surprised me as Isaac wove old hurts, familial histories, and endearing quirks through out the entire story. Leaving this reader both satisfied and sad that I got to know them thoroughly--but still not enough time could be spent with such characters and I am hoping and praying there will be a sequel.
What made the swoon-worthy, tear-inducing ending so incredibly poignant and powerful was the journey it took for Jackson and Allie to get there. I facepalmed on their behalf multiple times--their stubbornness though--and held my breath waiting and waiting for A Kiss--a certain (clean) but steamy pizza scene was my favorite. Classic would-they or won't-they romance peppered with such a deep, abiding grace as they uncurled their stubborn fists, let go and let God. A privilege to read and learn from in every page.
For fans of Tolkien, Austen and for those wanderlusting souls who're itching to maybe see New Zealand--Close to You is for you.


About the 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?


About the Author:
Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister.
She’s a pastor’s wife, mum (or mom) of two preschoolers, public servant, and book lover from before she could talk. She’s living the dream of writing books that (hopefully!) make people laugh, cheer for the characters, and sigh when they turn that final page.

She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two Hobbit-sized children.
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Her next book, Can't Stop Falling, releases this fall and I am SO freaking pumped its not even funny.

About Can't Help Falling
A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter fa├žade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.
Meghan M. Gorecki
Meghan M. Gorecki

Words, history, and grace color my days here in The Burgh where I seek out the perfect coffee and red lipstick.