In depth review for ‘The UnTied Kingdom’ by Kate Johnson coming soon. Stay tuned!
Up Close by Henriette Gyland
Publisher: Choc Lit
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Suspense.
‘A romantic suspense story in the tradition of Hitchcock which won the New Talent Award at the 2011 Festival of Romance.’
How close is too close? Dr Lia Thompson has swapped her native Norfolk for a life in America, but returns to sort out legal matters after her grandmother’s death. Unprepared for the viciousness of village gossip, she’s vulnerable to insinuations that her grandmother knew something about the recent bomb threats against a nearby army base. Even so the longer she stays, the more she realises this is where she belongs.
Wounded ex-navy man and artist Aidan Morrell has accepted his physical scars, but is still bitter over the army’s treatment of his older brother, which had a devastating effect. He expresses himself in his sometimes disturbing paintings and through scuba-diving, and sees Lia with her fear of water as a challenge. The attraction between them is undeniable. Should they dare to let the other get close?
Book Review ~ ‘Up Close’ by Henriette Gyland ~ 5 Stars.
When Sarah Broadhurst from The Bookseller compared Henriette Gyland’s ‘Up Close’ to ‘Nora Robert’s territory’, I knew instantly that this was going to be a ‘must-read’, and when it was released on Kindle I spent a week umming and ahhing over whether I should download it or wait to buy the paperback. My self-restraint broke, and ‘Up Close’ was downloaded and devoured in the space of 24 hours. That is how fantastic this book is.
The book gets off to a thrilling start as the prologue see’s the gruesome and bone-chilling death of an old lady through the eyes of her killer.
“Die, thought the watcher. Why don’t you just die?”
Cue chills running up your spine.
This is clearly a very interesting and tormented character. Immediately questions spring to mind; who is this person? Why do they feel such strong hate for this, seemingly innocent, old woman? What has the woman done to deserve such a painful death? Henriette Gyland’s description of the killer as ‘The watcher’ brought yet another fundamental question. Is the watcher a man or a woman? Again, this title brings a shiver across my spine. The killer clearly likes to watch his victim in pain, so immediately you are on alert to any character you have yet to meet. Is the killer going to be watching them too when they are alone?
A brilliant start to this thrilling tale. I was drawn in immediately which is a sign of a great suspense novel.
“The watcher’s glee, so long in coming, was tinged with regret.”
Another dimension is given to our killer, and questions immediately ran around in my mind. There was no way I was putting this book down until I had the answers I needed.
As chapter one starts we are introduced to ER Doctor Lia Thompson, who from her opening dream, clearly has demons of her own. Back in Norfolk following the death of her Grandmother, she wishes she was back in Philadelphia, USA.
“She fumbled for her travel alarm clock with its luminous dials and knocked a bottle of pills down from the bedside cabinet.”
It’s funny when you think about the first thing that makes you connect with a character. This sentence did it for me. The number of times I’ve woken at two in the morning and knocked my sleeping tablets on the floor and ended up scrambling around in the dark for them. Lia suddenly becomes very real to me, and very human.
Lia’s first clue that perhaps not everything was as innocent as it seemed with the death of her Grandmother came in the form of ‘Jack’ the Jack Russell, a dog that I love from the instant he arrives at Lia’s front door, with nosy neighbour Mrs. Larwood, even though Lia is far from keen.
“And what am I doing, talking to a dog? I don’t even like them.”
No one can resist them. They worm their way into your heart, and I immediately knew that Jack would soften Lia’s. She comes across as harsh and troubled, and as an animal lover myself, I almost sobbed as Lia thought through what she could do with him.
“That left a rescue centre or, failing that, an injection.”
Within a few pages I had hope though, and smiled soppily at her interaction with her pet pooch.
“…Jack put his head on her leg with a sigh and sent her a look of adoration. Something fell into place inside Lia. Whatever it was that felt so wrong, this, at least, was one thing she could make right.”
However, Jack couldn’t remain my favourite man for long…not with Aidan Morrell around. *swoon*.
“His thick, curly brown hair, still wet, stood out in all directions instead of clinging unattractively to his skull and made him look like an animal shedding its winter coat. His arms and chest, with the remnants of a summer tan, were muscular, his hips slim, legs long, and he had a six-pack to die for. One word repeated itself over and over in Lia’s mind as she tried to keep her cool.
Yes ‘wow’ is the word to describe Aidan Morrell. With his own tortured soul, he is deeply troubled by his past and holds a dark secret. Having been injured when in the Navy, and having lost his brother, through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after his time in the army, he has both emotional and physical scars. Aidan is mysterious and quite frankly yummy.
Despite Lia not remembering at first, her and Aidan attended sixth-form college together, and after a stuttering start, they begin a tentative friendship.
As we learn more about Aidan and Lia, and the acquaintences they share in their small coastal village, Gyland is fantastic at both giving us more and more clues towards solving the puzzle of Lia’s Grandmothers mysterious death, but still having you grasping at threads as your emotions and feelings for the characters desperately have you thinking “they wouldn’t do that.” despite all the evidence pointing to it. It was so brilliantly written that I couldn’t put it down until I knew who was the guilty party. Not only has Lia’s Grandmother died in mysterious circumstances but bomb scares near the nearby military base have started.
Lia tries to reconnect with her school friend Suzanne, who became pregnant when they were at sixth-form and who still feels harshly towards Lia for leaving school and Norfolk, when she felt she needed her most.
The relationship between Suzanne and Lia is so interesting. They’ve both grown up and are now in their thirties. So how after all these years can Suzanne still hold this anger towards Lia when they’ve clearly grown up since their school years? Surely she should have come to understand that not everything is as it seems? Is there more at play here? Suzanne’s connection with Aidan also complicates matters, as Suzanne warns Lia off of Aidan fearing he would be hurt.
And then there’s the matter of Aidan and Suzanne’s secret meetings.
“Wordlessly she slid her arms around his neck and gave him a quick kiss, then drew away again.”
There was a lot I realised about myself as a person, and the expectations I have of life and love whilst reading this book. I felt heart ache reading a cleverly written scene between Suzanne and Aidan where they discuss Suzanne’s daughter Zoe. Could Aidan be Zoe’s father? And were they having an affair behind Suzanne’s husband’s back? Maybe not, after all the kiss wasn’t described as that of a lover, maybe they were just friends? Reading this scene made me think hard about life and love.
As a hopeless romantic, I still have the fantasy that I’ll meet my Prince Charming and we’ll live happily ever after. The thought of a young Aidan getting Suzanne pregnant and not taking any responsibility made me feel desperately sad. But then I still loved Aidan as a character, and began to ask myself whether it really mattered what he’d done earlier in his life, as long as now he was a caring and loving individual. After all, don’t we all have things from our past that we regret?
I stormed my way through the rest of the book, loving the story of Lia’s brother that comes to light, who drowned in the bath as a baby. Lia blames herself as she remembers being told not to leave him alone. The characters are given more dimensions and you start to realise that perhaps Lia’s Grandmother wasn’t as innocent an old lady as you might expect. Did her killer know this? Is this why he had such a strong surge of anger towards her as he watched her last moments?
But not all is doom, gloom and tension. The thrilling suspense of the mystery is contrasted wonderfully with the fun, burgeoning love story between Aidan and Lia.
“As if suddenly self-conscious, she drew the dressing gown tight and covered herself up. Aidan looked away. The spell was broken.
‘You have nice legs,’ he said…”
Oh how wonderfully adorable and hopeless this man can be sometimes!
“The opportunity had been there to kiss her, so why hadn’t he?
Am I that repulsive? She thought.
Then her cheeks flamed as she realised why, and she glanced down at her engagement ring…”
Yes, another obstacle in the road to happiness for my two favourite characters, but that doesn’t stop them from doing a little night time diving lessons *wink wink nudge nudge*
No seriously, I meant night time diving lessons…get your mind out of the gutter!
Aidan makes it his personal project to teach Lia, who is afraid of swimming and water after her brother’s death, to scuba dive. It’s brilliant to see Lia, who is normally so self-assured and confident in herself become completely vulnerable and have to give her trust completely to Aidan. It’s a wonderful story to read, and it’s a brilliant way to see the trust build between them before their relationship becomes romantic.
“Lia nodded again, a determined look in her eyes, but she couldn’t disguise a slight trembling of her lips.”
However, nothing can come of Lia and Aidan until she breaks up with her fiancé. I wouldn’t have respected her as much if she hadn’t waited, and I loved the simple way that Lia and her fiancé Brett end their relationship. There always seems to be so much drama in books when a break-up happens; the man immediately demands to know if there’s someone else, says that he’ll never let her go, and follows her around for an age making the girl out to be the one in the wrong. This break-up however, was beautifully simplistic. The parting between two people who realised that they weren’t right for each other.
“Later, at Heathrow, she hugged him tight. When she pulled away, she read the puzzled sadness in his eyes, as if he knew they’d come as far as they could and was unable to explain why.”
I would be lying if I didn’t grin and think “Goodbye Brett, Hello Aidan.”
And hello Aidan indeed.
Despite some problems with misunderstandings after their first night together, they soon come together again and all seems to be rosey. Or it would be if we didn’t have the nagging feeling that Aidan wasn’t being completely truthful about everything.
And then another mysterious death hits the seaside village.
It was exciting to read the penultimate chapters of the book, where doubts hit you left, right and centre as more and more evidence piles up against Aidan, despite your heart longing for there to be some mistake.
When we finally find out what Aidan has been hiding, my heart broke for him. To have such a secret would have been so painful, as he tried to do the right thing by everyone, trying to keep everyone he loved safe. I also loved how the closure of Aidan and Lia’s problems both happened by water. There is something very poignant about confronting their fears and having the painful chapter of their lives close in the setting of the water, just as it had started.
Without giving away the ending, all I will say is that the closing chapters were spectacular. All questions I had throughout the book were answered; Who killed Lia’s Grandmother? Why did she buy a guard dog? Who is Zoe’s father? Who was the mysterious man who Lia saw on the road? Who broke into Lia’s house? Who was it that was planting the bombs?
Absolutely amazing book. 5 stars easily! Beautifully written and had me sitting on the edge of my seat throughout. The mystery and romance was written perfectly. A fantastic read and I definitely recommend to all.
Henriette Gyland’s next novel ‘The Elephant Girl’, published by Choc Lit, will be released July 2014.