Title: Close to Home
Author: Janet Gover
Published: February 2nd 2021
Publisher: Mira – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
A delightful small town story of community and family with shades of Romeo and Juliet and The Dressmaker.
Two households, both alike in dignity…
Aunt Alice Dwyer loves her small Australian town. She’s rarely left its comforting embrace. She knows everyone in it; in fact, she’s related to most of them. All she wants is to keep her family safe and the town running exactly the way it always has. Her way. But when an exotic French artist comes to town, her hold begins to weaken…
Lucienne Chevalier, once the toast of Europe, has come to Nyringa after a tragic loss to hang up her sequins and create a place for her circus family to rest between tours. With her is Simon, her grandson, recovering from an injury so damaging he can no longer perform. Lucienne fears he’ll never embrace a new future. That is, until she notices the chemistry between him and the new schoolteacher… All they need is a push.
Both grande dames think they know what’s best, but with equal amounts of stubbornness on both sides, peace looks unlikely. Then a relationship between Alice’s rebellious great-niece and a teenage acrobat sets the two communities on a collision course. But when the bakery starts making patisseries over lamingtons, the battle lines are truly drawn…
A story of community and family. Of the love that brings them together … and the fears that would tear them apart.
A story of family issues, community, relationships, love, romance, judgements and the past, Close to Home is the latest release from Janet Gover. Close to Home is about finding your place in the world, gaining a sense of belonging and moving on from the past through the act of falling in love. Tender, caring and wise, Close to Home is a book to embrace with all your heart.
Janet Gover’s Close to Home travels to the fictional NSW based township of Nyringa. One of the residents of Nyringa is Alice Dwyer, a staunch matriarch, who is the pillar of the local community. Alice is a woman who cares a lot about her local town and the people that populate this tight knit township. With many of the local residents of Nyringa either related directly to Alice, or acquainted with this long-standing citizen, Nyringa is a part of Alice. But when a newcomer arrives to Nyringa, this French artiste comes under Alice’s critical gaze. Alice realises that she might not have such a strong grip on the town, as the local community are drawn to the exotic newcomer. Gradually, secrets begin to spill out in regards to Nyringa’s new residents. Lucienne is recovering from a heartbreaking loss, which has resulted in her sabbatical from circus performing. Meanwhile, Lucienne’s grandson is also taking a much-needed rest from the circus business, after a terrible injury that has damaged his physical as well as mental ability to perform. But Simon’s burgeoning friendship with a local teacher offers a ray of light, can these two lost souls help each other through the tough times? Tension and concerns arise for Alice when her granddaughter becomes involved with an acrobat from the travelling circus. It sets alarm bellis ringing for this strict matriarch. But it seems as if this blossoming romance is hard to extinguish and Alice may have to accept what is happening to the people she loves.
It is abundantly clear that author Janet Gover loves writing about rural communities and the business of falling in love featuring larger than life women. Close to Home is another wonderful book by an author who never falters in her ability to deliver a cracking rural yarn. I enjoyed living it up in Nyringa community for the duration of this story.
I really loved the opening prologue of Close to Home, it definitely set the scene and it gave me a direct insight into a rather thorny character! I have to be brutally honest and express my ire with the character of Alice. This town matriarch was quite the battler, but her narrow-minded attitude, bossy nature, stubborn acts and piercing judgement didn’t always sit well with me at all. However, I kept taking my mind back to prologue which helps to illuminate why Alice was such a negative and domineering force, set in her ways. Gover does a good job with the character of Alice, even though I didn’t like her! Likewise, we are lucky to be gifted with a set of really great supporting cast members. I very much connected to the new local teacher taking her posting in Nyringa and the residual trauma that came with her journey. I appreciated Simon’s physical and mental barriers in revisiting his very successful circus career. I also adored the sweet romance that flourishes between Alice’s great niece and a local acrobat. Close to Home is a story generous in the romance department and it will send your heart aflutter.
What I admired the most about Close to Home was the circus angle, I think this was a unique side storyline to a traditional rural fiction read. I also liked how all the little side storyline threads moved around the overarching circus theme. This approach allows Gover to explore a number of different scenarios, involving the majority of her cast. Lucienne was a standout in terms of interesting past stories, I loved delving into her past and current preoccupations. When Lucienne and Alice face up to one another I found it to be very entertaining. Added to the mix are a few mouth watering baking segments featuring some of my favourite treats, lamingtons and pastries. I was very taken with this aspect of the story!
Love knows no rules or bounds in this delightful new story from a generous storyteller. I am happy to recommend Janet Gover’s novel as an anytime read – it is a great pick me up if you are feeling a little blue.
Close to Home by Janet Gover was published on 3rd February 2021 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Close to Home, Janet Gover, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Close to Home is book #57 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge