Up Close begins with intrigue … in the prologue we join a watcher outside the window – a watcher who is waiting for the old woman to die.
“Her evident shock registered, and for one long moment they simply stared at each other, spellbound, frozen in time, as memories of their unwilling bond flashed through both their minds.”
Hooked! Who is the watcher and what is the connection?
Chapter One begins with the reader experiencing Lia Thompson’s nightmare alongside her. She’s in her grandmother, Ivy’s house, having missed the funeral but is there to sell the house as quickly as possible and fly back ‘home.’ We find out that her mother, Connie, doesn’t want anything from the estate. Lia is still jet-lagged having flown in from Philadelphia two days ago. We also find out that Lia wanted to get far away from Norfolk. Lia’s life in Philadelphia is shared and we’re introduced to nearest neighbour Mrs Larwood who brings Ivy’s dog back. Ivy was not a dog lover.
From this first chapter I was intrigued. I wanted to know why Connie didn’t want anything from her own mother’s estate, what happened that made Lia move as far away as she could and why had Ivy bought a dog if she wasn’t a pet lover?
Chapter Two we’re introduced to Aidan Morrell. He’s prepping to dive at Holkham Beach and we’re made aware of an injury he received on a warship in the Gulf. Lia meets Aidan as he comes out of the sea. They were at 6th form college together but Lia doesn’t remember him. She was in a daze for most of that time. Aidan had a crush on her and we’re made aware of something happening with his brother. We’re also made aware that a close member of Lia’s family died when she was a child …but not how.
More questions from me! Why was Lia in a daze? How did Lia’s family member die? What happened to Aidan’s brother? What happened with Lia’s best friend Samantha?
The intrigue only gets deeper as we move further into the plot – and as the intrigue deepens, so does the attraction between Lia and Aidan!
The environment is perfect for the suspense and the secrets. An isolated community with Aidan living alone on the farm and Lia alone in the house; attics; deserted beaches; solitary running and diving; a scene involving snow. I also have to mention the art and how the author uses it as a way of Aidan expressing himself – especially when he starts to feel safe enough to show how he sometimes perceives the world to be … the darker side.
Plenty of times I was tense and alert. I have to admit that I detest underwater scenes on movies although I do love the water and enjoy swimming underwater myself. The scene in the swimming pool after it is closed while Lia is learning to dive and the climax underwater on a group dive left me feeling shaken and nauseous!
Lia and Aiden’s connection is there from the beginning but because Lia is engaged, they both make excuses for why they can’t do anything about the attraction. Later, the intimacy between Lia and Aiden is beautifully written. Their relationship is not an easy one with underlying secrets but I loved the fact that Lia was always led by her own belief about Aiden and not by what the evidence seemed to be presenting.
The Armed Forces is a central connection to the plot in Up Close. Gyland is not afraid to tackle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how it affects the lives of the sufferer and their families.
I love plots that drop subtle clues and lead the reader to try and work out where the story is heading, to unravel those clues to find an answer … Up Close is exactly this type of story. It wasn’t until I reached page 297/384 that I had an inkling of where we were being led. As I continued to read I became surer although there is another incident that made me question what I believed. This is such a fabulous plot with the different strands weaving together to leave us with a story that gives the wow factor.
There is also personification (if you read my reviews you’ll know I love this!) On page 238:
“The wind had dropped, and the trees in the garden, their branches held high in a last act of defiance, seemed to have accepted finally that this was the season of death.”
Beautiful and very apt for that particular place in the plot!
I don’t think there’s any doubt about how I felt about Up Close … alongside the romance we have the suspense and intrigue … not only is it a keeper for me but it has gone straight onto my Top 20 reads of 2012. What an amazing debut novel! Henriette Gyland is definitely an author to watch. I’m a fan!
I would like to thank Choc Lit for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.