Close to Home by Janet Gover. (2021).
**4 out of 5 stars**
**Thank you to Harlequin Australia for sending me a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review; published 3 February 2021**
Aunt Alice loves her small Australian town; she has rarely left it, knows everyone and is related to most of them. All she wants is to keep her family safe and the town running the way it always has (her way). But when an exotic French artiste comes to town, her hold weakens…
Lucienne has come to town to settle her circus family after a tragic loss. She comes with her grandson Simon who is recovering from an injury so damaging he can’t perform. Lucienne fears he’ll never embrace his future until she notices sparks between him and the new schoolteacher Meg…they just need a push.
Both grand dames think they know what’s best and peace looks unlikely. Then a relationship between Alice’s rebellious great-niece and a teenage acrobat sets the two communities on a collision course…
I was genuinely surprised at how much I liked this novel considering I disliked main character Alice. She grew on me a bit by the end but I tell you what, for me she was the stereotypical old lady who is basically a pain in everyone’s back side but you put up with her because she’s related to you. The worst thing about her was that she seemed to acknowledge she was super annoying but didn’t care, in fact she enjoyed it. Aaaargh! Thankfully by the end she had softened and also it was very clear she truly loved her family and wanted what was best for them (albeit, what she thought was best haha). Whereas I found Alice’s new nemesis Lucienne to be open minded, kind to all, and caring about others even while suffering from a recent heartbreaking tragedy. I really enjoyed the intense young love romance between Finn and Jenny, à la a modern Romeo and Juliet. I also appreciated the budding light romance between Simon and Meg who both had some serious recent trauma holding them back.
Overall: a contemporary domestic drama fiction set in a small town with a sprinkling of romance, I think this novel would be enjoyed by a lot of readers.