Close to You
Close to You is the second story in Kristen Proby’s Fusion series which focuses on five female friends who’ve started a restaurant together. While I haven’t read the first book in the series, this one is a friends-to-lovers/best friend’s sibling trope which I always enjoy, and it’s an easy, light read with a predictable plot. However it is a little too light on substance and doesn’t have enough conflict for me to say that it will linger long in my memory.
Cami is the bookkeeper and accountant for Seduction, the successful restaurant that she runs with four of her close friends. As a teenager, she had a crush on her friend Mia’s older brother Landon. But Landon joined the Navy after high school and was gone for the next twelve years, only coming home for brief family visits. A piloting accident and the resulting injury has left him unable to fly, so he’s been discharged from the Navy and has returned home. He’s taken over the family construction business and is instrumental in an overhaul being done at the restaurant. As such, he and Cami are working closely together. But while Landon is aware of the crush Cami had on him when she was younger, she doesn’t know that it was returned equally. He’s finally got the chance to show Cami how he feels and he hopes she feels the same. But while turning a teenage crush into an adult relationship might be easy to do, will Cami believe that Landon is really home to stay?
I have three main issues with this novel. The first is the group of young women who run the restaurant. While I like the friendship between them and the fact that they obviously care about each other, they don’t seem to have the maturity level needed to run a successful business. They act like they are just over twenty, instead of the closer to thirty that they are supposed to be. It’s just little things, like conversations about sexual positions, dick size, and their periods (often around Landon, who to his credit, takes it all in his stride) that give the impression that they don’t take things very seriously. They also drink excessively on several occasions, which makes me wonder how they are keeping their business running.
The second is well, a strange quirk that Cami has that I just couldn’t wrap my head around. She doesn’t wear panties. Like, at all. She obviously wears a bra because there are sex scenes with her and Landon where he removes it, but she doesn’t like panty lines and she doesn’t like wearing a thong, so she goes commando. Now, I’ve heard of men doing the same thing (and truthfully this strikes me as equally uncomfortable) and of course there are often scenes in romance novels where the women conveniently leave off their underwear for seduction purposes, but all the time? Really? That just seems unhygienic and strange to me. Maybe there are legions of women who go around without panties all the time. But I’m obviously in the minority having never heard of it being a thing before.
Finally, there just isn’t enough conflict in the story to keep me wondering how things are going to end. Cami and Landon had their teenage crushes, now they’re dating and by mid story they are obviously committed to each other. Some of the scenes are a bit repetitious (Landon has a habit of tucking Cami’s hair behind her ear) and their internal monologues again tend to be on the less mature side. Even the idea that Landon might move away for another job is dealt with swiftly and without any angst. While there are a few emotional scenes between them, they come very late in the story, by which point it’s clear that nothing is going to keep them apart.
On the plus side, Landon and Cami are quite likable characters. Landon is understandably upset that he’s no longer going to be able to fly planes in the Navy. While taking over his father’s construction company is something he’s capable of, having worked for his dad as a teenager, it’s not a career goal. In fact, that’s part of his problem – he doesn’t know quite what he’s going to do with his life now. He only knows that whatever happens, he wants Cami to be part of it. He makes a concerted effort to show her that he is in it for the long haul, and I appreciate that he doesn’t try to get her into bed right from the start but wants to take things slowly. For her part, Cami is a really friendly and nice woman. She’s loyal to her best friends, is concerned about their well-being and making their business a success. She values her friends opinions (and they hers) and they know all about her crush on Landon, so have plenty of advice for her. Landon and Cami definitely have some good chemistry going on between them and their love scenes are sweet and sexy. Cami also has a pet, a stray cat who finds his way into her apartment and becomes a new fixture in her life. He becomes Cami’s confidant when she is tired of her friends’ well-meaning but sometimes intrusive advice.
I think there is definitely an audience for this type of romance, even if it’s not going on my own personal favorites list. The story is predictable from start to finish with a few twists but nothing you don’t see coming. Close to You is a sweet friends-to-lovers story that will please readers looking for an easy, low-on-angst afternoon read.