Virginia Kantra is a favorite of many series romance readers, and I was curious to try her first single title novel. Though Close-Up starts off with a promising plot, pacing more suited to a shorter format, together with an imbalance between the suspense and romance plots, make it a rather average read.
Lexie Scott, a photographer living in rural Virginia, is determined to forget her former life as the daughter of the head of the FBI. However, she finds herself kidnapped by a religious/survivalist cult based in North Carolina and, as the novel opens, she has escaped her kidnappers and while on the run in the forest, crosses paths with Jack Miller.
Jack, a former cop who has been watching the group in North Carolina because he fears for the life of one of its members, is not happy about having to rescue Lexie. While he initially resents her for drawing him away from his original mission, he starts to feel attracted to her as the two work together to unravel the mysteries of the cult.
No one could ever claim Kantra’s novel is lacking in action. The Branch Davidian-style cult featured in this story will no doubt remind many readers of Waco and other similar incidents. Though the hold that the cult had over the inhabitants of the area seemed just a little implausible to me, I did find myself curious to see how this aspect of the story would turn out.
However, the situation involving the cult was so intense and played such an important role in the story that it overshadowed almost everything else. The romance, though allotted a great deal of space in the book, simply paled in comparison. First of all, Lexie and Jack were not the most appealing couple Kantra has ever written. We are told much about their backgrounds, but the characters are not really shown to the reader. It is hard to feel close to the characters, and after finishing the book, I even had trouble remembering much about them. In addition, the romance between Lexie and Jack develops at a rather improbable pace. Where most people would be scared witless and running for cover in the face of some of the situations in this story, these two stop for a quick grope before getting back into the action. This sort of thing pulls me right out of the story every time.
If you don’t mind reading an action story periodically interrupted by bursts of improbably steamy romance, this one might work for you. However, the rough pacing and my inability to identify with the main couple in this novel made it merely an average read for me. Virginia Kantra has written some good series romances in the past, but I think she has a way to go on developing her single title romances.