Come A Little Closer
I’ve read a lot of Dorothy Garlock novels during my many years of being a romance reader and I’ve been a fan of most of them. Her gift is her ability to get into the hearts, minds, and times of her characters. Sometimes the reality she presents is harsh. I like, though, that she is unflinching in her desire to capture not the best of us but the truth of us.
Christina Tucker is ready to be free of the war but not quite ready to head home to Minnesota. She chooses instead to answer the call for a country nurse, practicing rural medicine from the small town of Longstock, Wisconsin. When Dr. Samuel Barlow picks her up from the train station and rushes them both to the nearest tragedy, she finds herself a bit overwhelmed. She’d expected to have at least a day to settle in! But her boss is a whirlwind, shuttling her about to everywhere but her boarding house. At least she can expect a proper welcome when she accepts the dinner invitation he extends. Joining him at his sister’s house sounds like the only shot she has at getting a decent meal and a chance to sit down. But the meal is anything but a peaceful interlude. Tyler Sutter, nephew to the good doctor and a recently returned war veteran, makes sure she knows just how unhappy he is to be sitting at the table with an outsider.
Tyler Sutter came back from the war in one piece but he certainly didn’t return unscathed. It was hard enough playing second fiddle to perfect older brother Holden all his life. Now, rather than coming home to a bit of peace in his mother’s house, he instead has to deal with Holden’s PTSD. The town thinks Holden’s weird case of trembling and shaking whenever met with the slightest challenge occurs due to cowardice. Tyler is frustrated and embarrassed by the whole thing, feeling forced to stay and help his mother but not understanding why Holden won’t at least explain what happened to make him change so much. Now Tyler has made a jerk of himself in front of the beautiful new nurse working with his uncle. Will she be able to look beyond his boorish behavior and see the kind soul beneath? Or will she be one more person to take a good look and find him wanting?
Tyler has competition, though. Holden Sutter is a man trapped by the past. But it looks like the present is offering him a future in the form of Christina Tucker. Can he find the courage to reach out and grab it?
Christina is not pleased with her involvement with the Barlow-Holden family. Dr. Barlow is an irascible old coot, as likely to insult a patient as give them comfort. Holden Sutter gives her quite the set down when she dares to try and help with his problems. Tyler simply seems to live to insult and provoke her. Things are bad enough that she considers just leaving the whole mess and heading home to Minnesota. But slowly she realizes that she fits into this strange, hurting community. And that the Sutter brothers are not the biggest louts she has every met; one of them is in fact the love of her life.
Let me just say right off that Christina is wrong and her first assessment of Tyler as the biggest lout she has ever met is right. He spends much of the book insulting his family, blowing up at Christina, and generally being a jerk. He lacks compassion, has a chip on his shoulder from his childhood and is just generally an alpha ass. I couldn’t like him.
Holden begins as a jerk too but he pretty quickly shows himself to be more than that. He wants to be a teacher and is afraid that the PTSD has put an end to that forever. As he takes his first, tentative steps toward getting well he shows himself to be a man of honor, sincerity, and compassion.
Christina is an average heroine. She is compassionate and caring, a bit of a do gooder who incessantly pokes her nose where it doesn’t belong (but she means well). Another saving grace is that she actually helps when she intrudes. But she is an emotional basket case, unsure who she wants to be with and why.
There is suspense story of sorts here where two separate people try to hurt Christina. Luther is motivated by revenge against Dr. Barlow. The stalker is driven by her unrequited love for one of the Sutter brothers. Neither plot line added much to the book aside from giving the hero an opportunity to beat people up for his lady love.
What Garlock does right in this novel is capture small town America during those first months after the war very well. She also shows us the destructive things people do to deal with the horror of what they have experienced. She simplifies to an extent how the problems can be solved, but she does a good job of highlighting that it begins by someone reaching out and being willing to listen.
Those facts though did not make up for the fact that this book did not satisfy in the romance department. The love triangle reflected badly on the heroine; one of the heroes should never have been in the game after the way he treated her to begin with. Unless you are a die hard fan of this author, I would give the book a miss.