The Nearness of You
The Nearness of You had such promise: a hard-bitten photographer who travels to the world’s hotspots in pursuit of newsworthy photographs, is swept away by a small-town gal who’s seen nothing of the world. Despite the finessed start, the story falters almost immediately, brought low by overwriting and clichés.
Lily Denton lives in the small town of Hooper’s Crossing in upstate New York with her father, the mayor of the town. Her mother passed away when Lily was quite young and thus a tempering influence in Lily’s life vanished, leaving her to the exacting nature of her father. At twenty-one, she’s hot to leave small-town life behind and move to the big city, so she makes plans with one of her closest friends to do so. However, just as they’re running away, Lily develops cold feet and returns home. For some part of the book, till she meets the hero, she deeply regrets not seizing the chance when she had it.
Lily returns to her humdrum life of working at the library under the thumb of a strict disciplinarian and looking after her father, interspersed with helping the town get ready for its fall festival. Lily is completely unaware that her best friend is in love with her and an infamous burglar has her in his sights. And in the midst of this romantic angst, Lily meets Boone Tatum and is instantly smitten.
Boone is Life magazine’s most respected, but troublesome, photographer. He lives in New York City and is an avid globetrotter. One day, while in pursuit of a cover-worthy picture, he ends up on private property and is thereby promptly hauled off to jail. His editor bails him out, but decides to teach him a lesson, and so he sends Boone to Hooper’s Crossing to cover their fall festival. Boone’s unceasing complaints about being given an assignment beneath him get more strident when he finds out he has to shepherd Clive, a rookie reporter, through his first big story.
However, his complaints get instantly muted when he arrives and sees Lily for the first time.
What will the world-famous photographer do? Will he give up his high-profile, roving life for the settled life of a small-towner, or will Lily give up her safe, familiar existence to roam around the world seeking adventure with Boone? It takes a skilled author to show the transformation necessary in a character to make drastic changes in his or her life, especially one they’d professed to so love at the beginning of the book. Otherwise, the story ends up being the sacrifice of one character’s life for the love of the other character, neither of which assures me of the health and longevity of their HEA.
My biggest issue with The Nearness of You is Boone himself. This is what he thinks of his cub reporter colleague:
Clive Negly wasn’t much to look at. His department store suit, complete with bow tie, hung awkwardly on his thin frame, like he was a boy playing dress-up, parading around in his father’s wardrobe. A prominent Adam’s Apple, dimpled cheeks, and a smattering of acne at the corners of his mouth didn’t do him any favors either. Oddly enough, Clive’s strawberry-blond hair was already thinning on top, not the least big disguised by his rather severe attempt at a comb-over.
I get that Boone’s a photographer so he’s highly observant. But these observations are all made through a mean-spirited lens. And he treats Clive like crap, constantly needling him, denigrating him, and acting so put-upon to all of Clive’s friendly overtures. He even considers physically pushing him into doing something until an alternative thought occurs to him. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he made Clive go through an hours-long journey in the company of a dog even though Clive was severely allergic to dogs, because Boone had no intention of leaving his pet behind. Clive was someone his editor had asked Boone to mentor, and this is most certainly not how a mentor treats a mentee. Where is the graciousness and kindness one expects from an adviser?
When Lily refuses to let Boone, a complete stranger, take her picture, he thinks:
For the life of him, Boone couldn’t understand why she’d turned down his offer. Most women he knew especially those from small out-of-the-way places like this, would have jumped at the chance if an honest-to-goodness photographer asked to snap their picture.
Despite being utterly fascinated with her, he doesn’t have a moment of grace where she’s concerned.
I freely admit that I’m not a fan of the fated mates trope – that the minute you lay eyes on “the one” you know you are meant to be together forever and ever. It may work in paranormals, but not in historical fiction. And the fated mates’ phenomenon actually deflates the sexual tension in a story rather than intensifying it, which I believe is the purpose. The exquisiteness of the sexual energy in a romance comes from not comprehending one’s emotions and not knowing what the other person is feeling. If you acknowledge from the first moment that They Are The One, then there’s no reason to question yourself, to worry over it, to lose sleep over it, to feel a magnetic push-n-pull in every interaction.
The mystery subplot is set up very nicely in the beginning, however, as the story progresses, it feels less integral to the plot, appearing to be nothing other than a predetermined black moment to the story.
I feel I should point out that the two main characters do not meet until a third of the way through the book, which didn’t bother me as much as it may bother some readers. I will admit, though, that for the type of story this book is supposed to be, the lead-in is almost too slow, and this then means that the last third is too compacted.
I could go on about The Nearness of You, but suffice it to say that this is not a book I would recommend to anyone.