Spangler, Rachel. “Close to Home”, (A Darlington Romance), Bywater Books, 2017.
Opening the Closet Door
Kelly Rolen is a smart and focused CPA who has worked hard to build her career and her life in Darlington, Illinois, her hometown. When her father suffered a debilitating stroke during the busiest time of her year—tax season, everything changed and way off schedule. She had to hire an intern to meet her deadlines and so she hired young Elliot Garza, a talented accounting student who has personality plus and focused on finishing her internship so she can move onto a dream job in the nation’s capitol. After all, there is not a lot going on in Darlington. She is very complete in her job but she is less sure about her dealings with Kelly who comes across as demanding.
It is only natural that Kelly is so demanding. Darlington is her home town and it is one of those places where everyone knows everyone else and she has always worked with her dad so when he is hospitalized just as tax season is beginning, Kelly is left with a lot to do. That plus visiting her dead puts her under heavy stress. Just at the same time, we meet Elliott who needs to do an internship to become qualified as a CPA. She dreams of working with the underprivileged and fighting for them.
Elliot needs a CPA internship to get her qualification, then she will be off to follow her dream of fighting for the unprivileged that suffer from the complexity of tax laws. When Elliot is placed with Kelly, we see the differences between the two women. Kelly is in the closet and determined to stay there which also means that she has no intention of getting close to Elliott. On the opposite side, Elliott is determined to be great worker (and to explore her boss a bit).
This is the third of the Darlington romances and the first that I have read. I understand that they all share the same location and cast of characters. I had no idea what to expect as often happens as a gay male reading lesbian literature and I find that I have to be a little more certain about what I have to say. When I was a graduate student, I took a course in feminist literary criticism and was taught how to read as a woman. Before I had never considered there was a difference in the way we read but now I consciously try to read as a woman but it does always work. Here I think it did because of the way author Rachel Spangler used emotions. I also think that the setting of small-town Darlington with its close-knit community dared me to try to find my way in and so I had a challenge.
This is not a novel of action since nothing much really happens at first. Both Elliott and Kelly have what to learn and Kelly’s not coming-out casts her as an incomplete character. What is really wonderful here is the both of the main characters here are not particular likeable (to say the least) yet the author manages to have us both caring about and liking them as the plot progresses. It is also an interesting study of two people who seem to be mismatched in the beginning but who later find ways to understand and ultimately love one another. We quickly understand the redemptive power of love as well as why it was so difficult for Kelly to be out and we surely see some aspects in our own lives as we struggled with coming-out. Because of tongues wagging and the useless properties of gossip, Kelly would not come out. She really only had her father and Beth, her ex-girlfriend to count as friends and she lives in a town where everyone knew who she was. When we consider that her dad’s days might be numbered, we realize just what she has to deal with.