Pros: Wonderful characters; interesting family relationships; delightful suspense
Rating: 5 out of 5
Jordan Sampson is ready for a change. Her daughter seems to be pulling away from her. Her best friend is a drama queen. Her job as a homicide detective isn’t exactly easy street. So she goes to her 15-year high school reunion, where she meets up with her old cheerleading team as well as Clint Cooper, her high school sweetheart. Of course no reunion in a suspense novel could go off without a hitch, and it’s less than 24 hours before the first body turns up: one of the former cheerleaders. Jordan finds herself trying to catch a killer who’s hunting not only her old high school friends, but probably her as well. At the same time, she’s dealing with her daughter’s moodiness, Clint’s single-minded pursuit of her, and her best friend’s dramatics. It’s going to be a difficult—and possibly deadly—holiday season!
Up Close and Personal is the second Carla Cassidy suspense I’ve read, and it’s every bit as intense and delightful as the first! She achieves an enviable balance and blend of suspense and romance, neither one pushing the other to the side. In particular I love her depiction of family relationships. Jordan doesn’t have some sort of idealized friendship with her ex-husband—there are hurt feelings and plenty of annoyances there—but neither do they have the stereotypical stormy relationship. They’re each doing their best for their daughter, and that forces them to try to relate to each other in some sort of mature manner.
I also love Jordan’s relationship with her daughter. She’s trying to balance a desire to be both mother and friend to Mandy, and she’s worrying over Mandy’s moods. Her daughter seems to not want to be with her, and while Jordan desperately wants to know why that is, she’s also afraid to push her on the matter. The relationship and Jordan’s confusion over it felt very real and engaging. The best-friend-drama-queen is a nice touch as well; usually the best friend in a romance novel has certain set roles to play, and this time things played out quite differently.
The romance is sweet. Clint and Jordan had a tough time in high school. She wasn’t ready for sex, and he couldn’t handle a relationship without it. So although he kept coming back to her, they also kept falling apart. Now they’re both all grown up: she’s ready for a more intimate relationship, and he’s ready to be patient. It isn’t overly easy for them to get past their high school problems, but I’m also happy to note that Carla doesn’t artificially try to string things out with too many misunderstandings or exaggerated hurt feelings. Clint and Jordan make a wonderful couple, with enjoyable chemistry.
I feel as though I’m neglecting the suspense angle in this review so far, which isn’t fair, because it’s wonderful! There’s plenty of tension, the investigation and the people working on it are interesting and engaging, and the mystery is a good one. As usual, of course, it’s hard to say too much about it for fear of giving something away. I really enjoyed the dynamics of the detectives assigned to the case—there, too, you’ll find some great personalities and relationships that impact the hunt for the killer in unusual ways.
If you enjoy romance/suspense crossovers, definitely give one of Carla Cassidy’s books a try! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, particularly if you appreciate good character writing.