Closer Than Close
by Bettye Griffin, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-276-2


Can a very successful and very rich woman find happiness with a mailroom clerk? Heck, can a woman be more successful than her partner without his ego causing the whole relationship to go under? Bettye Griffin attempts to answer this question in her latest novel, Closer Than Close. She's also back to doing romantic contemporary tales that slants more towards chick-lit. This story is mostly heroine-centered, and the heroine even dates another guy in the middle of the story.

Ivy Smith, as I've mentioned, is rich, successful, and there is nowhere to go but up for this lady. In her late thirties, she has seen a string of relationships crumble because the man usually cannot stand the fact that she makes more money than he. Trust her to fall in love with the mailroom clerk Raymond Jones then. Love does make fools of people, doesn't it?

It all started when Ivy decides to surf the website of her old high school. She has been busy, no time for catching up with old friends, you know, but she realizes that she may have overdone the no time thing when she discovers her name listed on the alumni website "Classmates Who've Passed Away" page. Holy sheet, time to wear some sexy hot dress and stun them all in the high school reunion. But first she needs a date. And that mailroom clerk guy is pretty cute.

Raymond has two very adorable and not at all monstrous or too-cute kids. Ivy likes them too. But before I can actually get to the good parts, I am subjected to a long, tedious series of Ivy having lunch, talking, or commiserating with her friends in too many scenes that do nothing to further the story. In a chick-lit novel where the theme is a modern neurotic woman's dealing with life, these chapters may be more appropriate - hence my suggestion that fans of that genre may find this book much more interesting.

Only late towards the end does Closer Than Close finally come to life. Raymond's potentially shrewish mother character becomes a very likable person, Raymond gets a personality, and conflict finally kicks in to give the two leads a wake-up call. No more lunch chit-chats or long descriptions of Ivy's shopping spree, thank goodness. I especially love how Raymond, in a fit of insecurity, suggests that they slow down. When he finally decides to give her a call, he realizes that she's been out partying with her friends all the while they are apart. Hilarious!

In the end, the author resolves the age-old question of just how much the man's ego can take his woman being the breadwinner in a rather simplistic way. I'm not too convinced that Raymond won't suggest another "slow down" period again, but at the same time, thanks to the author never letting Ivy even compromise one single value of her pride, self-worth, or success for love, I'm sure Ivy will move on fine if Raymond is just another idiot in her book of sad losers that let her get away. In fact, it occurred to me to even wonder why these two even want to marry at all. They already have kids. Why not just do a Kurt and Goldie and cohabitate? Sure, it's more "romantic" to marry, but with all that money involved, getting un-married can be messy.

Oh, I forgot. I'm supposed to be romantic here? Okay. Closer Than Close is padded with way too many filler scenes in the middle, causing what could have been amusing look at love when the gender roles are reversed to end up something like a dull party where the fun only begins too late to save things. This is one of those books that would have been very good if it is somehow shorter.

Still, it's worth a look, if only for a heroine who actually goes out to have fun when the man stupidly expects her to wait and pine by the phone for his call, heh heh heh.

Rating: 74


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