Hold Me Close–what a fun title!
Why? Well, unlike in most historical romance, Hold Me Close doesn’t have a romantic significance. Okay, maybe I am wrong. You see, “hold me close” in this sense signifies one character’s desire for the Lord to “hold her close” and keep her from wandering from Him. And if you add the Lord’s comparisons of the church as His bride and Song of Solomon, I suppose you could stretch it… but I’d rather not.
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Marguerite Gray set this book in Charleston, South Carolina in 1772–back when it was still called “Charles Town.” The town teems with disgruntled colonists and angry Loyalists, and the combination becomes a powder keg ready to explode. See what I did there? I amuse myself. And I digress.
One of the loveliest things about this book is that the author based the main characters on actual characters who lived during the time. Louis, a French Huguenot, and Elizabeth, a transplanted Bostonian who loves her new home, become friends after Louis arrives on a quest to find purpose and direction in his life.
As tensions increase, Louis must decide if he will follow self or the Lord, and Elizabeth must decide if she will share her disloyal political leanings or if she will keep them to herself.
I have to say, near the end, my sap-o-meter went into overdrive. No joke. The protestations of love and devotion became much more than I prefer , but also much more in line with what most historical romance offers. They are NOT inappropriate or graphic. It’s just that I’m just not a sappy kind of gal.
Actually, I found this book difficult to review. In fact, I won’t leave an Amazon review because I refuse to apply a star rating. You see, I truly enjoyed this story. I found it engaging, and I haven’t read much historical Southern history that wasn’t centered almost a hundred years later. Most American historical Christian fiction concentrates on the 1800’s and 1900’s. There are some Puritan books, but I haven’t seen as many from this era and particularly from this far south. I also really enjoyed the characters and look forward to a second book. Yes, I will buy the second book and will read it. I look forward to it.
But this book has some problems that make it impossible to leave a 4 or 5-star rating, and I don’t think it’s right to give it a 2 or 3 star based on how I’ve rated books in the past. Well, I just decided to leave stars out of it and share several of my problems and praises with the book. They likely won’t be problems for everyone. After all, this is fiction.
The problems I found with Hold Me Close?
- The language is terribly modern to me. While I don’t think that historical fiction has to be written in the style of the book’s time period, I found it disarming to hear a Frenchman in 1772 use diction that you hear on TV. And this had turns of phrases so decidedly modern, that I couldn’t ignore them. They jolted me out of the book. There was the bit about a Huguenot mother telling her son that as long as he had a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” she didn’t care what church he attended. I checked with my historical fiction editor because that felt off, and she verified that this is decidedly post-1950’s terminology. Additionally, the idea of whatever church you wanted–so very modern and unheard of at the time. I think I understand what she attempted to do, but it really did take me out of the story. I doubt many will find dance cards and perambulators, in pre-19th century America to be anachronous, butI double checked them too. Neither was in England or America until the 1830’s at the earliest. But again–it’s not going to affect most people’s reading pleasure. Just something that I noted for those who find those little details annoying.
- I can tell that she must have studied the craft of writing. All the “rules” (show don’t tell, few dialogue tags, use action beats, don’t dump info) she is careful to follow, but it actually comes out in a difficult to read way sometimes. Her writing is not bad. I’ve read enough of that to assure you that I don’t consider it bad. But because of how it works out, sometimes it becomes a bit cumbersome. In particular, the info dump spots (she masked most into dialogue) were a bit much. Still, compared to MOST info-dump scenes I see, they weren’t too terribly rough and my original ones in my first book were.
- I found what I consider character inconsistencies. I think Ms. Gray used some of them to show that we don’t always know our own minds. Louis thinks he knows what he wants and does the opposite. Elizabeth insists someone in her life is just a friend of her father’s, and then becomes clear there’s more to it. (Can’t explain what or it is huge spoiler material). The first can be easily dismissed by that “not knowing himself” thing, but the second was harder to swallow.
- My strongest objection is, I think, an accident. One line in the book says, “The hymns, inspired by God, sounded different.” I suspect the author meant/implied, “Inspired by a love of God” or something to that effect, but the words as written seriously bothered me. While, as I said, I do not think it was meant to imply that God directly inspired the words, it does read that way.
So do I recommend Hold Me Close?
Actually, I do, with the caveat that some will find these things hard to get past. Clean and interesting, the book did hold my attention, and despite the aforementioned issues, there were times I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what would happen next–particularly in the second half. As I said, I’ll buy the second. Look, it’s her first book. It’s not a “great book” but it is a good story! And really, I wouldn’t have wanted someone to read my first book, and “write me off” after that. Authors grow, we mature, we improve. So go on over to Amazon. Read the first three chapters. If it grabs you at all, know that the book really picks up in chapter 4.
Other blogger/reviewers have read and reviewed this book recently. Check out their blogs to get a balanced view of the book and its contents. This is just one opinion. Others have rated it very high!