Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter façade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.
Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.
When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.
“Sorry to interrupt.” Jackson didn’t look sorry at all. Peter might’ve hugged the guy if his arms hadn’t been laden with coats. “Do you mind taking these upstairs? We’re out of room here. Al says there should be some space in her wardrobe. Otherwise just leave them on her bed. Her room’s first on the right.”
Peter took them. “Sure thing.”
Stepping back, he squeezed through the crowd and headed for the stairs. Lifting the coats so they didn’t drag on the floor and trip him up, he turned on the landing and walked to where the first door on the right stood open.
He dropped the coats on the bed, grabbed one of the hangers that Allie had left on the cover, and hooked a red wool coat over it.
Turning, he paused at the sight of a large, ornately carved wardrobe. A smile played on his lips. The last time he’d seen one of these , it had been under far more interesting conditions.
No doubt he’d never see the girl again. A pity since she’d intrigued him far more than he’d have liked to admit. Who climbed into a wardrobe in an antique shop? And, the question that bugged him most, what had she meant with her comment about his not being a Narnia fan? And how did the teacup he’d been looking for for a decade fit into it all?
He’d almost prayed that they’d cross paths again but had stopped himself. It felt too trivial, too crazy. God had better things to be doing with His time than that. If He was going to do Peter any favors, he’d prefer it involved fixing his shoulder.
Swinging open the wardrobe door, Peter pushed a few hangers aside to make room for the coat, then shoved it in. It was a squeeze, but there might be room for a couple more.
He turned and walked back to the bed and picked up a designer-looking beige trench coat to go next. Settling it on a hanger, he turned. “Argh!”
The coat slipped from his hands and fell onto the floor like a sandcastle collapsing under a wave. He blinked. Once. Twice. Just to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating.
There she sat. The Narnian wood nymph. Perched on the edge of the wardrobe, boot-clad feet on the floor, clothing swinging around her head, like it was the most natural thing in the world.
There is definitely a unique flavour to Kara Isaac’s novels. I’m not sure whether it’s the literary themes, the non-American settings, or maybe just the accent 😉 (says the Australian!), but I like it. I like it a lot. I just wish it were easier to quantify in a review!
This novel was every bit as engaging as Close to You, but with a more subdued tone to both the humour and the characters. In Close to You, Allie and Jackson each started out with a sense of grievance, and tended to be feisty, defensive, even sardonic, in their interactions. They gave me plenty of LOL moments! Emelia and Peter, on the other hand, are burdened by the need to atone for sins of the past, and you could often feel that weight in their interactions. Between these two, the humour arose more from those quirky, wry, or slightly eccentric moments that tickle your funny bone.
Emelia arrives in Oxford at the beginning of this novel with one objective in mind: to save SpringBoard, the charity founded by the woman who died as a result of a story Emelia wrote. Her obsession with hiding in wardrobes and looking for Narnia adds a delightfully whimsical element to the story, but there is a poignant story behind it that comes to light as the novel unfolds. And it turns out that this, too, is a way in which Emelia is trying to atone for a death in her past.
Peter cannot accept that he will never again experience the incredible rush of competing and winning at the highest level in his field. Aside from anything else, he needs to do it for his cousin. She could have been an Olympic rower herself, until she began mixing with the wrong crowd. The last thing she said to him before she died was that he would win the gold for both of them. She, alone, believed he could come back from his injury.
Peter has also spent his life trying to cover his older brother’s backside – making sure their parents don’t know the extent of his drunken escapades or that he’s currently living with his girlfriend (when she hasn’t kicked him out), and collecting him from jail with annoying regularity. And yet the enmity between them remains. What will it take for his brother to forgive him? Or to get himself sorted out?
Peter and Emelia have some wonderful chemistry, but they also have a fundamental difference: Peter is a believer, and Emelia isn’t. And that’s only the beginning of what lies between them. All the chemistry in the world can’t cover that chasm. But God can, and I loved the way in which atonement and forgiveness are such foundational themes of the story without becoming overbearing. And that is as much a struggle for Peter, as a believer, as it for Emelia.
All in all, this is a wonderful, heartfelt, Narnia-enriched story. Allie and Jackson are back, too, and their story continues a little here. (Although it won’t matter if haven’t read Close to You, you may prefer to read it first.) I can’t wait to see what Kara Isaac has for us next!
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 11 October 2016
Publisher: Howard Books
Author’s website: http://www.karaisaac.com/
Read my review for Close to You.