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Kirkus Reviews

A widow finds marriage and passion with two brothers.

This novel from Catterall (Let Love Be My Judge, 2016) centers on Christine Delaney, a 44-year-old widow who’s retired from the business she took over when her husband died. She has a comfortable life—grown children, beautiful grandchildren, a nice house, financial freedom— and when she attends one of her daughter’s wedding-party events, she’s content to enjoy the music and the sight of all the revelers. Then she spots—and is spotted by—Henri Chartress, the handsome, charismatic trumpet player for the band. Chemistry sparks between the two right away despite Christine’s somewhat stiff initial reaction to the very idea of being seduced (“I find you extremely attractive and very sexy, but I do not want sex,” she tells Henri, “so it is coffee or nothing”). But such lines prove little obstacle for a trumpet player with a diamond earring, and soon the two become emotionally involved as they get to know each other, a slow, organic process Catterall describes calmly and well, including the sexual element Christine is surprised to find herself enjoying so much. After a major break, the two impulsively marry. But the darker aspects of Henri’s impetuous nature soon begin to sour the relationship for Christine. She becomes disillusioned with him and then slowly attracted to his quiet, reserved brother Andre despite his involvement in the shocking incident that changed her attachment to Henri. Her connection to Andre deepens as the frank novel progresses. Catterall writes it all with a somewhat flat prose line—characters tell each other things in expositional bursts, the author supplies little effective description, and Christine narrates her own story in an unbroken string of unadorned declarative sentences—but also with an enjoyable acknowledgment that adult sexual relationships aren’t the stuff of simplistic fairy tales. The story of Christine’s gradual awakening to a more complex and challenging life makes for consistently compelling reading.

A complicated and refreshingly cleareyed tale of middle-aged sex and love.

Foreword Reviews

As a perfect reminder that love is everywhere, this romance soars.

Hold Me Close and Closer Still is Marion Catterall’s sweet, sincere love story about the revitalizing power of romance. Every dog has its day, and Christine Delaney is about to have hers. An attractive, middle-age widow, she’s enjoying success in every part of her life. Her business is doing well, she owns her own home, and has two beautiful grandchildren. Aside from some lingering osteoarthritis, life is a bed of roses—with room between the sheets for the right man.

After a marriage to a chronically ill man, Christine is released into the world as a fully formed, confident single woman. “I would not say that I was frigid,” she says, “but rather that I could not see what all the fuss was about in sex.” She enjoys time with her girlfriends, her family, and her dog—and doesn’t seem to notice that anything is missing until she meets Henri Chartress. They have instant chemistry, and despite her strict convent school upbringing, Christine finds that her relationship feels totally natural. “I should have felt dirty and cheap,” she says, “but I did not. Instead, I felt proud.”

Catterall has an easy, lively touch that makes Hold Me Close and Closer Still a fun romance. Christine’s lack of insecurity is refreshing, and she takes on love’s challenges with a sense of maturity that is satisfying and genuine. Henri, as it turns out, is not only a talented trumpet player, but also a wealthy man, with a massive estate at his disposal. Christine takes all this in stride, adapting to Henri’s high life—diamonds, horses, yachts, and trips to Spain. Christine is satisfied with less than Henri, however, who soon begins to ask for more. As Christine longs for domestic bliss, Henri pushes her limits, in and out of the bedroom. Marriage doesn’t tame him, arguing doesn’t subdue him, and talking doesn’t convince him. An affair, even, doesn’t bridge the gap between them. Christine renews her commitment to Henri again and again, but will it be enough to keep them together?

Catterall has a knack for storytelling and a comfortable, easy to read tone that makes Christine feel familiar from the first page. She sets the stage with a few choice details that build deliciously, such as with Christine’s home: “to the rear were fields, woods, pine tree areas, and walks that led to the cove inlets on the coast where the tide washed them from time to time.” The understated imagery is rich but not distracting, keeping the focus on Christine’s transformation into a sophisticated, passionate woman.

A perfect read for a long weekend getaway, Hold Me Close and Closer Still is a reminder that love is everywhere, no matter what our circumstances may be.

Blueink Review

Heartbreaking, sensual, and largely uplifting, Hold Me Close and Closer Still is about one woman’s journey to find true love and happiness.

Christine Delaney is a 44-year-old widow who is in a rut. Her life since her husband’s passing has becoming boring and repetitive. Although she has plenty of friends and family, she doesn’t realize that what her life lacks is romance.

That changes when she meets Henri Chartress, a wealthy French musician. They share a night of passion, and Christine believes that their brief fling ends there. Fortunately, they reconnect and resume their intense, romantic relationship, but even with all of Henri’s money, happily-ever-after is not something that can be bought. From the beginning, Christine and Henri’s relationship is fraught with drama. They struggle with infidelity, insecurity, and Henri’s overbearing ways.

Throughout these emotional ups-and-downs, the story sometimes falters as Christine becomes increasingly unsympathetic. Best described as weak and indecisive, Christine is a frustrating character who allows her life and future to be determined by the men in her life. Even after she marries Henri and takes her place as “lady of the house,” she refuses to take responsibility for the trajectory of her life, and her role as a “doormat” can be exhausting.

In an interesting twist after her marriage to Henri, Christine allows herself to become involved with Andre, Henri’s brother. Their relationship is immediately intense, and now Christine is faced with an impossible choice: whether to save her marriage or leave everything behind to pursue a relationship with Andre.

In spite of Christine’s questionable likeability, the overall story is fast paced and complex, with plenty of drama and breathtaking emotional upheaval. The sex scenes are sensual, tasteful, and varied (with a single exception involving a non-consensual act that is necessary to the plot). Fans of contemporary romance willing to overlook the issues with Christine will find Hold Me Close and Closer Still a satisfying read.