Come a Little Bit Closer by Bella Andre (2013)
Come a Little Bit Closer is the seventh book in Bella Andre’s featuring the Sullivans (specifically, the San Francisco Sullivans) and tells the story of Smith Sullivan, mega-movie star and the woman he falls in love with Valentina Landon. The Sullivan books don’t have to be read in order, but they are certainly more enjoyable when you do. Case in point: one of the supporting characters in this book and Valentina’s sister, Tatiana Sullivan, will return in the tenth book of the series, Just to Be With You. That book makes several mentions to the movie that Smith is producing, directing and starring in during this book, Gravity. Another kind of easter egg is that at the close of this book, there’s a reference to the Maverick Group, which is a nod to another of Andre’s series that she co-authors with Jennifer Skully. To recap then, you can completely read these books in any order and you can skip books if you don’t they will appeal to you. On a personal note, I’ve skipped books three and eight, but read all of the others in the San Francisco and Seattle Sullivans series.
There are three watchwords around which much of the thematic content of the book revolves–close, closer, and gravity. Not going to spoil that for you, but if you do pick the book up, make sure to pay attention to Andre’s use of those words in particular. It gives a lot of insight into Smith and Valentina’s needs and their relationships with each other and their families. As alluded to above, the story finds Smith starting the first day of production on a film where he wrote the screenplay himself and is producing, directing and acting in the film. It is a major turning point in his career, and he is intent upon not losing his focus at such a crucial moment. And yet, he can’t help but be distracted by his co-star’s sister, Valentina Landon. As Tatiana’s business manager, she will be on the set everyday, and finding a way to ignore his attraction is part of his internal struggle. The love story between Smith and Valentina takes place against the backdrop of a film in production, and it’s no coincidence that the film is also a love story, where the male protagonist bares many similarities to Smith, his creator. One aspect of the novel that makes this book stand out among the other books in this series is that Andre plays with the narrative structure, showing the scenes that are being filmed by narrating the events so that readers can follow the parallel story. She does this by showing it through Valentina’s point-of-view, though it’s not necessarily true to how we would absorb it if we were watching the actors play out the scene. All we would see is the dialogue, the characters’ body language, the background; we wouldn’t have privy to the characters’ inner thoughts or the back story, but because Valentina has read the script, in a way she is our interpreter, our narrator, filling in the gaps between the dialogue..
Throughout the series, Smith Sullivan makes brief appearances, and there are times when his absence makes him a presence in the other books. Consequently, it really is a delight to finally read his story, and as is sometimes the case in a series where one character’s story is long-awaited, I’m glad to report that I wasn’t at all disappointed with him or his story. Smith’s character is a fully developed and realized character at the end of the story, and though perhaps he doesn’t go through as much of a change as other protagonists, there are bits and pieces that demonstrate that falling in love with Valentina has pushed him into unfamiliar territory and into behavior that is wholly uncharacteristic of him. In some ways, he is your cliche character who is in some way famous (here an actor, but Andre has already given us this trope with in Marcus and Nicola’s story, Ryan and Vicki’s story and will use it again in Mia and Ford’s story). He doesn’t ever think he will be loved for who he really is beneath the fame and celebrity. He has millions of adoring fans but none of them really knows who he is. While that is the case, Smith is unique enough to hold your attention.
Valentina is also a likeable, believable character and she is strong enough to stand up to Smith and say exactly what is on her mind but she also conventional in that beneath the strength there is vulnerability and a fragile need for love. She is also conventional in her insistence that she will not date an actor, providing Andre with a built-in way of increasing the unresolved sexual tension. Another concern in a series like this where Smith’s story was long-awaited is that the mate chosen by the beloved character isn’t close to who you would imagine him finding a happily ever after with. Again, this is something that doesn’t happen and Valentina is definitely not a disappointment. She easily becomes a character readers can fall in love with and who easily fits effortlessly into the Sullivan clan.
I’ve had this book on my to-read shelf for a long time, and honestly, I hadn’t started reading it for the very reasons listed above–I was worried I would be disappointed. Instead, this was the perfect book for a Saturday when all I wanted was to spend the day on the couch getting lost in a good book. Come a Little Bit Closer is actually my second-favorite book in the series, and the thing that makes that statement interesting to me is that Just to Be With You (the book featuring Tatiana Landon and Ian Sullivan) is by far my favorite book in the series. Somehow, Bella Andre got it right with these two Sullivans and the sisters they fall for. It didn’t all five stars when I rated it after reading it (the end seems to drag a bit) but it is definitely one of my recommended reads and gets a star next to it on my list of books read for the year, reminding me it was a favorite. Give it a try. If you like contemporary romance, I think you’ll enjoy it.