Finding Mr. Right Next Door
There’s a saying that goes ‘here for a good time, not for a long time’, which perfectly describes the short (200 pages in e-book form) friends-to-lovers Finding Mr. Right Next Door.
Lexi Dean and Matt Freeman are renowned amongst the Station 1 fireteam of Dry Rock, CO for their “twenty-five-year-old-marriage”. They grew up together, work together, live “on adjacent lots”, and have a dog (I was pleasantly surprised Ballance ignored the make-a-man-hotter-by-giving-him-a-tiny-dog-to-cuddle-in-his-huge-arms trope and made it a mastiff). But after two decades, it looks like irreconcilable differences might end this pseudo-marriage. Lexi wants a “perfect marriage, perfect kids, perfect dog. And a white picket fence” and Matt is “pursuing anything with a pulse”. Then Lexi joins a dating website and sets her kitchen on fire (not because of the dating website), which results in her living with Matt while attempting to date. Matt is displeased at the intrusion of another rooster into his hen house, and pretty soon is laying claim to Lexi.
Finding Mr. Right Next Door is a great in-the-moment read, especially after the first twenty five percent, when it pulls a pop concert quick change and goes from a steady, Plain Jane romance to a romp. The writing is a hoot; clever, full of wordplay, and sexily observant. Lexi at one point finds Matt cooking shirtless and thinks “she was staring down a man who knew how to do sex better than any other in existence, and now his washboard abs were flavored with bacon”. Ballance makes the sex and foreplay itself feel original without diving into a war chest of I’ve-never-heard-of-that sex. She’s like an engineer making something cool out of two toilet paper rolls, some duct tape, and a cardboard box, except she’s an author with a man, a woman, a P and a V.
The downside of this book is that because Matt and Lexi have known each other so long, there’s nothing they don’t know about each other, and so the reader never really gets a chance to learn about either of them. And because their relationship (as friends and as lovers) doesn’t have any particular challenge to work on, there’s no opportunity for their distinctive personalities to be drawn out that way, either. I also had an issue with the lack of boundaries around family. Matt has a grandma who’s a chronic over-sharer about her sex life and the state of her underwear (she’d “checked herself into a retirement facility for the sole purpose of carousing with men”) and Matt literally starts toying with Lexi’s ladyparts under the table at a dinner with her parents. Please, people, I’m all for sexual expression, but not around blood relations.
Finding Mr. Right Next Door is a good choice if you want a book that is high on sex that’s augmented with emotional connection, but you don’t want to actually watch the creation of said emotional connection, and just want to spend your time turning pages with an amused smirk on your face.