Next-Door Nemesis is a lovely, fun contemporary romance that will put a smile on your face and provide a few hours of escape from the stress inspired by the oncoming holidays.
They were once best friends. Collins Carter and Nate (Nathaniel) Adams were nearly inseparable during their elementary school years, but high school saw a rift form in their relationship when Nate became popular and essentially ghosted Collins. That was just one of the many reasons she was thrilled to leave her suburban Ohio town and become a writer in California. But after going viral for having a screaming tantrum where she threatens to bury her lying, thieving ex while wearing nothing but stilettos and a silk robe, her years of screenwriting experience mean zilch. She’s jobless and with LA prices as they are, rapidly homeless as a result and therefore back at her parent’s house in their saccharine sweet small midwest town. In her mind, it’s a stopgap before she moves on to better things, but a small, dark piece of her soul fears it may turn permanent. Fortunately, she’s made a new friend in former classmate-turned-next-door-neighbor Ashleigh. Unfortunately, Nate still lives there, and they still can’t stand the sight of each other. He’s now a well-known and beloved realtor in their community, as well as an HOA board member for their neighborhood. Avoidance isn’t just futile, it’s literally impossible. They run into each other everywhere.
Then Nate comes up with the genius plan to force Collins to leave town by using the subdivision bylaws against her and her family. He promises to allow her father to keep his against-the-regulations landscaping if she scoots back to California. Collins is horrified by Nate’s lack of scruples (me, too) and is determined to fight fire with fire. She already allowed one man to steal her dreams, drive her from her home, and wreck her life, so she sure as hell isn’t going to let that happen twice. Her solution? If Nate wants to use the HOA to force her out, why doesn’t she use the upcoming election to become president of that body? She can both strip the tyrannical Nate of his power and maybe smear his (unearned) goody two-shoes reputation in the bargain.
Things don’t work out quite as planned, however. The more Collins and Nate bicker their way through the campaign, the more they realize how perfectly matched they are. Could their opposition really be hiding an irresistible attraction?
As a writer, Martin does several things very well. One of them is her secondary characters, and here she does an absolutely fantastic job with Ashleigh, Collins’ other bestie, Ruby, and Collins’ parents, especially her mom, Kimberly. Each of these women has a unique, interesting personality that serves as a great foil to Collins without them in any way being simple sycophantic cheerleaders for the heroine. They all challenge her to be better, but each has a different way of doing it. They also fit naturally into the story and don’t show up only to solve some problem but are an everyday, realistic part of Collins’ life. I loved them and hope to see them all again in a sequel.
I thoroughly enjoyed how Martin depicts suburban life as well. It’s a lot more 1950s sitcom than 2023 reality, but in a good way. It showed neighborhoods as we would like them to be, gives a charming sense of community to the story and provides a reason for both Collins and Nate, who grew up there, to be as wholesome as they are.
Martin weaves some wonderful humor into the tale, too – there’s a scene involving a flamingo and an inflatable Ben Franklin that had me literally laughing out loud. The underlying emotion of the story is an effervescent cheeriness that makes it fun to peruse.
My quibbles come with the moments that clash with everything I’ve written about above. Collins and Nate, as mentioned, are wholesome, down-to-earth midwesterners who are typically amiable, well-adjusted adults. I loved them and loved their low-key everyday romance, except at the start of the story, when they both act like unhinged lunatics, and their relationship is so childish it’s almost cringe-worthy. It’s as though they suffer from multiple personality disorder that is (mostly) miraculously cured at the thirty percent mark. Typically, when a big misunderstanding such as the one that caused a rift between them in high school occurs, I feel the author blows it out of proportion. In this case, I felt it was underplayed a bit. The underlying issue of communication, which, frankly, crosses over into their interactions as adults for the first portion of the book, wasn’t addressed quite to my satisfaction. Also, if you are in the nerd zone, it’s less easy to join the popular crowd than it is made to seem here.
Martin writes that new hybrid type of narrative, which is part women’s fiction, part romance. She’s brilliant at it – the female friendships she creates are awesome, and she does a simply fabulous job of giving her female leads a life. Collins has family, friends, acquaintances, work, opinions, and hobbies. Too many romances are just about lust or about getting consumed by love, but a believable HEA requires the couple to have a life connection, which requires actually having a life. Collins is definitely given that. However, a small problem arises from that which impacts the romance – an almost absentee hero. I loved what I saw of Nate, and he seemed like he would be perfect for Collins, but for the first half of the story, Nate is essentially missing in action. Aside from the rather slap-sticky moments we see of their feud, he just isn’t present in a way that allows the reader to really get to know him and understand why he’s a mentally unbalanced jerk around Collins (in fairness, she’s a crazy bitch around him, but at least we know why). Fortunately, that problem is more or less solved in the second half of the story, but we still had too little of him for my taste.
Not being perfect doesn’t mean you aren’t pretty darn good, though, and that is certainly the case with Next-Door Nemesis. If you are a fan of the author, a fan of humorous contemporary romance, or just looking for a good book with nice vibes, this is the story for you.
Recent Comments …
Hmm, isn’t sending your kid to a dangerous school the premise to just about half the YA books out there?…
Thanks for this review. Sounds cheesy as hell and not in a good or fun way
I enjoyed this more than you did but I too struggled with the premise. Unlike The Hunger Games where it…
Thank you . I read the free sample and the nonsense you expound on above was sufficiently grating to me…
It’s really special!
I was Shane when l was 10 ye old l love the theme song what a thing between Shane and…