The Girl Next Door
Chelsea M. Cameron’s The Girl Next Door treats the reader to a small-town romance between lifelong acquaintances. It’s a simple, sweet, low-conflict romance that’s perfectly adorable.
Following a series of financial failures that resulted in her losing her business in Boston, Iris Turner returns to Salty Cove, Maine, and accompanied by her Weimeraner, Dolly Parton, moves back into the home she grew up in. She gets a job waiting tables at The Lobster Pot, something she did in her teens. Iris is, in a phrase, Not Happy.
Jude Wicks was the bad girl-next-door Iris adored from a distance in her teenage years, but Jude moved away before Iris could do anything about her feelings. Fortuitously, Jude, too, moved home two years before, and now spends her days lobstering off of the June Marie and dreaming of some kind of oblivion, all the better to forget about the girl who broke her heart.
Iris meets Jude again when she’s loading off some extra lobsters from the back of her bike and Iris is out tossing a ball for her dog. They strike up a friendship, then a relationship. But will Jude’s personal scars keep her from every loving again?
Lighthearted, humorous, and real are all adjectives that can be properly applied to The Girl Next Door. Iris – more forward and spunky, a social butterfly with a sense of humor – contrasts quite nicely with introverted motorcyclist craftswoman Jude. Jude has been punishing herself for ages over her last break-up, and she’s withdrawn into herself and avoided perusing her dreams.
The two women fit together nicely – perhaps too nicely. All of the conflict comes from Jude’s messy self-loathing, but it’s at least a unique and even welcome that we don’t get any jealous exes, no affairs, and no ridiculous third-act break-up.
Iris’ parents are good, amusing people who aren’t quite as interesting as their daughter, and that’s too bad, but the book’s lack of lively background characters and the speed with which it tells its story doesn’t allow for other, interesting characters to be created.
And yet the small town feeling here is very authentic. I come from similar New England stock, and the Maine setting – with its lobstering, rocky beaches and lives lived quietly – makes absolute sense to me, and feels quite accurate to the world in which both characters would live.
The Girl Next Door is simple in its ability to charm, and easy in its way of making a reader feel welcome between its pages. A simple, quick tale of warmhearted love, it may feel a little bland, its love scenes a little lukewarm, but doesn’t really need to do much more than it does, or be much more than what it ends up being. Sometimes, what’s small and easy – a hometown restaurant, a high school crush – is what’s best.