The Troublemaker Next Door
I love a good contemporary romance. The problem I have found with contemporaries is they are really hit or miss with me. So I have a tendency to stick to those authors who have already proven to me that I will appreciate what they write. Marie Harte is an author who is new to me and while I was not bowled over by this story, she is an author I will definitely give another try.
Maddie Gardner has sworn off men. She has recently kicked her podiatrist boyfriend to the curb to focus on her rising career in interior design when he makes it clear his career is more important than hers. But after Maddie’s boss makes a sexual advance as a quid pro quo to her making junior partner in the firm, she quits her job and decides to go into business for herself. With the support of her two roommates Abby and Vanessa, Maddie is determined to overcome her terror at flying solo. The three friends live in a rental house owned by the McCauley family. While the McCauley parents own the houe, the grown McCauley sons live next door and have the responsibility of any household repairs. On the day that Maddie quits her job, the sink in their rental springs a leak. Since middle brother Flynn McCauley is a plumber, his oldest brother Mike sends him over to fix the leak. Flynn’s first encounter with Maddie is characterized by her ranting and raving about how men are disgusting. Instead of being turned off by this ostensible man-hating behavior, Flynn is intrigued. He never could resist a redhead.
Flynn McCauley is as wary of women as Maddie Gardner is of men, but he has not been as attracted to a woman as he is to Maddie in a very long time. Used to being pursued, the confirmed bachelor finds himself in the unlikely role of pursuer. Maddie is also very attracted to Flynn, but her insecurities have gotten in the way of any meaningful romantic relationship for most of her life. Her chaotic childhood has left her with a need for control and as she is now without a job and without a boyfriend/sex partner, there is little in Maddie’s life that is under her control. When she decides to give in to the strong attraction between Flynn and herself, she does so with a number of rules. The first and foremost is they will not be “boyfriend and girlfriend” but friends with benefits only. At the beginning of the relationship, Flynn thinks he has died and gone to heaven. He can have the girl of his dreams in his bed with no strings attached. As the relationship progresses, Flynn finds himself falling deeper for Maddie and wants to change her rules, but Maddie is fine with their arrangement.
I struggled with the sensuality rating of this book. It borders on “burning,” but doesn’t quite rise to that level in my opinion, so I rated this book “hot.” Smoking hot might have been a better description. The sex in this book is VERY HOT. So if a reader shies away from intense sexual scenes, you might want to reconsider. For the most part, Marie Harte does a good job with these sex scenes (and as this is a “friends with benefits” relationship, the sex between the hero and heroine does figure prominently in the story). There was one sex scene that seemed a little forced to me and did not seem realistic, but overall they were pretty good. Flynn is a great character and his alpha male, womanizing ways go by the wayside pretty quickly in the book. I can kind of understand Flynn’s attraction to Maddie: hot redhead, up for most anything in the bedroom, independent and hardworking. But there was something about Maddie’s personality that I just never warmed up to. The author does lay the groundwork for Maddie’s paralyzing insecurities and her need for control and independence, but “the rules” she forces Flynn to adhere to got on my nerves after a while. This conflict just seemed to go on a little too long and I think the story lagged as a result.
The secondary characters are very fleshed out in this book and Harte has set the stage for future romances in her McCauley Brothers series. Eldest brother Mike’s son Colin is a hoot and almost steals the show. Mike has lost his wife and his story is so compelling that I am looking forward to his book. Maddie’s roommates Vanessa and Abby are equally full bodied characters and I think this story works as much for the multidimensional secondary characters as it does for the primary romance.
There are a few things in The Troublemaker Next Door that did fall flat for me, but not enough to stop me from reading it straight through. If you are looking for a new contemporary author, you might just want to give Marie Harte a try.