Frenemies to Lovers – Review of “Love Next Door” by Helena Hunting

When Dillion Stitch put the little town of Pearl River in her rearview mirror she vowed never to return. But we all know to never say never ’cause it’ll come back and bite you on the butt. And now she’s got these huge teeth marks on her rear cheeks. But her Dad needs her help with his construction business since her brother got hurt, so she packs her belongings into a Uhaul and heads home to Pearl River. The timing is right since she is out of work anyway and her boyfriend of four years left town for another job.

Never Say Never

Being back where she started isn’t all bad though. There’s comfort in the familiar and Dillion can renew old and neglected friendships. When she goes to check on the cottage next door Dillion isn’t expecting it to be occupied and the bare fact of the occupant’s nudity (pun intended) is a sure sign he wasn’t expecting visitors. Donovan “Van” Firestone is one of the former owner’s grandsons and his Grammy Bee left the cottage to him in her will and Dillion is executor of said will. The two get off to a rough start that soon has them trading insults and bickering like two old biddies. They enjoy baiting each other and the back and forth eventually develops into an undeniable attraction. Given the family issues they both have and Van’s bogus embezzlement charges, Pearl River seems like a safe harbor for the two of them. But can they work through their problems together and be happy in Pearl River? Or is the pull of The City stronger than their happy place?

“Love Next Door” is romance done right as only Helena Hunting can do it. This first book in the Lakeside series could almost be classified as a rom-com but it’s more than that. Yes, there’s plenty of amusing banter, some of which is laugh out loud funny, but there’s also a serious side with a touch of larceny that keeps things interesting. The narrative is related in alternating chapters by the dual protagonists Dillion and Van and their character development is thorough so we understand their motivations and their actions and reactions. The plot is well laid out and the pacing never flags or drags. I loved the two main characters. They’re more than merely likable, they’re real and just as flawed as you and I and I found myself rooting for them all the way through. Four stars.

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