ROMANCE

The Girl Next Door

Carina: Harlequin. May 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781335146946. pap. $14.99. lgbtq cONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
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With no job and no way to pay rent, 22-year-old Iris Turner returns to her parents’ home in Salty Cove, ME, to rebuild her savings. Iris barely knew their next-door neighbor, Jude Wicks, when they were teens. Jude, four years older, was out as a lesbian at their homophobic high school, while Iris took longer to acknowledge her sexuality. Now, Jude has moved back to manage her absent parents’ house and work on her own lobster boat. (Lobster is ubiquitous: Iris works at the Lobster Pot, Jude’s house gets a lobster-themed makeover, and Iris even mentions her “lobster-red face” when blushing.) Iris quickly develops a crush on Jude, whose “bad girl” mystique seems limited to her motorcycle and the emotional reserve resulting from an unspoken trauma. Conflicts are easily resolved: while Jude obfuscates even in her narration, she moves past her previous girlfriend’s death as soon as she speaks about it with Iris. Meanwhile, Iris’s strong desire to return to Boston fades with almost no resistance. While most side characters are minimally developed, Cameron uses a queer meet-up to show Iris how Salty Cove has changed.
VERDICT Chatty, casual narration and minimal tension make for a light summer read.

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