Next-Door Nemesis

Books on Tape. Nov. 2023. 10:02 hrs. ISBN 9780593748367. $85.50. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Martin’s (Better than Fiction) friends-to-enemies-to-lovers rom-com follows Carter Collins and Nate Adams, once best friends and now rivals for the local homeowner’s association presidency. Though the story begins infuriatingly, with Nate using HOA violations against Collins’s parents to blackmail her, longtime fans of Martin can trust that a swoon-worthy and emotionally satisfying conclusion is on the way. The novel is full of her characteristic humor, with the sharpest coming from Collins. The humor is typically kind, subverting character tropes and balancing the ludicrous with the joys of small-town life. Also, as is typical for Martin, playful plotting doesn’t stop her from exploring deeper issues, such as childhood trauma or misogyny in Hollywood. Jade Wheeler gives Collins a vulnerable confidence. It’s clear that she’s as strong as she pretends to be, even though her rashness and pettiness are hilariously afire during her HOA campaigning. The romantic relationship is only one of many important relationships in Collins’s life, meaning that Wheeler has to juggle a large cast. Whether voicing a Midwestern mom, a multilevel-marketing-obsessed bestie, or the love interest’s raspy whispers, Wheeler is convincing.
VERDICT A perfect romance for fans of Christina Lauren’s Dating You/Hating You or Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Party.
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