Review: The Girl Next Door – Chelsea M. Cameron
by Chelsea M. Cameron
Publisher: Carina Adores
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The opposites-attract, sweet-and-sexy small-town romance you’ve been waiting for.
Iris Turner hightailed it out of Salty Cove, Maine, without so much as a backward glance. Which is why finding herself back in her hometown—in her childhood bedroom, no less—has the normally upbeat Iris feeling a bit down and out. Her spirits get a much-needed lift, though, at the sight of the sexy girl next door.
No one knows why Jude Wicks is back in Salty Cove, and that’s just how she likes it. Jude never imagined she’d be once again living in her parents’ house, never mind hauling lobster like a local. But the solitude is just what she needs—until Iris tempts her to open up.
A no-strings summer fling seems like the perfect distraction for both women. Jude rides a motorcycle, kisses hard and gives Iris the perfect distraction from her tangled mess of a life. But come September, Iris is still determined to get out of this zero-stoplight town.
That is, unless Jude can give her a reason to stay…
Content warnings: View Spoiler »grief (MC’s previous partner died in a car accident), homophobia (in the past) « Hide Spoiler
I was excited when I saw the announcement for the new Carina Adores line and even more so when I saw that one of the first books was an f/f romance. Like the title suggests, it’s a cute small town romance, slowly-paced and with a very slow burn romance.
“I thought I was going to kick the dust of this town off my feet and never come back. I didn’t care where I went, as long as it was anywhere but here.”
Our eyes locked and I had one of those moments when you connect with another person and they can feel it too, and you don’t know anything else in this world but how that person understands what you’d been through. They got it. Jude got it.”
Iris may be back in her hometown of Salty Cove, Maine, but it’s only temporary. As soon as she’s able to save up enough money working over the summer at the local seafood restaurant, she’s heading back to Boston. At least she has some nice eye candy living next door to her parents’ house. Jude’s been back in town, living at her parents’ old house, and working a lobster boat by herself for two years. By herself being the key part, as she’s isolated herself from everyone, and that’s the way she likes it. That is, until Iris moves in next door and Jude can’t see to keep away from her. As the summer continues, it’s obvious there’s something between them, but can both Jude and Iris let go of the past long enough to see what’s right in front of them?
“Jude wasn’t like an oyster. You couldn’t just shuck the truth out in one motion, getting right to the good stuff. Jude was a lobster: a hard outer shell that was difficult to crack that covered squishy insides. No doubt she’d built up that shell for a reason, and it was going to take a damn good reason for her to let someone in.”
Iris is frustrated and embarrassed that she couldn’t cut it in the big city, and knows it’s just a matter of time before her reasons for being home are blasted all over the small town. She misses her friends, the food, and the anonymity of city life, especially when it comes to her dating life. She’s also just so sweet and awkward, and her instant attraction to Jude just makes both traits worse. While Iris basically embarrassment-flails her way into explaining why she’s back home, Jude refuses to tell her story and is initially quite rude. But Jude starts reaching out to Iris almost against her will, from inviting her to have a beer on her porch to cooking her lobsters she caught herself. Jude’s very reserved and has very good reasons for her isolation (which are ever so slowly revealed to both the reader and Iris), but she’s a marshmallow on the inside. I mean, Jude may be the type to wear a leather jacket and ride a motorcycle, but she also hangs Winnie the Pooh quotes on her bedroom walls. She can’t resist Iris’s sunny, giving nature, and slowly, ever so slowly, Jude’s shell begins to crack.
“She was too sweet and vibrant to be stuck in this dull town forever. She could never be happy here. I wasn’t happy here, but I wouldn’t be happy anywhere so it didn’t matter.”
Iris and Jude’s relationship is very slow burn. There’s a lot of mutual pining, complete with “oh no we can’t,” “she’s too perfect/beautiful for me,” etc. While they may have started out with nothing more than instant physical attraction, they also build a good friendship based on sharing food together and redecorating Jude’s house. A lot of the tension comes from the fact that Iris doesn’t plan to stay in Salty Cove, and also that Jude seems extremely emotionally closed off. It’s over half the book before they even kiss, and even then the parameters are set at a physical-only relationship.
Despite the content warnings, this is a pretty comforting book. It’s slow and sweet, full of Iris’s dog’s antics, her supportive family, and small town goodness. I really liked Iris’s parents and her interactions with them. Rather than hold it over her head, they’re understanding about her being back home and mostly just want to help her out. She responds by cooking dinner for them (and even trying to get them to eat kale). I especially loved her dad who’s obsessed with reading YA books and who the local librarian jokingly calls her best customer. Even Salty Cove is different than she remembered, as there’s now a queer group that meets at that local library.
There were a few things that didn’t work for me. The story is told from the first-person POVs of both Iris and Jude. I usually like this POV, but I don’t think it works so well when you have a secret, like Jude’s, that you’re trying to slowly reveal. Also, after all that buildup to their relationship, I was disappointed in the sex scenes. They seemed a bit rote to me and lacking in emotional intensity.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but didn’t love it – it’s somewhere around a 3 to 3.5 star read for me. I do think this would make a good beach read, especially if you can get your hands on a lobster roll to go with it!