Finally! We get back some of the heart, alongside the humor, which made this Neighbor From Hell series so special in the first place.
What’s it About?
Sometimes life doesn’t go the way that we expected. That’s what happened to Devin Bradford when he received the news that turned his life upside down seven years ago. Determined to be there for his children, Devin has put his life on hold, putting his children first even if that meant telling himself that he couldn’t have the only woman that he’d ever wanted.
After years of putting off taking the next step, Charlie was finally ready, mostly because her best friend had threatened to make her life a living hell if she didn’t. Knowing that she wouldn’t be able to pull this off unless she made some changes, Charlie somehow finds herself moving into the in-law apartment of the man that seemed to go out of his way to avoid her only to find herself wondering if she was chasing the wrong dream after all.
Is this twelfth installment in the Neighbor From Hell series as good as some of the first few books? No, not really. Is it a faultless book? Far from it. What this novel does have going for it though is that it breaks free from the pure reliance on quirky comedy and sexy fun times which have dominated the more recent novels of Bradford family romances. Finally will still make you chuckle aloud, and maybe even blush from some of the deliciously descriptive sex scenes, but the true strength of the story comes from the heart, soul, and strength of family which permeated some of those earlier installments. Watching Charlie and Devin fall in love was certainly entertaining, but before we even get to the romance the author sets aside a decent portion of the novel to portray how Charlie has fallen head over heels with this family of rapscallions who live next to her. There seem to be countless romances out there featuring a single-parent household where the initial primary focus is on the heated exchanges and flirtations between hero and heroine, and only after that chemistry is established do we see the children eventually incorporated to fit within that bubble. In Finally, we essentially see a reverse of that trajectory.
After moving into Devin’s in-law apartment, Charlie becomes fully invested in and enamored of the lives of his children before any inclination of romance with Devin enters her mind. It’s charming to see how Charlie was fully accepted by these devilishly precocious twins when so many other adults would run for the hills at their crazy antics. The jealousy that Devin begrudgingly displayed over the fact that his adorable twin children receive the bulk of Charlie’s attentions and affections was hilarious, but we also see how emotionally critical that connection between Charlie and the twins becomes throughout the story. When the true nature of Devin’s feelings that he’s been harboring for over five years finally becomes known, there is never one moment where we question if Charlie is willing to be a part of all of their lives, not just that of her hunky boss. Family has always been a critical feature of this entire series, though usually we see the strength of it played out between the vast array of siblings and cousins that make the food-obsessed Bradford family what it is. It was quite beautiful to see this novel portray how the bonds of a non-traditional family that one chooses can be just as strong as those that one is born into.
A Lack of Drama?
This series as a whole is relatively drama free, which is refreshing when you’re looking for something you can sit back and relax with on a nice day at the beach. Nevertheless, there is typically always the presence of some kind of dramatic plot point that interferes with our lovebirds’ love connection. This installment definitely threw me for a surprise in that the semi-dramatic plot element that is set up throughout the bulk of the novel as the thing which will inevitably come between Charlie and Devin…is never really much of an issue. They refreshingly talk through the matter as adults, and come out stronger on the other side. Kind of. I mean, Devin does repeatedly turn Charlie’s hot water to freezing cold while she’s in the shower to get the truth out of her, but other than that they manage to communicate in a somewhat healthy manner to resolve their differences. It was at this point in the story where I questioned if we were going to get any kind of drama at all when BOOM!
Finally, at the very end of the book we get a highly emotional mixture of the details of Charlie’s orphaned past combined with a tearful scene involving Devin’s children, topped off with a massive argument about hidden details of Devin’s own past. I’m not crying, you’re crying!! The scenes were, for lack of a better word, phenomenal. There was so much sentiment and vulnerability jam packed into just a few short chapters, and in a way it made me lament over what this book could have been. If only those details of Charlie’s troubled past and Devin’s decisions as a new father could have been explored more fully, and spread out a bit more throughout the book as they got to know each other beyond the walls of their office, this novel really could have been a smash hit. I appreciated the humor and levity which the author obviously wanted to highlight in this book, but I think those comedic moments could have been even more poignant if they were sometimes offset with a few moments of earnestness. Saving them all for the very end of the novel almost made it challenging to catch your breath to enjoy the happily ever after which followed.
Series: Neighbor From Hell, book 12. This far along in the series, you know what to expect. There’s hilarity, copious amounts of food stealing, and enough sexy fun times to keep you coming back for more.
Would I befriend the heroine? Charlie is weird. I am weird. I think our levels of weirdness combined would somehow throw off the balance of the universe. Her propensity for baked goods is definitely a high point to consider though.
Would I date the hero? I’m honestly not sure. Devin is a complicated hero with a bit of a one-track mind. The love he has for his two children cannot be beat though, so that gives him a few bonus points in my book.
Final Impressions: This was a fun read, with Devin and Charlie as an entertaining couple. That being said, the true standout feature, or features rather, of this book were Devin’s twins, Dustin and Abbi. They stole the show. From Dustin’s insistence on referring to Charlie as “his lady”, to Abbi demanding that she needed “fluffiness” in her life, these kids increased the adorability level of the book by a factor of ten. While they certainly brought the hilarity, they also infused an incredible display of tension towards the end of the book that I’ll probably be thinking back on for a few days. The author made me feel as though I was in the room with these characters as they had a breakdown when the stability of their unconventional family was questioned, and I sincerely hope we see both Dustin and Abbi get solo books of their own one day. A somewhat unwelcome feature of the last few books, and this one is no exception, is that the author will sometimes be vague in describing or setting up certain scenes, most likely in the hopes of having a big comedic reveal, but unfortunately it often results in a confusing scene with little payoff on the comedy front since we need to re-read the events to try and piece together exactly what happened. Here’s to hoping it’s a writing feature that will fade away in future books.
Smut Level: We’re constantly wondering throughout this read what will ultimately lead Devin to reveal the true feelings he’s been hiding from Charlie all this time. The fact it is his children who mention they think their dad hates Charlie because he always growls her name whenever he takes a shower was… sheer perfection. It might take some time before Charlie and Devin can find the time to indulge in their deepest desires for each other, but when they FINALLY do it is a burst of passion that will leave them both seeing stars.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Rerum Carta Industries, Inc. 304 Pages.