Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
“She’d always known she would marry for love — because her life would have been very different if she’d had love…from anyone.”
The Aussie Next Door, Stefanie London’s newest book, is a story of two unlikely people falling in love in an unlikely situation. Angie, a U.S. citizen, is trying to stay in Australia, the place where she has finally found peace. The problem is the courts don’t agree, and she must leave Australia and return to the country of her birth, much to her dismay. One angle: find a man who will fall in love with her and marry her to keep her in Australia. Enter Jace, Angie’s landlord and next-door neighbor. Jace and Angie are attracted to each other, but very different. Jace, a comic creator, likes his solitude and routine. Everything has a very specific place in his life. Coming from a large family where there was constant chaos lead Jace to his very exacting life. Add in his being on the autistic spectrum, and routine and solitude are necessary. Unfortunately, his neighbor who is attractive is the opposite. She loves to talk and is generally messy. However, whenever she is around, Jace fixates on her. As the story progresses, these two fight their feelings for each other as Angie tries to find a husband. Eventually, the two cannot deny it, but can Jace fall in love with Angie? Will he marry her and keep her in Australia? Even more, can two seemingly opposites find love?
I was intrigued by this story from its blurb. Opposites attract? Check. Australia? Check. $exy hero and heroine? Check. All of the boxes were checked just in the blurb. Then, I received the book for an honest review, and Stefanie London blew me away for a number of reasons.
- London gives us Jace. Yes, he’s handsome. Yes, he’s attentive. But he’s also on the autism spectrum. Obviously, he’s very high-functioning. However, his autism informs his daily living, and this adds a complication to any relationship. For most of the book, Jace doesn’t believe he can actually maintain a relationship. His heart is broken early on by a former girlfriend, and he lives with self-doubt. Jace is not an alpha-hero. He carries a bit of brokenness and self-doubt around, and it causes some of the angst of the story. And I loved this about him. When he finally falls, he’s sweet, cute, and cherishes Angie. His sensitivity becomes his super-power, and the reason I love him in this story.
- London then gives us Angie. I am a sucker for broken characters, and Angie is one. Except that she covers it with a smile and a profound love for helping people. Of anyone in the story, Angie should live under a dark cloud. She’s a former foster child. She’s been taken advantage of by the system that was meant to protect her. She’s lived a life with very little love. Yet, she’s the most profound person in the story. She volunteers, brings light into the lives of the seniors and other townspeople, and quite frankly, she challenges Jace out of his comfort zone. “He didn’t want Angie to leave, that much he knew. She made the place brighter. Happier.“ Angie embodies love, even when she has never felt it. Her brokenness comes in her want of it, in her defense in hiding her true self in order to be loved. But it’s Jace who finally fills her love quota to overflowing.
- I love the setting of this book. I’m quickly becoming a fan of romance novels found in other countries and continents. I think it exposes us to different cultures, and above anything else, books should challenge us. London gives us the Aussie culture, expanding our understanding of the world. She helps us see the difficulty of staying in a place that feels like home when you’re a foreigner.
The Aussie Next Door was such a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t read Stefanie London previously, but I am intrigued with reading more from her, especially if we get more books in this series. What London has crafted is a story of broken souls: one who thinks he can never be good enough to be loved because he is different and one whose true self has never been seen because she needed to fit in to find love. Together, these two souls are mended by love. And it’s the most beautiful part of this book.
In love and romance,