Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Do you remember that first time you began to really like someone? Not the initial feeling, rather the one that goes deeper. You can’t wait to see them and seeing them begins and ends the day with so much excitement. Now, what would happen if the person you were slowly falling in love with comes from a family that is your mortal enemy? You still long for each other, but the families’ ire dampens, complicates, your attraction and growing love. It also makes for the best type of romance as evidenced by Kandi Steiner’s newest book, Neat.
Neat is that book, the one you can’t put it down because you love the characters so much and you want to keep reading it for their love story BUT you need to put it down because you know what’s coming and it’s going to hurt. A tension follows you through the book, and you love it and hate it in equal measure. It’s angst at its best, and Steiner writes this tension well.
The genius of this book begins with its title. Steiner’s title, Neat, is ironic. After reading the story in its entirety, readers might believe it’s named for its hero’s, Logan, propensity for precision and organization and “neatness.” There are multiple references to “neat” as it describes him and his spaces. However, the title evokes the sensibility of this story, the way in which Mallory and Logan are anything but “neat.” This story isn’t an easy one because these two are very different, beginning with their families who are a modern-day version of the “Hatfields and McCoys.” Logan and Mallory shouldn’t work; their families will tell them that they can’t work. Intuited into that is the idea that their potential relationship is very, very messy. Hence, the brilliance of this title. Yes, it’s a play on the ways to drink whiskey. But it’s really a moniker, a warning, that the story behind this title won’t be an easy one. Thankfully, it’s Steiner’s characterization of Logan and Mallory that keeps you afloat as you swim through this star-crossed trope of a romance.
From the outset of Neat, I loved Logan. I adored Noah in the first book of this series, On the Rocks. Like really really adored him. Yet, Logan characterizes a modern-day hero, two sides of a coin with masculine virility on one side and intelligence and sensitivity on the other. In the first book, Noah and Jordan, their older brother, point to Logan’s organizational and “buttoned-up” ways. The Beckers are meant to be rowdy troublemakers. Logan, however, is far from this. Each turn of the page in Neat drew me further into his character, and I found myself sighing over all of his ways: his organization, his love for knowledge, books, and documentaries, his cleanliness, his cooking, and his words; this man has all the words. If you read this book and you aren’t swooning over Logan Daniel Becker, then you have missed one of the best parts of Steiner’s romance. Because this man is that angel that fell to earth. He is the best kind of romantic hero. My favorite line for Logan: “she was reading my favorite book.” This is when I knew that Logan would be a forever book boyfriend.
Then, there is Mallory. At the beginning of their story, as Mallory takes in Logan’s office for the first time, she notes the white walls and efficiency of it. An artist, Mallory sees the lack of color in his room, and you, the reader, know right then that Mallory is going to be the color to Logan’s sparse canvas. She provides the shading, the depth. She is the mess to his “neat.” Even more, Mallory stands for justice in this story. She’s an advocate for righting wrongs even at her own expense. Usually, with a hero like Logan who you fall easily in love with, the heroine can do something that is grating. Not Mallory. Her sense of justice, her recognition of Logan’s strength in character, her originality, her ownership over her mistakes, and her need to live life on her terms help create the masterpiece of her and Logan’s relationship. She is the yin to his yang. I know how much I love Logan, and Mallory is his perfect complement in this book.
What I think is Steiner’s genius, though, beyond the title and the characterizations are the pictures she paints with her words. Just as Mallory, the master artist, creates beautiful art to decorate a space or capture a moment, Steiner crafts visceral moments in her stories. There are so many gorgeous places in this story when the words on the page are spun together in ways that make the moment palpable for the reader. I could pull example after example of this to illustrate this point, but the reality is you need to read this romance to feel and see Steiner’s art.
As Mallory tries to do near the end of the book in her need to capture the final scene of Logan’s favorite book, All the Light We Cannot See, this review seeks to find the words to capture the mastery of Steiner’s second book in this series. Neat is a story of muted colors and vibrant ones swirling together to find meaning in a small little town in Tennessee. It’s shading and light and heavy outlines and color. Kandi Steiner has painted a masterpiece through the story of Logan and Mallory. When I read On the Rocks, I didn’t think there was anyone better than Noah Becker…until Logan showed up. I had no idea that I would fall in love with another Becker man. But as we find in Neat, “that [is] the Becker way.”
In love and romance,