Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
When you read a romantic comedy, do you get a feeling of home? Like, as you’re reading it, there is something comforting in its cadence and revelation of the story. I mean, a romantic comedy isn’t without its strife. Inevitably there is an issue between the hero and heroine, but it is always tempered in sweetness or hilarity or absurdity. This is truly the case with Tracy Wolff and Avery Flynn’s Back in the Burbs. As you read this story, you find yourself enraptured with its hero and its heroine’s journey of self-possession that you get lost in the story. When it’s done, you’ll honestly heave a sigh of happiness because from beginning to end, Back in the Burbs is everything you adore about romantic comedies.
Back in the Burbs tells the story of Mallory. Basically, Mallory has hit rock-bottom: she’s left a cheating husband who wants to give her nothing for her sacrifice of ten years, getting him through law school and setting up his law business, making it incredibly successful. Additionally, her great-aunt has died leaving her her home in the suburbs of New Jersey. Unfortunately, this isn’t a great gift because Aunt Maggie has several HOA violations on her house, it has taxes in arrears, and Mallory finds out quickly that Aunt Maggie had a bit of a hoarding issue. Mallory has years of being brow-beaten by her parents and her husband, and she’s not sure she has it in her to overcome her challenges. Until she realizes that can. Deciding to move forward with fixing her aunt’s house, she meets her grumpy, rule-following neighbor, Nick. He has no problem telling her that she needs to mow her lawn. However, as the days progress, Nick and Mallory feel drawn to each other. Is it possible that the neighborhood hottie could be interested in her? Even more, is it possible for Mallory to find the person she was before her husband?
Mallory is this archetypal romantic comedy heroine. She is beleaguered by her life experiences. She’s quirky, loves to break rules, and has a zest for life that she has to rediscover over the course of the story. She represents so many women and men who lose themselves in a relationship, and she doesn’t want to make the same mistake. Wolff and Flynn make her so adorable that you can’t help but root for her to succeed and fall in love with Nick, but Wolff and Flynn also make you work for their coupling. To be honest, this book is a slow-burn, and I thought it allowed for Nick and Mallory to grow a friendship before a relationship. It allows for the story to develop in ways that give Mallory the space to begin to know herself again without having a man help her do it. Instead, she grows into herself again on her own terms. This also potentially derails a future with Nick, but that is part of the growing process for Wolff and Flynn’s heroine, which I think is insightful in her characterization.
Since we don’t have Nick’s point of view except through Mallory’s perspective, he is fairly one-dimensional, but he’s everything you adore about a romance hero: he is insightful, kind, seemingly grumpy except he is a “white knight” as Mallory states. There just isn’t enough emotional development for Nick that this story is clearly about Mallory and her overcoming her past. And there is a lot to overcome between the ex-husband and her parents.
There are also so many great moments of humor in Back in the Burbs. The house and Aunt Maggie’s hoarding alone offer you many moments of laughing out loud.
I highly enjoyed Back in the Burbs. I began reading it, looking forward to Tracy Wolff and Avery Flynn’s collaboration. I never expected to fall so deeply in love with Nick and Mallory. But I did, and I think you will too.
In love and romance,