Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
I sometimes think that Helena Hunting is several different people (NO! I’m not accusing her of ghostwriters). She has this incredible way of finding different places to write from for different works. There is a general thread of humor that runs through her books, but given the different personalities of her stories, she mutes or heightens that thread. And what you find is a deep abiding adoration for her storytelling. Whether she’s writing the stories of horny hockey players or enemies to lovers in competing businesses or a hate-to-love story between neighbors, Helena Hunting shows her ability to take you along for her romance ride no matter the story.
So let’s talk about Love Next Door, her newest story. Let’s name all the tropes you’ll find in this story: hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers, small-town romance, on some level, and forced proximity (that one’s a stretch). Without my tropes cheatsheet in front of me, these are the ones that find immediate purchase in this book. With those key tropes as a guide, it’s interesting to note that this story is a sweet one. Even when her heroine and hero, Dillion/Darlin/Dee and Donovan/Van, are fighting, their burgeoning/evolving romance has an underpinning of sweetness to it. There is clear chemistry from the start; Hunting isn’t doing anything different with this story. In fact, I think Love Next Door exists as an ode to Hunting’s own lakeside cabin experiences and a story for her fans. Coming through the Montlake Publishing line, you’ll find this one to be the least steamy of anything she’s written as of late. There is no kink here, no overwhelming number of bedroom scenes.
What you find with Love Next Door is a treatment on a few distinct messages: don’t live life to spite your past, work a job that you love and loves you back, and family is incredibly important. Tangential to that is Hunting’s focus on mental health as well. There is some suspense in this story which is a bit predictable, but it adds some spice to the story because, from the start, it’s clear that Dillion and Van are fated. From the beginning to the end, Hunting writes all the signs in her story, even with an ending that compels you to put a smile on your face as you realize their relationship was set in the stars.
The revelation of the villain of this story aside, I adore Dillion and Van’s story in Helena Hunting’s Love Next Door. It’s the type of book that you read on the beach or in a lounge on the back patio or in bed during a lazy afternoon and evening. Will it make you laugh out loud like some of the stories of her Pucked or All In series? Not really. There is a simplicity and sweetness to this story that makes you fall in love with it. If you’re looking for the perfect read for the coming weekend, then this is your book.
In love and romance,