I reluctantly picked this book up even though my last two Penelope Ward books were severe disappointments. Sins of Sevin and RoomHate were books I wanted to like, but I just couldn’t stomach the heroes and heroines. Ms. Ward has a tendency to make her female main character so desperate, so clingy, so obvious, and so weak and needy that I often felt like hurling my e-reader during the course of reading (and, ultimately, not finishing) those 2 books.
Thank goodness, though, that Neighbor Dearest cured me of that violent and expensive inclination.
I loved Stepbrother Dearest, so when I read Neighbor Dearest’s synopsis, I thought, maybe there’s a saving grace here. Chelsea was Elec’s ex-girlfriend, the one he left so he can be with Greta. We don’t often get to read the stories of our favorite book-heroes’ exes, so Chelsea’s story was a fresh and welcomed one. Add to that the levity that the synopsis alluded to, I was pleasantly surprised that Ms. Ward didn’t stretch out the drama and the asshole-ishness she also tends to paint her heroes with. There were hidden twists in their love story – twists that I think were absolutely necessary, in order to keep jaded readers like myself interested.
Damien’s story, plus his journey to finding HEA with Chelsea, is believable, relate-able, sad, and wonderful all at the same time. Admittedly, I almost chose to DNF this book, because I couldn’t really understand why Chelsea came to like asshole Damien in the beginning, what it was about him, initially, that she was attracted to. He wasn’t nice at first. I also confess to almost not finishing Neighbor Dearest because Chelsea’s sister, Jade, was originally pushing Chelsea to hook up with him, just for the hell of it. With insensitive and sexually-needy sisters and friends like that, I typically want to hurl. Nevertheless, I rallied on – particularly because I didn’t want to waste my money – and because I wanted to see Chelsea’s empowerment.
It’s a great thing I didn’t pass this one up, despite my previous experiences with Ms. Ward’s solo books. A welcome change, indeed, was found right next door, inside this book.