Novels Review

Her Big City Neighbor by Jackie Lau

Written by ibxis

A grumpy/sunshine rom-com!

When small-town engineer Amy Sharpe inherits a house in Toronto, she decides it’s the perfect opportunity to start over and go back to school. Away from the family that takes her for granted, away from the ex who expected so much and gave little in return.

The new Amy enjoys wandering around the city and frequenting bubble tea shops, German beer halls, dim sum restaurants, and coffee bars serving Japanese pastries. She has a roommate with the same name as her favorite fictional character, and a group of friends who meet at a cider bar every couple of weeks.

The new Amy is also in lust with her brooding, tattooed next-door neighbor, Victor Choi, who is far from friendly but looks really hot cutting the grass without a shirt. Too bad the grass doesn’t grow faster.

As she starts telling him about her daily adventures—and as a little kissing in the garden becomes a regular activity—Amy begins to feel more than lust. But she fears she’s falling into her old patterns in relationships and refuses to let herself be underappreciated again.

Is Victor really more than a hot fling? And what’s he hiding behind that grumpy exterior?

Dear Ms. Lau,

I know I’m reading this series out of order but I couldn’t resist starting with The Professor Next Door,” and that sexy cover guy in glasses. Now it’s time for a Sunshine/Grumpy story. I mentioned during our conversation about this trope that it isn’t my favorite but I did like the series so far so … okay here we go.

Amy Sharpe wants to change up her life and moving from a small town to Toronto to start grad school (civil engineering) is her start. She immediately notices her hot neighbor as he shirtlessly mows his grass. Amy makes no bones about ogling Victor Choi because he’s a fine looking man to ogle. She’s friendly and outgoing and decides to make friends with the man. Victor is introverted and happy that way and initially doesn’t meet her overtures with more than a silent node.

Amy keeps smiling and engaging him – and to his horror, Victor finds himself responding. Slowly, cautiously and often wondering what the fuck he’s doing responding to her but he does. They begin their friendship – as Amy truly doesn’t have anything further in mind and that’s all Victor thinks he has to give. Yet things progress, hot sex happens, they talk and go to tons of restaurants and Toronto attractions. It’s nice. It’s sweet. I’m wondering where the conflict is. Suddenly BAM the conflict is there and I wished this particular kind of conflict would go away. How would it be resolved and would I get my happy feelings back?

The book could have been subtitled, “Amy Eats Her Way through Toronto,” as there is a lot of time and description devoted to all the restaurants, coffee bars, shops, and locales that Amy visits in her whirlwind efforts to experience everything Toronto has to offer. Yes I initially liked this but after a while, it did get tiresome. Look another cafe that’s totally devoted to chocolate! (weak) yay. We did not need the details of every bit of food or drink she put in her mouth.

Yippee for Amy deciding to ignore her family’s grousing about her inheriting the pricey house in Toronto and leaving behind all the crap that they used to automatically expect her to do. There is a section of the book devoted to this and yay, for Amy standing up to them again and this time actually telling them why she was mad and again sticking to her guns. The Victorian house sounded great and wow, Great Aunt used to own a sex shop. Amy visits and makes a purchase and uses it. Go Amy. Who-hoo for sex positivity.

Soon Victor is a part of the sex positiveness. *Somehow* she winds up straddling him while he sits in a chair in his backyard. Then they begin to make a habit of it and one night she announces to him that she loves the dress she’s wearing because her breasts could easily pop out of it so … of course he has to help with that. Yep, only in a romance novel. But at least consent is asked and given for all of this.

Unfortunately, I had to keep reminding myself that Amy was in grad school because she sure had a lot of time, even taking two classes and being a TA for a class about concrete, for trying restaurants and fucking Victor. I loved, loved, loved Amy’s relationship with her three young nieces. They are adorable even if they’re sort of plot moppets.

Victor is the dark brooding type. There are little hints that he has something in his past that haunts him but a lot of his silence is just that he’s an introvert. I started out a bit conflicted that Amy keeps at talking to him after initiating an interaction. Yes, there are times when we introverts just want to smile, wave, and keep going. But she avoided pushing too hard. Then later Victor tells Amy that he didn’t used to be this quiet and got out more before the Past Event and that she’s just bringing him back to how he used to be rather than changing him. I’m good with that.

So onto the conflict. My thoughts were, “Not that much conflict. Where’s the conflict? Wow, where did that come from??” Yes, it’s the (for me) dreaded final act blow-up. I read it as if it were a slo-mo train wreck with me yelling (in a slo-mo distorted voice), “Nooooooo, doooooon’t dooooo thaaaat.” Sigh, they did that. Luckily one person stands their ground and says, “I’m worth more than this treatment” while the other quickly realizes, “Wow, I was a fucking idiot.” And after a quick but heartfelt confession, all is made up. Perhaps too easily but the page count was running out.

I liked this book a lot but obviously not totally. There is more on the plus side than the minus side but … too much food and conflict from nowhere. This is balanced a bit by fun bantering and Victor’s grumpy thoughts plus sex positiveness and Amy standing up for herself. Good but not great. B-


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

→ Jayne

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