Title: The Boy Next Door
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (147 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Tj
Summary Review: A well written and moving story about a second chance at love with a childhood friend and teenage crush.
The Blurb: When Lowell moves back to his hometown to take care of his ailing mother, the last person he expects to see living in the house next door is his childhood friend Jase, grown up now and more attractive than ever. Jase had starred in many of Lowell’s teenage fantasies, but Lowell is convinced Jase is straight. And yet, as they rekindle their friendship, it begins to look like Jase might not be so straight after all.
Jase has problems of his own: his troubled ex-wife has allowed him full custody of their daughter on one condition: he never exposes her to his affairs with other men. The arrangement works just fine until he starts falling for Lowell and a whole new world of possibilities opens up for him. But how can he have a relationship with a man and still keep his daughter?
The Review: Kate McMurray has penned quite a well done story here. We start off by meeting Lowell as he is closing on a house in his hometown of Greenbriar, CT – a place from which he ran as a teenager, never planning to return. We quickly learn that Lowell has inadvertently (or perhaps unconsciously?) bought a house next door to his childhood friend and teenage crush Jase. I really liked this part, as we get to feel Lowell’s discomfort at having to possibly see Jase again. It seems that Lowell and Jase had been inseparable as children, but as teenagers drifted apart. But that didn’t stop Lowell from fantasizing about Jase who became a jock baseball player, while Lowell became a self described “art fag”, who came out in high school and unfortunately became somewhat of a pariah.
Of course living next door, there’s no way that Lowell could avoid Jase, and soon the guys meet again. It was heart warming to watch as Lowell and Jase slowly get reacquainted – initially as just friends since Lowell thinks Jase is straight. Having not seen each other in many years they are virtual strangers, yet they are both familiar to the other, having shared so much as boys. Ms. McMurray did a wonderful job of making the reader feel that connection, that indescribable something that you have with someone who has known you for your whole life – with the added layer of getting acquainted with the men that they had become.
The characters of Lowell and Jase really came to life for me and their revived friendship and budding romance felt very real. But the road to love is not an easy one. Jase has a troubled ex-wife Karen, who is understandably hurt from Jase’s rejection of her, and tries to control his life by threatening his custody of their daughter. As much as I wanted to hate Karen, and at times I felt that she was a bit of a harpy, I could also understand her pain, a pain that anyone who has had an unrequited love will understand. Although the reader can deduce a lot from her actions, I would’ve actually loved to learn what was going on in Karen’s head.
Because of Karen’s interference, there is a roller-coaster ride of emotions as Jase both embraces his relationship with Lowell and pushes him away to keep his daughter with him and his rather sterile life unchanged. The author handled this realistically, rendering emotions that rang true for me, while not succumbing to the overdramatic. Jase has to keep his daughter’s well being upmost in his mind, and at times sacrifices his budding relationship with Lowell to do this. You will feel both Jase’s struggle and Lowell’s pain, and understand them both. Although you may get angry by Jase’s treatment of Lowell – it did seem very much in character. But don’t fret fellow readers, our boys get a very realistic HFN – that leaves us hope that they will work on their HEA. As Jase says in the end “One step at a time”.
I can highly recommend this beautifully moving story. Enjoy!