The Boy Next Door

The school doors open, light from outside hitting him just right and making his blue eyes sparkle. And his hair color, a rich chestnut brown, is new and makes my knees weak.

“Hey, Bell!” he greets, calling me by my last name as usual. I ignore the popular people at his side who sometimes clearly wonder why we interact. “What’s up?”

The Boy Next Door

Zach

Zach Ahmad is a fun character from the One More Thing Series. I would explain more, but I think this quote showcases my point without needing more context. This is from One Little Lie, which is now available as a box set.

Zach nodded his head at her words, then changed tracks. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a bitch and we can definitely be friends. But is this seriously the only reason you guys are here? To talk about our big gay feelings?” He grimaced. “I’m already getting enough of this from Luke.”

Maybe things were always weird

One Little Word involves pretend boyfriends, secret fake relationships, regular fake relationships, and actual feelings. All of this refers to one couple. In One Little Lie, there are secret relationships and fake relationships. Luke is one of the parties involved in both scenarios, but there are three people and two different relationships. I’m not sure why, but when talking about pretend dating scenarios, I like making everything sound as complicated as possible.

In one sense, I suppose fake dating is complicated enough. But if you like fake dating stories, then you like the kind of extra drama that can only happen in romcoms.

If you haven’t read One Little Word, no worries. One, it’s included in a box set with One Little Lie. And two, Ryan will also get you up to speed:

It started when an idiot from the baseball team (Luke Chambers) got himself in trouble. There was foul language, high stakes, dire consequences, and then… things got weird. The idiot, being an idiot, decided the best way to get out of the mess he created involved pretending to date me.

Wait, Luke’s moroncy aside, the whole thing worked out great for me. The broken leg sucked, but I healed, and now I had an awesome hottie boyfriend.

Hunter Cruse

Here’s a quote from Hunter Cruse, a main character from my YA M/M Kindle Vella novel, The Boy Next Door.

“Hey, losers,” says a voice from the side. Whoa, I was too busy agonizing about the new girlfriend to notice Hunter’s here, leaning against his car. “We can chat while we eat. Let’s go.”

“In a hurry?” Dylan teases.

The older brother looks around with contempt. “I’m done standing in the parking lot of my old high school wondering if maybe I just applied myself like all those teachers begged, I wouldn’t have ended up back here.”

“You can take Sam, right?” Dyl asks as he heads to his car hand-in-hand with Renee. No, no, no.

“Sure, we definitely need two cars for four people.” Hunter tosses me a dry look over his shoulder as he walks to the driver’s side, though it seems more at their expense than mine.

-The Boy Next Door

In the garden

Despite a lack of fence or other divider line, it’s still obvious where our property ends and the Cruse yard begins. Our yard is sparse while the side closest to us on the Cruse property has a pond and archway that leads back into a vibrant garden. Flowers bursting with color perfume the air with an intoxicating aroma as I walk into the backyard.

Mrs. French might call their garden an artist’s dream, a place to stimulate the senses and inspire creativity. Even in the fall, their garden flourishes, and some flowers are always blooming until the first frost.

Plus, their pond kicks ass.

-from young adult romance novel The Boy Next Door

Book Review: Lock & West

Writing this is interesting. I LOVE Lock & West by Alexander C. Eberhart. It’s beautiful and powerful, a really great book. Except when reading it, I had very little thoughts. I always have comments whether I love a book or not but it’s especially weird not to have a bunch of opinions about a book I really enjoyed. So we’ll see how this goes.

(Whenever I type Lock’s name, I want to write ‘Locke’ instead. We could say I’m intellectual and thinking of English philosopher John Locke… nah, I’m actually thinking about John Locke the character from Lost.)

Also, I have Kindle Unlimited so I typically borrow books, but I’m going to buy Lock & West. Because it’s fantastic!

Quick Summary: Two guys with different personalities from different backgrounds meet each other and form a connection while facing difficult years at home. Though as they grow closer, they learn home might not be a place. It’s a person. (which is the tagline and used very well in the novel!)

The Story

Lock is put into an awkward position. Lots of things are awkward for him. He’s the nervous type and prone to anxiety. Social interaction isn’t his strong suit, and he lives more in his head than the real word. Very relatable. But life is even more awkward as a new student at high school. He moved from Seattle to Atlanta.

-Quote about Lock

One of the new people he meets is West, who he agrees to tutor in math. They initially get along well enough, and West really likes Lock’s younger brother. They might even be crushing on each other. Though Lock isn’t out or even at the point where he admits his sexuality to himself.

West is an outgoing, funny theater kid who even convinces Lock to attend a party with him. Which is when things get interesting because those crazy kids get drunk and hook up. And that’s only the beginning of the drama.

-Quote about West

Between sorting out their feelings for each other, and Lock figuring out his sexuality, each guy also has their share of personal struggles. Lock’s mom is an alcoholic, his father is dead, and there are many secrets in his family history he doesn’t yet know. West has issues with his weight and his sister’s douchey fiancé.

I’m trying not to be too specific about all this, but there’s a lot of twists and obstacles that crop up. Right when you get used to the story, something changes and new complications and layers are added, which is done in the best ways and is a joy to read.

The Relationship

-Romance

There are moments when the personal issues blend with what’s happening between the guys and other parts where their stories verge off. Sometimes their feelings make things complicated while other times being together provides the only moment of peace in their otherwise hectic lives. They aren’t immediately a couple, and the relationship builds as the novel continues. Like everything else, it’s very emotional and well done and I enjoyed the hell out of these two separately and as a couple.

Only small issue is there are a few parts where their journeys were too separate. And while each storyline is captivating, I still wanted them to come back together for a few scenes. However, this is less something that actually bugged me and more a critique because I always try to find at least one downside to a novel so that I don’t sound like a paid infomercial or something.

Writing Style

Lock writes notes to himself with advice for being a human being while West makes lists. Each are in different handwriting and show up at the start of every chapter, so we see them a lot. This fun little detail makes the book more personalized.

A note from Lock
A list from West

Many chapters are bite-size, though never too brief. From my rambling nature to the way I try to fit as many words into a sentence as possible, these short and sweet chapters are a radical concept for me. However, I really enjoy them. It keeps the novel moving and each section stops at just the right point so you wanna keep reading.

From the Novel

Okay, the way the author describes anything? Amazing. Love how ordinary sentences are packed with so much meaning. You’re just reading the page, chugging along, and then boom, feelings. Several lines sneak up on your with their loveliness. Beautiful writing, just gorgeous from start to finish.

Tags & Warnings (Spoilers!) :

developing relationships, friends to lovers, theater, family, mental health issues, biracial character, mixed raced relationship, eating disorder, abuse, illness, rape, suicide.

I’m going to end with a funny quote from Lock & West:

-(obvi) a funny quote I’m ending with

Hooray for The Boy Next Door

Do I fully understand how Kindle Vella works? No, the internet and most modern technology confuses me even though I am not an incredibly old person who has never used technology before. Anyway, readers in Vella can like and fave stories, in which case a fancy little crown appears above the cover. For example:

Yes, this post is just me bragging that my Vella novel is now top faved. Awesome! Even if I don’t totally get what this means, I’m thrilled people loved (or faved) my book! Thank you so much, and go check out the episodes of The Boy Next Door if you haven’t yet.

Quick Description: A shy artist works up his nerve to confess his feelings for his neighbor, the boy next door. But when his neighbor’s moody, wannabe rock star brother returns home unexpectedly, his love note falls into the wrong hands.

Though the main character Sam shares some of anxious personality traits, Hunter (aka the bad boy next door) is who I have a huge soft spot for. Whether being tough or showing his softer side, he was so much fun to write.

Here’s an excerpt where Sam runs into Hunter on the street after dinner. Hunter gives him some advice.

“Hey, you barhopping too?” He nods, indicating some bars farther down the block.

“Fish tacos,” I answer honestly and stupidly.

“Okay?” He seems to regret saying anything to me. That makes two of us.

Still without his leather jacket, Hunter looks smaller. The night helps hide his surprisingly muscled arms, probably from dragging his drum set around.

“I’m not old enough for bars,” I say when we linger awkwardly.

Leaning in, he confides, “I never let that stop me.”

But I will. Because I’m not as cool and badass as him. He never lets me forget.

“Well, I should probably—” go far away as fast as possible.

“I can sneak you in,” he offers, probably because he knows I’ll refuse. Is he even old enough to drink legally? If so, it’s just barely.

“No thanks.” 

“Sam,” he says, his tone strange.

His teasing demeanor vanishes in an instant. Us prey to the predators know when it’s time to make a quick exit.

“Uh, see you around, Hunter.”

When he moves, I expect him to waltz right by me to the alcohol without saying goodbye. Instead, he steps right into my personal space. As he joins me in the shadows, I can’t see the intensity in his eyes, but I feel it on my skin.

“Be bold,” he says.

Up this close, it’s hard to breathe normally without inhaling the scent of him. And I never could read those eyes even in better light, too dark with unfathomable depths.

I manage to step away. “Fish tacos were bold enough for one night.”

“No, not about your plans for tonight. Just in general.” He’s trying to tell me something. What? I don’t know. “Sounds like advice you need to hear.”

“I do fine.” I cross my arms around myself, suddenly chilly out here.

“You could do better than fine,” he insists. “Be bold. You won’t get what you want otherwise.”

“How do you know what I want?”

Something about his expression makes me wonder if somehow he sees right through me. He isn’t smirking as he always does, yet he seems sure.

A shiver wracks my body, and I hope he doesn’t see. He probably does because he sees everything, it feels like he’s viewing my soul and finding me lacking. Any second, he’s going to reveal what I try to keep hidden—but the moment ends.

“Anything worth wanting doesn’t come easily, so.” He shrugs.

“Yeah, yeah.” I take another step away, but it doesn’t feel far enough. “Bold. Got it.”

“No you don’t.” He seems… sad. Sad I’m so slow. He pities me. Nothing new there.

I smile tightly. “Have a good night.”

~

-Read the Boy Next Door here!

Best Friend’s Brother

Sorry in advance, but when talking about this book, My Best Friend’s Brother by KC Wells, I am legally obligated (by myself) to post this video too.

Unpopular opinion: much as I adore that song, I didn’t love My Best Friend’s Brother, the book.

The plot is straightforward, a slow build ‘forbidden’ relationship between a younger brother and his older brother’s best friend. The two friends are young guys who like hooking up and haven’t been in many serious relationships, and the friend is worried his brother would get hurt.

Since it’s developing romance and there isn’t really another plot, there’s not much to do in the beginning. The growing sexual tension is good, though there’s just a lot of conversations about food, what their plans for the day are, or sightseeing. The sightseeing stuff was kinda interesting since the characters live in California, but I was underwhelmed with the rest.

Don’t think there’s anything wrong with the simple plot or storytelling, Just wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t even mind the pace since it was a slow build, it’s just not much else was happening during the ‘build’ part, and when the relationship does take off, then it flies by, and boom, it’s over. I could have used a little more payoff.

However, apparently everybody disagrees with me because the reviews for this book all seem excellent. So what do I know? If you want a low angst love story with some steam, check it out.