Today's book review is The Guy Next Door by Kate Palmer. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It starts out by introducing Eva Black and her fiance Sean. Sean is from a rich family who is in the spotlight, regularly hosts dinners, that sort of thing. Sean likes to coordinate outfits with Eva, pick out her china, and he has some other weird tendencies to manipulate her which I didn't like at all. Eva tries to brush it off, but even she has some misgivings about how he treats her and their relationship. The author did a good job at the emotional depth in this novel because even though I was bugged by how Sean treated her, I could see why Eva could justify it. But I was completely pulled into Eva's life and invested in her character. I love how the author made her so realistic and non-cliche.
Eva struggles throughout the book and she experiences a lot of character growth as she is still dealing with the loss of her parents, trying to plan a wedding without her mom, and, if that weren't enough, she goes through something pretty horrible (I won't give it away, but it's big) and comes to realize she has no one to depend on but herself. Sean is distancing himself from her, her mysterious neighbor keeps dropping in and out of her life, and she can't find a job anywhere to top it off. It seems hopeless and I thought the author did a tremendous job with the push/pull of Eva's decisions and choices. I loved the mystery neighbor, Peter, but for some reason, when I imagined him in my head, with his ponytail and ability to appear at her door when she needed him, I thought he sounded more like a Ben than a Peter. Haha! I don't usually rename characters, but Ben just seems so comforting and yet mysterious. Regardless, Peter was a great character and I liked seeing his interactions with Eva.
My only suggestion for this book was that while the author did great with the emotional layering, I felt like she could have drawn out the suspense and tension for the mystery beats of the book. A couple of times I had to read the sentence over again because a major story beat just happened, and we're told about it in one or two sentences. Like, we're reading along and then the next sentence just sort of randomly says some horrible thing that happened. To give you an example without giving anything away, (we're spoiler-free here) it's sort of like, "She took a shower and made breakfast, then went upstairs where a bomb went off." I would have liked to experience more of the tension. But, like I said, I was completely pulled in with the emotional stuff. The author is really talented there. And the suspense stuff she did have, once she got into it, was well done. There's one scene on a roadside that was a combination of emotional and suspense which was definitely the author's forte. I felt every anxious moment of that scene. I also thought the ending, while satisfying, was a bit abrupt, so I hope there's a spinoff or sequel in the works so we can see how things turned out with Eva and the choice she made. (Which also says I loved the character because I want more! Well done, Kate Palmer!)
This is definitely a book you want to clear some time for, because you won't want to put it down. A great debut for Kate Palmer and I'll be looking for more from her in the future.
Here's the back copy:
On the surface, Eva Black’s life seems practically perfect. The small-town kindergarten teacher is set to wed ambitious lawyer Sean Langley, and their plans for a dream wedding are well underway. Eva accepts that she will soon live life in the spotlight as a member of the prestigious Langley family, but can she overlook her fiancé’s tendency to dominate the details of her life and push the limits of her standards?
Mere weeks before the wedding, Eva is thrown into a traumatic, life-changing event that changes her view of family commitment and creates a sharp contrast between her ideals and Sean’s. With her engagement to Sean in jeopardy, Eva finds herself relying on the support and encouragement of Peter, her kind and attentive next-door neighbor. Faced with a choice between her penitent fiancé and the increasingly mysterious Peter, Eva is unprepared for the consequences—and peril—that come with her decision.