How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 36. Recommended by a favorite author

Other Possible Prompts: 6. Household object on the cover, 25. A wealthy character, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

Meh. That’s how I’m feeling about this one.

Grace is an interior designer, finally leaving her life of let-downs behind, pulling herself up by her bootstraps, and beginning the renovation of a lifetime on her very own home. Unfortunately, mega rich guy Noah next door won’t stop asking to buy it…to put in a pool, no less.

Looking to begin renovations on his own home, Noah seeks an opportunity with a design magazine to have his own reno featured and help him grow his name in the real estate business around California. Much to his chagrin, they ask Grace to do the designing, because the two have such an electric chemistry…but once the pair start the project, they realize they work well together in more ways than one.

Reading the synopsis you kind of get the impression this will be an enemies-to-lovers romance, but very little of this story fits that trope. I would definitely classify it as a slow burn, though, and those aren’t typically my jam.

However, I really liked the first half of this book: the slow burn and banter from the beginning of this novel sucks you right in. I was really enjoying it, until they actually got together, oddly enough. Sullivan nails the lead in, but their actual romance flops. Flops hard. It bored me and I became more invested in the reno and the family drama than in their picture-perfect romance.

I think it flopped hard because it lost the humor. To me, there’s just something authentic and funny in enemies-to-lovers stories because they’re constantly nitpicking or cracking jokes, and it makes the relationship more natural and real, even if it is strained. When Noah and Grace flip sides of this relationship, it loses its natural tone and takes on a far more forced one through dialogue and action.

Because of this observation, I can’t help but wonder how Ten Rules For Faking It plays out. That one’s been in my NetGalley ARCs for…a while, let’s say. Long enough that she wrote a second book, so. Reading the description now, it sounds like The Ex Talk but with less humor and more nervous energy. But because there’s no hatred, no banter, I can’t help but wonder if that one also falls flat.

I have to say, though, that reading this makes me want to redecorate my house! Bahahaha. The design details and that fun background story element makes the book enjoyable enough. Grace is a likeable character and Noah’s not all that bad either. They’re just boring.

I also have to commend Sullivan’s recognition of family strains. Both Noah and Grace have strained parent relationships from the start of the book, that come to a head by the end. I half expected to read that everyone made up and got over it – but (SPOILER ALERT) I’m really glad I didn’t. Not only does it teach you that some people will truly be there for you, but it also teaches that sometimes blood won’t be, not in the way you need. Plenty of people in my life have strained family relationships, and I’m constantly letting them know that their worth is not determined by this other person, and the decision to keep them in their life is theirs alone, and they owe no explanations. I like that that was represented in a novel, and particularly one about love, because it shows that you don’t need those who hurt you to be happy or successful – even if they are blood relations. You just need your close inner circle.

Overall, though, I don’t think I would recommend this one or pick up Sullivan again. I’m actually positive I’ll be skipping the first one now, too. This was a drag for me to get through and the payoff didn’t do it for me in the second half…so I think I’m all set with Sullivan’s work.

Have a wonderful week, friends!

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have devoured the pages of The Tourist Attraction in just one sitting. This is a good one, folks!

Zoey has scrimped and saved her whole life to be able to go on a trip to Alaska with her (very rich) best friend, Lana. She has the whole thing planned out, and her handy Alaska travel guide to help her navigate it. But at every turn, things seem to be going horribly wrong… except where grumpy restaurant owner Graham is involved.

Graham started his little restaurant – “The Tourist Trap” – to be a joke. The town of Moose Springs is regularly overrun by tourists from the resort on the mountain above them, and it’s a never ending battle between the two groups. Graham is the reluctant owner of vacationers’ favorite place to be. And while he hates most tourists, he’s quickly growing a soft spot for his old friend Lana’s newest fellow traveler. Unfortunately, any flirtation with Zoey has an expiration date, and he’s falling hard.

I really fell in love with the characters in this novel. Zoey, in particular, is not only relatable but too cute for words. Graham’s archetype is this grumpy, artsy, mountain guy… and it’s totally working for him. The landscape he resides in is a great metaphor for his personality: beautiful and breathtaking, but harsh and unforgiving. Rough around the edges. This is why Graham and Zoey ended up making such a perfect fit, and such an adorable meet-cute; where Graham is hard, Zoey is pretty dang squishy and soft. They’re a lovely, believable balance.

I’m also basically obsessed with Alaska now. The kitschy setting of Moose Springs is just so warm and welcoming, and I am heartened to know that Morgenthaler spent time in Alaska prior to writing this new series. Maybe it really is like this in some places! Regardless, I’ve asked my boyfriend if we can move there, and he gave me the usual “okay sure, honey” I get every time I fall in love with a new part of the world. Suffice to say, we’ve yet to leave New Hampshire, hahaha. 🙂 I think you’re really going to fall in love with this setting, and never want to leave.

Some things I wasn’t a huge fan of: the ritzy life of these rich people, and their negative tones cast on the book. They’re a necessary element of telling the story, but goodness gracious were they annoying. Lana even, who is supposed to be a supportive best friend for Zoey, sometimes falls in this category and certainly wasn’t my favorite.

Additionally: the violence. I’m not saying there’s anything you have to worry about going into this book; it’s not really dark and nothing extremely violent or terrible happens. It’s just like, all the fighting. Physical fighting. For honestly no reason. I’m such a pacifist, every time someone put their fists up (to fight over a girl, to fight over nothing, blah blah) I did one big dramatic sigh, then read on.

What makes up for it: Graham’s blind border Collie, Jake, who is honestly the adorable star of this book. The definition of a good boy.

I am chomping at the bit to get the next book in this series, Mistletoe and Mr. Right. Throughout the story, you really fall in love with the characters of the town, and I’m excited to see their own love stories unfold. You can bet I’ll be picking up Morgenthaler’s latest in October. I am here for it!

I received a copy of The Tourist Attraction from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It’s out now – so get yourself a copy!

Have a lovely week everyone!