, , , , ,

“I’ve never loved anyone before, not a man, I mean. My dad didn’t exist, and my mom made sure to warn me about the dangers of falling in love with the wrong person. But you’re not the wrong person.” – Madison Gardner

From the starter in Marie Harte’s new series, here come Seattle’s finest: the McCauleys!

Hunky, Alphas, down-to-earth, and so totally male they’d wake the woman in my dear ol’ granny, these brothers are a middle-class, friendly family, and may or may not be ready to finally settle down for life – and the first one to go is the middle brother, Flynn. Flynn never finds trouble in getting laid and avoiding clingy females – he has casual sex down to a science. But when the new neighbors of the hunky plumber’s brother get their sink clogged, Flynn will find out there just may be a woman out there that will have him wanting forever instead. And while Maddie Gardner has made him promise they’ll stay friends with benefits, he knows that, should he play his cards right, he’ll change her mind no problem. But IS Maddie as easy to handle as he thought? Or has Flynn finally chewed more than he can swallow?

The Troublemaker Next Door was a book with great potential – that unfortunately fell victim to poor planning in the case of the main heroine. While Flynn and his brothers were a certain delight to read – their group scenes, their dialogues, how they tried to give a good example to little Colin but never really made it, the fact they are normal, next-door men with ordinary jobs and not CEO positions – , Maddie, as a main heroine, failed to deliver. Sure, she doesn’t have to be likeable to the reader to do her job, but that doesn’t mean she has to act and think as pretty much the villain girl of a high school drama!
Yes, that’s pretty much how she looked like more often than not…

At first, I adored her. I liked her spunk, and how, instead of licking Flynn from head to toe, she snapped at him in the most hilarious way. And then she acted all shy about it! It was cute, and refreshing. But she didn’t progress from that. In fact, I think the writer saw how well it worked for Maddie at first, and decided to just roll with it for the rest of the book. No character growth – At. All. Maddie stayed the same bitter shrew she was upon Flynn’s meeting with her for the first time. Ok, no, that’s not true – she DID change, but that was more to the “Drama Queen” section. See, she was almost always freaking out, acting like the world was about to end, snapping to those around her, moping around, things like that. Like a brat that just now understood they’re actually NOT living with their parents so they don’t get any more coddling. If she was just a needy character, I would get it. But everyone in the book kept saying how independent and strong she was. Where, I ask you, was that independence and strength? Where was that woman you kept describing yet hiding from us, Ms. Harte? Every time someone would help her GET A FREAKING MOVE ON with her new career – because she never seemed capable of pushing herself to do it – the panic mode was on. And everyone would rush to hug her and compliment her and tell her she could do it. Except Vanessa (God, I loved that woman!). Maddie’s cousin was the only one gutsy enough to speak the truth and tell Maddie just how much of a Drama Queen she was, and that people around her had daily troubles of their own but never overreacted the way she did. And what did she get for that? People thinking she was a bitch, and Maddie not talking to her for a while!

But the problem didn’t just lay with Maddie’s attitude towards her professional life. Her personal interractions seemed to lack realism as well – or, well, humanity. I’m not talking about the fact she had a hard childhood, and obviously avoided serious relationships because she never thought she’d find the right guy. I’m talking about the fact she wanted a casual – strictly sexual – relationship with Flynn, which is totally understandable and earned major points from yours truly, only to go back on her own words and get jealous because the poor guy had to work a bit more and didn’t have time for her. 

Really? Are you serious? Why keep telling the guy you just want him for sex, and then every time there is a random female in the same SHOP as him, try to make his life hell? You want him? Take him! Don’t play around and then demand he has no right of doing the same! 

Her flaws unfortunately stretched to her friendly relationships, as well. She lived with Vanessa and Abby, yet she was never aware of her cousin’s hardships at work, or her best friend’s emotional status. They sniffed her out the very moment something changed in her life, but she was so absorbed in her own – almost nonexistent – drama to notice? Talk about selfishness at its finest… (by the way, her own friends knew her so well, they had predicted she would be the one to screw things up with Flynn. first time the heroine’s friends know how much of an idiot the heroine is, they predict the main hero will not be at fault)

Flynn, thank God, was the better half of the main couple. He was funny, sweet, and when it came to bed, he could talk a nun into wearing a g-string! Flynn took the term “dirty talker in sex” to a whole new level. While at times it became a bit too much and a bit too vulgar, he knew how to make even the reader pant with excitement with the way he kept describing what he wanted to do to Maddie. And he was real. From head to toe. The guy was not some prince charming with a heart of gold and pure intentions. He was a hot-blooded plumber who was man enough to admit that yes, sex was on his mind pretty much all the time – which is pretty realistic, because, let’s face it, half, if not more, of the male population his age are like that, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. He never pushed Maddie for more than she could give, and he was gentle in the way he would lead their relationship to the next level, knowing what a handful she could be. And he still loved her, despite all her flaws. The only problem in Flynn as a character was that sometimes, he didn’t exactly convince me for his feelings. That is, it felt like he was confusing sexual attraction with love and affection. He did start thinking more romantically towards Maddie, but his libido kept getting the better of him and in the end, it was like he would be thinking how much he loved her one moment, and how good her tits would feel if he groped her from behind the next. 

All in all, Marie Harte seems to know her male – at the very least – characters and her work – theme-wise – is like the one we all know and love from Nora Roberts. In fact, Harte actually took the family saga we’re all used to, and added a whole shelf of spice – while turning up the heat considerably. Her style shows amazing talent in contemporary and erotica scripts, and the way she combines them leaves a reader begging for more (that’s why it’s a shame for her main heroine to bring down the book’s rating like this). Now, if the rest of her female characters don’t turn out to be “recycled Maddies”, I can say with certainty that the McCauley Brothers will be the new IT in contemporary erotic romance. 

“We’re lucky people, Maddie. I love you. I want to marry you, and I’m willing to wait as long as it takes to prove to you I’m not going anywhere. You’re it for me. Mike tells me it’s a McCauley thing.” – Flynn McCauley



***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***