Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Girl Next Door by Amy Jo Cousins

The Girl Next Door (Bend or Break, #3)
When it comes to love, go big or go home.

Charles “Cash” Carmichael traded his high-rise condo and family-firm career for a job coaching soccer for Chicago’s inner-city kids. He’s adjusting to living on minimum wage when his young cousin, newly out and running away from home, shows up on his less-than-luxurious doorstep.

Angsty teens definitely aren’t Cash’s thing. He needs local backup, and there’s only one name he can think of: Stephany Tyler. Back in the day, the bisexual Steph was the perfect friend with benefits until she fell in love with a woman.

To his relief, his former friend steps up to the plate. Soon, though, Cash finds himself feeling the familiar need to keep her in his bed, and in his life. But Steph, burned by the ex-girlfriend and by the absentee dad she’s been trying to connect with, won’t risk her heart again.

Good thing Cash believes in leaving it all on the field. If he can just convince Steph to get in the game, there’s a chance they can both win.

Warning: This book contains ex-friends with benefits crossing boundaries a second time, several steamy encounters on staircases, copious discussions about gay sex from a “straight” guy, a shout-out to magic buttons, and an especially memorable going away threesome.


I had to laugh at the warning for this book.  One, because most of the warnings that come on books published by Samhain make me giggle, and two, because it gives the idea that this book is all sex.  And it’s not.  There are some steamy scenes in it for sure.  And I can’t say that I’ve read a threesome in any other New Adult novel (or adult novel for that matter outside erotic romance). But Amy Jo Cousins fits it in seamlessly without ever making the reader feel like they’ve crossed into something unexpectedly steamier.

If you’ve read Off Campus (by now we all know I’m a huge fan) you are familiar with Cash Carmichael.  The clueless kindhearted friend that insists on staying in Tom’s life and who effortlessly draws Reese in too.   It’s been a few years since graduation and Cash has chosen to ditch his comfy parent provided job for a minimum wage non-profit position bringing sports to inner-city kids in Chicago.   A huge adjustment but Cash adapts easily.  Which is a good quality to have when his 17 year old cousin, Denny, shows up at his apartment looking for a place to stay.  Denny has just come out to his parents and they think he is just looking for attention.  The one person that Denny thought might take him seriously is Cash.  Cash wants to give Denny what he needs but he’s not quite sure what that is. So he brings in the troops.  The troops being his best friends Tom and Reese.  But they are still in Boston and can’t come out to help for a couple weeks.  In the interim, Cash enlists the help of the one person he’s been avoiding since he found out she moved to town.  His bi-sexual friend, Steph.  More memorable to him as his former friend with benefits.  Also the girl that got away.

When Cash meets Steph for dinner he finds the friendship that was so strained before naturally reappears.  Steph doesn’t hesitate to help out and it doesn’t take long before she and Cash are re-instating their friends with benefits relationship.  The difference is that Cash doesn’t want a casual thing.  For him this is the real deal.  But he knows Steph.  And he recognizes her issues with abandonment.  Mix that with Cash’s fear of being cast aside like last time and he decides to slowly work his way into her heart.  He just needs the time to convince her that he’s worth forever.

There are so many things to love about this book.  The biggest thing being Cash himself.  The story is told from his POV (third person) and he is just such a….DUDE.  And when you read it you will understand why that is hilarious.   He’s funny, kind and completely aware of his cluelessness.  This might be my favorite quality of his.  He KNOWS that it sometimes takes him longer to process information.  And he’s so embarrassed by it.  But he has a few tricks up his sleeve to hide that from people and I found it endearing.  His relationship with each of his friends (Denny included) really shows that he’s the glue that holds them all together.  Really there is nothing to dislike about the guy. 

Steph is amazing.  I loved her since the moment she threatened Tom in Off Campus.  She’s feisty and she has a huge heart.   A huge heart that’s been broken a few too many times.  She’s also naughty.  Much like her BFF, Reese, Steph is a bit of an exhibitionist, which allows for some fun steamy scenes.  It definitely helps that Cash is pretty much open to anything and everything.

If you’ve been following this series from the beginning you’ll enjoy the reappearance of Tom and Reese.  And if, like me, you started this series by reading Level Hands (Bend or Break #4), you’ll enjoy seeing how Denny and Rafi meet each other.  It was adorable to witness the start of their relationship through Cash’s eyes.

This series has been a joy to read and The Girl Next Door was the perfect sweet and happy remedy needed after experiencing the angst of the first two books.  Each one of these books have made it to my comfort read shelf.  I am not ashamed to admit I’ve read Off Campus three times in the past three months.  If that’s not a comfort read I don’t know what is.  It just hits the spot.  The best part is that the series isn’t over.  Look out for our review of Real World (Bend or Break #5) which comes out in November.  If you are a Tom/Reese fan you will love reading this novella about them 5 years post-graduation.


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