Joint Review by Mandi & Tori
You always know you’re going to get a dark, gritty, sexy, angry and complicated romance when you pick up a M. O’Keefe book. Damaged men and women who carry more baggage than Samsonite reluctantly find one another and embark on a journey towards their redemption…if they’re brave enough to accept it. She doesn’t always offer her readers a HEA, but she does offer enough hope to assure readers the couples involved have a very good chance at making it. O’Keefe’s newest venture-Bad Neighbor- embraces all that and more when an angry illegal back room fighter falls for a shy illustrator whose life has taken a turn towards the unknown.
Charlotte, a professional illustrator, is forced to downsize tremendously when her twin sister, Amber, gets into some trouble and goes on the lam. After selling her condo and giving most of the money to her sister, Charlotte moves into a run down apartment complex in a seedy part of town and attempts to reestablish her life as best she can. Shy and introverted, Charlotte is shocked when she meets her neighbor-the rude, grumpy, and utterly gorgeous Jesse.
Jesse, a backroom fighter, also lives at the apartment complex. His first meeting of Charlotte tells him three things. She’s beautiful, she’s hiding something, and she’s not for him. He’s also hiding a few secrets of his own. Secrets that could hurt them both if discovered. Jesse pushes and pulls at Charlotte, blowing hot and cold with each new encounter. So Mandi, what did you think of the initial setup?
Mandi: OMG this set-up is my candy. Innocent heroine in hiding. Intimidating, grumpy – wait – asshole hero next door who just happens to be an illegal fighter. He is described as “thick” with sweaty abs.
*peeks out window and looks at elderly do-gooder neighbor* Damn it! I don’t have a “bad neighbor.”
I feel like O’Keefe not only sets-up a bad boy hero, but she goes there with him. He has depravities. He is not nice. He can be a SUPER jerk. But at least he admits it:
This was sex, Sex the way it was in movies. And books.
I felt primal all of a sudden, and I realized that I was kissing the way he was kissing me. My hands were fisted in his shirt. I sucked on his tongue. Bit his lip. I ate him like he was an avocado and I was starving.
My back hit the fridge because he’d pushed me there. His hand cupped my chin, lifting my head as he backed an inch away from my mouth.
“I’m sorry I’m a dick,” he whispered, his breath washing my lips, my face.
Apology accepted, Jesse!
And on the other side, Charlotte, although in hiding and a little scared, is so cute. When she sees Jesse, she is a little fearful by how masculine and raw he is – but her fantasies start coming to life in her head. Leading a safe, romantic life, Charlotte is not used to being near and attracted to such an intense person. Her safe little fantasy about the fruit stand boy down the street gets thrown out the window.
“Bedroom?” he asked, jerking his thumb toward the shadowed doorway beside my kitchen.
I opened my mouth to say what but nothing came out.
Was this the fruit stand fantasy coming true? Was this…possible? He said bedroom and I just led him in there and we went at it? Was that how these things worked?
(He just wanted to fix her doorknob – like her actual, metal doorknob!)
Tori, did you like the chemistry between Jesse and Charlotte and how their romance plays out?
Tori: I love the sexual tension that O’Keefe begins building from the first time Jesse pushes Charlotte’s futon threw her apartment door. It’s a hot, pulsing, earthy entity that screams (or maybe that was me) DO ME!! DO ME NOW!! Jesse pushes Charlotte’s boundaries; locking onto the sexuality she keeps buried and gives her an outlet in which to embrace and express herself with no shame.
“I was right, he whispered. You’re so fucking soft.
It’s …they’re…” I made some gurgling sounds of despair and tilted my face away.
“Fucking perfect,” he said.
The romance itself blossoms almost under the radar; completely unconventional but no less uninspiring. Seeing Charlotte and Jesse slowly open up to one another is both sweet and sad; neither thinking they have anything to really offer one anyone. It’s here where the similarities between them shine the brightest. Both of them have spent their lives being dragged into their siblings messes; caring for them instead of themselves. Though Charlotte is more forthright in her attempts to care for Jesse (OMG-the curtains-I DIED), he does things that alert us to the fact that Charlotte isn’t just a novel new flavor for him.
“I want to see you again, and you’re hungry, So, I can feed you.”
Even though the story has a darker tone overall, with all the secrets and the slow reveal in just how intertwined Charlotte and Jesse’s lives are, I love the bits of humor and spontaneity that interject themselves in an organic manner. Charlotte is such a shy, introverted woman yet they have the such dynamic chemistry, the dialogue just flows right along. When she boldly makes sexual demands of Jesse, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the vision in my head. It was akin to seeing a cute blond-haired cherub suddenly start cursing like a sailor in the middle of church.
What did you think, Mandi? Did you appreciate the humor and spontaneity that was added? Did it feel natural to you, too?
Mandi: Yes! For what I would categorize as a “dark erotic” there are a good number of scenes that made me smile and chuckle. I thought O’Keefe did a nice job with the illegal fighting atmosphere and although the suspense may not have been my favorite part, it was light and didn’t overshadow the story. I am excited for the next book which will feature Jesse’s brother. Oh, do I have questions!!
Before I go, I have to mention the orgy! Well – what I call an orgy. Jesse says there must be five people for it to be an orgy and there were only four – two and two participating. But damn it – it was a fun scene. You’ll have to read it to enjoy it – but I will leave you with a naughty quote (put under spoilers because naughty)
“I’ve been thinking about yesterday.”
“Me too,” I breathed. He was tracing the edges of the mark he put on me. Over and over again until it was practically hypnotic. I was completely under his spell.
“I’m gonna need to come on your tits.”
I sucked in air like I was drowning.
“You gonna let me do that?” he asked.
“I’m gonna let you do everything,” I whispered.
There is a HEA although it’s kind of abrupt and I maybe not the most solid of HEAs. But I definitely recommend this one.
Tori: I agree, Mandi. I think O’Keefe did an excellent job of blending Jesse’s fighting and the reasons for it with the suspense plot line though I felt it was a little weak. The romance is definitely the main focus of the storyline and I loved that we had plenty of scenes to laugh at while watching this couple find their place together in the world. Staying in the present keeps the story moving at a solid pace but I felt we lost something by not really getting to know the other two players in this story whose actions put Charlotte and Jesse in the place we met them. I too felt the ending was rushed I personally felt Charlotte forgave Jesse to easily for what he did but she does make her point in cheer worthy manner so all is well. While we aren’t given a solid HEA or even HFN, I am looking forward to book two and hope we see more of Charlotte and Jesse.