The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish
Sept 27, 2022 by Harlequin
Review by Kate H.
I’ve been procrastinating on this review because I am a fan of Roan Parrish. I love her Middle of Somewhere and Riven series, and I have enjoyed the Garnet Run books, set in one of those utopian small towns where half the population is queer and the other half is benign. The third book in the series The Lights on Knockbridge Lane took place in the run up to Christmas, so I suppose having a Halloween book to follow makes shouldn’t be a big surprise. However, the holiday wraparound did not work as well in the The Rivals of Casper Road.
At the beginning of The Rivals, Bram Larkspur (love the name) has just moved to Casper Road where he learns that there is an annual decorating contest for Halloween. Six months ago, Bram left his hometown to regroup, after discovering his boyfriend cheating on him with his best friend. In addition to leaving those two, he has left a large and supportive family. Bram is trying to become less trusting, more self-protective, but his friendly, open nature makes that difficult. His neighbor, Zachary, is the opposite: he seems rude and closed off. He is also the reigning Halloween contest champ, blowing everyone out of the water with his high-concept designs. He works from home as an architect and has a very strict regimented schedule, which involves being around people as little as possible.
It turns out that winning is really important to Zachary, just like other outward signals of success, such as working for an esteemed architectural firm. So, he and Bram square off as competitors, and we get a bit of grumpy/sunshine and a smidge of creative rivalry. Then we get a prank war and then, next thing we know, all that competitive tension is in the rearview mirror. It was a little hard to buy into the conflict anyway – in fact, it was kind of boring – so I didn’t mind when it dissipated, and we could focus on the two main characters and the personal histories they are working against.
If you take the premise of this book as a promise, you will be disappointed. I still enjoyed what I usually like about Parrish: her characters, their struggles, and the way they help each other help themselves. But the Halloween decorating contest was a flimsy skeleton for the body of this book.