The Girl Next Door, by Amy Jo Cousins (Bend or Break, Book 3)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (June 16, 2015)
Page Count: approx. 250 pages
Genre: Bisexual (M/F, F/F) Romance
Short & Sweet: Charles “Cash” Carmichael has given up an amazing job and a very large paycheck in Boston to live paycheck to paycheck doing a job he loves in Chicago. When he comes home from work one day to find his teenage cousin on his doorstep, having come out as gay to his parents and not gotten the reaction he wanted, Cash turns to the one person he think can help him: his ex-friends-with-benefits Steph, who ended their arrangement (and possibly their friendship) years before.
Note: You do not need to read the previous two books in this universe to understand this novel. There are some references to previous books, but nothing that can’t be easily picked up on.
My Thoughts: I’m so in love with this novel that I can barely string a sentence together that doesn’t use half a dozen exclamation points. It is SO FREAKING GOOD!! Amazing characters, amazing plot, amazing sex, amazing conflict, amazing everything.
Where to start? Well, it’s a bisexual romance, as the genre above says. But that doesn’t mean it’s a heterosexual romance where one of the characters once had a fling with someone of the same sex. No, Steph is openly and unashamedly bisexual. She left Cash for a relationship with a woman, and she’s fierce in her belief that bisexuality is no less queer than being gay or lesbian. In a society where bi-erasure is a pretty common occurrence, it’s always a joy to find a bisexual character treated so well by an author.
Cash himself is a miracle of a man. He’s not perfect, by any means; he’s not overly bright, he speaks before thinking, and he processes events and emotions faster than everyone around him, making it difficult for him to emphasize when someone else hasn’t moved on from a situation. But he’s loyal, and he loves his friends with everything he has. And he’s sexually adventurous in the way that only a guy completely secure in his heterosexuality can be!
The plot was absolutely solid. Cash panics when his seventeen year old cousin comes to him for support. He calls his best friends back in Boston, a gay couple (from the first novel in the series), and then sucks it up and calls Steph, who he hasn’t spoken to since moving to Chicago. Steph immediately steps up to help Cash out, but she’s hesitant to fall back into their old friends-with-benefits relationship. Cash, unable to get Steph out of his mind even after so long, is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her around, even if it means not getting any closer than she lets him.
There’s a lot going on here, but it’s all balanced carefully. Cash’s financial problems duel with the love he has for his job and his refusal to go back to a cushy job that means nothing. Steph’s desire to help Cash is at war the sexual attraction between them, and the fear of getting in too deep. And the background characters are intriguing and add to the plot without overwhelming Cash and Steph’s story, especially Cash’s cousin Denny and his co-worker Varun.
I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. The only thing I wanted when it was over was more of it! (But maybe we’ll get Denny’s story in the next book of the series? Fingers crossed! Edit: Yes it is! Book four due out in August, I can’t wait!)
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