It truly delights my reviewer heart when a writer gets the fine art of crafting a short story just about right. It takes careful scripting to make a short work because in a matter of a few pages, the author must not only establish the main characters, but also provide enough background on who they are, how they met, and whether or not they have established a relationship. That is a great deal of information to unpack without just telling us the story rather than allowing us to experience it first hand. What Clare London does in her latest installment of her London Lads series, A Good Neighbour, is serve up exactly what the reader needs to become immediately invested in her main character, Dylan.
The opening scene introduces Dylan, a school teacher who is living in a rather small and conservative town outside London, by letting us listen to a cute and clever conversation between his two elderly aunts and himself. During their interaction we find out that Dylan takes care of a neighbor’s house that is co-owned by a brother, Neal, and his sister, Josie. As the story rapidly progresses, we are given just enough background to learn that Dylan likes Neal, Dylan is definitely closeted, and Neal travels extensively, which puts a strain on their clandestine relationship. Fairly quickly we come to understand that Dylan is going to be forced to make a choice—either come out to his aunts and the community at large or lose Neal for good.
This tale was packed from beginning to end with mega amounts of story wrapped up in just a few chapters. The immediate result of some excellent writing by author Clare London was that I fell for Dylan right away—my heart went out to the conundrum he faced and I wanted he and Neal to succeed at love in the worst way. These characters were fully fleshed out, plus you got huge amounts of back story on each and it was all cleverly done by either intimate discussion between Neal and Dylan or fairly humorous intercourse between the aunts and Dylan. The only quibble I had was I wish there had been just one more chapter tacked on to the end to allow for the story to end less abruptly than it did. I wished for just a bit more time for the resolution to occur and for Dylan to make his ultimate decision. However, that does not really detract from the fact that this was a well-done short story and a satisfying little romance.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.