Caleb hates his job as an accountant. It’s slowly draining the life from him, but it’s steady, decently paying work that provides support to his mom and younger brother. Since his dad died unexpectedly, Caleb has done his best to be the man of the family, even to his own detriment. His only release is baking, which he loves, and when a new neighbor moves in next door, Caleb decides to welcome him with cookies.
Zach is smitten with Caleb almost from the start, but he has work troubles of his own thanks to a creepy new boss and the sudden arrival of a new job opportunity. So instead of romance, Zach finds a friend first in Caleb. Over evening meals, game nights, and some amazing baked goods, Zach and Caleb draw closer. But with work pulling them each in seemingly opposite directions, it appears their romance might fizzle out before it even has a chance to ignite.
The New Neighbor is the first in the Corio Heights series and while I suspect there may be some overlapping characters in future works, this initial novel strikes me as a standalone. And honestly, it’s fine. Just fine. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly great either. The characters, plot, and pacing are all on the humdrum side and and often slow moving. While another reader might enjoy it more, The New Neighbor never really captured my interest.
I think the biggest issue is the writing. It isn’t bad and on a technical level it’s okay, but it lacked depth. Nothing dipped below a very surface level of interaction, either between the characters or between me, as a reader, and the overall story. It felt a bit like I was reading the idea of a story, but not necessarily getting many layers. Caleb and Zach were both flat, ordinary creations and their choices were telegraphed so far in advance there was no sense of intensity or urgency about their actions or the decisions they made. As a result, I was rather bored with The New Neighbor and that feeling remained a constant throughout the book. That said, I do think Zach and Caleb are rather cute together and there’s certainly nothing terrible about either of them. They just didn’t work for me.
There is a side plot involving Zach’s boss that makes no sense and doesn’t serve much of a purpose. It doesn’t offer anything important or add any real impact to the book, save spurring Zach to do something he seemed already on the verge of doing anyway. And it’s this sort of thing that sums up most for the book — lacking in purpose and without enough emotional charge to overcome the story or character issues.
Another reader may come along and find The New Neighbor quite enjoyable, but weak characters and a plodding plot made reading this one more of a chore than a joy. I’d have to recommend giving this one a pass.