Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Perfect Neighbour by Nora Roberts

The Perfect Neighbour (1999)
Nora Roberts
Grade: C+
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: hotter than NR's regualar mild. See below
Source: eBay
The MacGregors: (11) The Perfect Neighbour

I really wanted to love this book. The MacGregors are one of my favourite NR series (I can never decide) and The Perfect Neighbour had Daniel MacGregor back in full force, still happily meddling away at nearly ninety years old. I'd wanted some light relief and a happy-ever-after to cheer myself up after the darkness of The Siren and while TPN did provide lots of both, I was left feeling uncomfortably unssatisfied.

As the youngest child of two artists, it's no suprise that Cybil Campbell has followed in the footsteps of her parents. Genvieve Grandeau-Campbell is well-known for her beautiful landscapes but Cybil has followed her father who writes the Macintosh political comic strips and has produced her own popular daily strip featuring the blonde Emily who can never manage to hold down a job.

Cybil is one of those heroines who you want as a best friend. She's kind, funny, upbeat and welcoming, unable to hold a grudge for very long. Her neighbours are forever in and out of her door and she always has time for people who want to talk. With a little nudge from her friend and downstairs neighbour Jody (the basis for Emily's friend in the strip whose name I can't remember), Cybil bakes a batch of cookies by means of introducing herself to her new, reclusive neighbour opposite her in 3B.

Preston McQuinn is only renting 3B while he waits for building work to finish on his house. He prefers to keep to himself in his work as a playwright and would never be able to concentrate on his work as Cybil does in 3A with her 'revolving door policy.' When he finds Cybil at his door with her favourite yellow plate full of chocolate-chip cookies, he's abominably rude, not wanting to encourage her friendship. Despite this, Cybil is fascinated and follows Preston one evening when he goes to a friend's bar to play his saxophone to relax. Cybil - not knowing any better because Preston hasn't deigned to enlighten her - assumes that he's an out-of-work musician who is currently in a spot of hard times whilst between jobs. Everyone in the building is always trying to match Cybil off and she can never say no. Desperate to avoid a date that's been set up for her by her neighbour Mrs W. (can't remember her name!), Cybil tells Mrs W. the first thing that comes to mind: that she already has a date with Preston. She promises him $100 if he'll go out with her (still under the illusion that he's job-less) and when they return, Cybil knows that her neighbour is watching them through the curtains, so promises him another $50 if he'll kiss her under Mrs W's watchful eye so she can stop pushing her nephew (? grandson possibly?) at her. And boy, does Preston kiss her. After an amusing discussion with Jody about how it rated and Cybil declaring 'no scale', readers across America see Emily having the same conversation a few days later after a date wtih her new neighbour Quinn.

A minor big misunderstanding ensues when Cybil discovers that Preston is the Preston McQuinn of A Tangle of Souls and not the poor musician that she had assumed. After a bad experience with an ex-girlfriend that had rocked his entire family, Preston is adamant that he won't allow another woman to play him the same way but he can't ignore his attraction to Cybil and her sunny disposition that is such a mirror opposite of his own. He does some rather attractive grovelling and they kiss and make up and begin a relationship.

Naturally, Cybil and Preston have Daniel MacGregor to thank for bringing them together. It amazes me how he is able to become so involved in directing the love lives of his children and grandchildren without them knowing until it's too late because they've already fallen headlong into love. Yes, there will of course be minor troubles along the way, but he always manages to get them spot-on. The scene where Cybil, Preston and Cybil's brother Matthew visit Daniel and Anna at Hyannis Port is perhaps my favourite in the book. Everyone knows what Daniel is like and know exactly how to respond to his moods, and so they manage to play him as tunefully as he plays them.

Then, nearer the end, we have ourselves a major big misunderstanding which Cybil is not able to as easily forgive. It is closely related to what Preston had experienced with his ex and like the man he is, he automatically assumes that all women would act as she had done - even the kind-hearted Cybil.

It always astounds me how stupid men can be. They have a bad experience with one woman and so become convinced that all other women who are interested in them are just another sneaky, conniving bitch. Of course, it's only when the woman leaves them that they realise that she would never have done such a thing and it really is True Love after all. It's a common romance trope that I think is difficult to do well, just because you can expect it coming. In The Perfect Neighbour, we had already seen Preston pour his heart out to Cybil about his ex- and so when Ms Roberts began to lay the foundations for the major big misunderstanding, I was able to predict how Preston would react and being the typical man, Preston conformed exactly to my expectations. That Cybil is a genuinely kind person only exacerbates the incredulity I felt when Preston fell into this male trap.

I would have enjoyed the book a lot more had I not been so angry at Preston. He's otherwise an alright guy, though a bit more of a recluse than I would like in a NR hero. He's hot as demonstrated by his 'no scale' kiss and I was actually surprised by the level of detail Ms. Roberts went into in her sex scenes as compared to her other contemporaries. They by no means reach the hotness level of The Siren or even The Prey, say, but definitely more descriptive than her regular mild.

I thought the first, minor big misunderstanding was very well done. Since Preston was hardly forthcoming with information about himself, it was only to be expected from his late-night sax-playing and empty apartment that Cybil would assume that he had fallen into hard times. It was really quite mean for Preston not to correct Cybil's mistake and play along with her as he did, so her reaction and hurt were completely justified and very well written. IMO, he could have grovelled a lot more, but I guess it was just as a way to building up to the major big misunderstanding.

Cybil was a wonderful heroine. As well as all the adjectives I've already used, she's spunky and bold, a little spontaneous at times and loves life. I'd love to be her and she reminds me a lot of Serena whom I adore. Cybil might not have wanted marriage and kids right away when we first meet her, but she knows that Preston is The One for her and isn't afraid to embraceher feelings, though she is a little reluctant to voice these to Preston. I want Cybil to be my friend and bake for me!

Again, apart from Preston's stupidity, this was a very good read. Like her other novels, this was an easy and addictive read and I found myself flying through the chapters like this was the last book left on earth. As already stated, I loved seeing Daniel and Anna again, and Grant was a wonderfully possessive father and protector of his baby. TPN is the last book in the MacGregor series and it's a real shame knowing that this is the end. I have yet to read Rebellion and The MacGregor Grooms but the main storylines have been told. It's a beautifully crafted series and my only complaint is that not all of Cybil's generation have been matched up and Daniel won't be around to continue to pair off his great-grandchildren. Here's to hoping that Ms Roberts will return to see future MacGregors married off!

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