Book One in Marie Harte’s McCauley Brothers series, The Troublemaker Next Door is Flynn McCauley’s story.
The McCauley brothers are: widowed Mike (who has a five-year-old son, Colin), Cameron and Flynn, as well as the informally adopted Brody Singer. Mike McCauley lives next door to the house the family grew up in, a house which is now rented out by his parents to three young women.
Maddie, her cousin Vanessa and their friend Abby moved into the house a few months earlier. When the book begins, Abby calls Mike in desperate need of some plumbing assistance. Flynn is visiting at the time and he happens to be a plumber. His visit isn’t entirely altruistic; he wants to take a look at the babes next door. Mike warns him off because he doesn’t want to have to deal with any neighbourly fallout if Flynn breaks a heart, but Flynn is undeterred.
Just a heads up: even though Abby is the first of the three women to be introduced in the story, she is not the heroine. (This threw me a bit because I tend to “imprint” – like a baby goose – on the first prominent female character.)
Maddie has had a bad day. She’s quit her job in an interior design firm after being sexually harassed by her boss. She’s also recently split up with her boyfriend and given the events of the day, she’s not at all in the mood for MEN. Flynn is captivated by the buxom red-haired virago. Maddie can’t help notice Flynn is muscular and gorgeous but she’s swearing off men and that’s that.
Or… maybe not.
Neither Maddie nor Flynn are in the market for a relationship so fairly shortly thereafter, they commence a kind of friends with benefits arrangement. I say “kind of” because it is quickly obvious to everyone (apart from perhaps Maddie and Flynn) that they are dating in all but name. At first it seemed to me that both main characters didn’t want the relationship label but as the story progressed, it morphed into Maddie being commitment phobic. I felt she was a little beaten up (metaphorically) from time to time and I didn’t love the way she was her own worst enemy and lacked self-awareness. I also didn’t love that her friends occasionally piled onto her about it. In the end, it felt a little less than female-friendly to me, though that was more of a vibe than anything specific.
Maddie and Flynn certainly have a scorching sexual chemistry. There is a lot of sex in the book – perhaps more than necessary because there were some scenes which didn’t serve to further the plot and during those, I found myself impatient to move on. Flynn is a dirty talker which is normally something I’d enjoy but I found some of his smutty conversation a little too porny for my taste.
The narration was serviceable. Anne Gray was well able to deliver the tension, chemistry and emotion of the story but her character differentiation was poor. There were many times I couldn’t tell whether it was Flynn or Maddie speaking.
I did like the voice Ms. Gray used for Colin. Other than Colin however, the only characters to be consistently differentiated were Flynn’s mother and Maddie’s cousin, Vanessa. Mrs. McCauley sounds more mature and Vanessa is a bit posh and stuck up. At the beginning of a conversation between them, Abby and Maddie sounded a little different but they quickly fell into the exact same tones. The same happened with the McCauley brothers and worse, with Maddie and Flynn!
One of the things which I find necessary to really enjoy an audiobook is to be able to tell the difference between the hero and heroine when they’re speaking. For the most part, I couldn’t here. There weren’t a lot of dialogue tags so I often had to put it together from context and this sometimes this had me puzzled.
If the tone and emotion hadn’t been right, I think I might have struggled to finish the listen. Ms. Gray’s other narration skills got me through but I don’t foresee that I will rush to listen to her again without some assurance the character differentiation has markedly improved.
I didn’t love The Troublemaker Next Door but I didn’t hate it either. There were some fun sections and I did like Colin with his crocodile tears (taught to him by “Yewbie” aka “Uncle” Brody) and even though I thought some of the dirty talk was better suited to Porn Hub than my iPod, I did enjoy the chemistry between Flynn and Maddie.
Book Content: C+
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Minimal
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
The Troublemaker Next Door was provided to AudioGals by Dreamscape Media for a review.