If you’ve ever had a beef with your homeowners association, you’re going to relate to Alexa Martin’s newest rom-com, Next-Door Nemesis. Because in the world of suburbia, the HOA is everybody’s enemy.
When Collins Carter moves back to her childhood home in the wake of a professional meltdown and bad breakup, she’s not expecting to run into Nathaniel Adams. They were friends once, until Nate opted for the greener pastures of teenage popularity and morphed from her best friend to nemesis nearly overnight.
Unfortunately, time has been good to Nate. He’s a hotshot realtor living his best, most successful life right next door to Collins’ parents. He’s also the current vice president of the local HOA, and struts around like he’s the king of his own little fiefdom. Martin uses Nate and Collins’ yearslong derision for each other to set up one fun disaster after another. Nate insists on being in control of everything concerning the neighborhood, while Collins creates roadblocks left and right to throw him off course. She soon has the brilliant idea to dethrone Nate on the next vote for HOA president, which for him would be tantamount to full, total failure. Collins’ embrace of chaos makes her the perfect foil for Nate’s perfection: It’s fun to see her chip away at his levelheaded facade, and it’s just as fun to see him lose his cool.
Martin uses the seemingly lighthearted HOA battle to reveal the deeper emotions both characters are trying to navigate. Winning the presidency isn’t the true goal of either character—rather, the election becomes an outlet for each to fight for control over their own destinies. It doesn’t take long for the cracks in their supposed antagonism to appear, and for the reader to realize that Collins and Nate actually love each other. Both are equally worthy of redemption, and equally capable of giving each other a second chance.
All the hallmarks of Martin’s appeal (as seen in contemporary romance gems such as Intercepted and Better Than Fiction), are present: an enviable, robust friend squad; snappy dialogue; and a slow, but very hot romantic buildup. It’s sexy. It’s steamy. And it sure is fun.