Review: Rick R. Reed – The Couple Next Door

1928415Author: Rick R. Reed
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: DreamSpinner Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary
ISBN: 9781634766494

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Summary:
With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.
Review:
The first time Jeremy meets the couple next door is when his neighbor Shane is pushed from the top of the stairs and comes tumbling down the staircase to land at Jeremy’s feet in the lobby. When Jeremy glances up, he spies a tough-looking, leather jacket-wearing guy who gives both men a dirty look and walks away. If this is Shane’s partner, Jeremy does not want to meet him.

Jeremy’s life is well-ordered and simple. He cleans houses on his own schedule and makes enough to get by, nothing more, but he likes it that way. He wouldn’t mind having a life partner, someone sweet like Shane, and the more he gets to know him, the more he sees to like. When a man named John introduces himself to Jeremy as his next door neighbor, Jeremy is shocked. John is a somewhat shy, clean-cut, khaki-wearing sort of geek. He’s not that guy Jeremy saw push Shane down the stairs—not at all. When pressed, Shane tells him that guy was named Cole, and he’s not always around.

Jeremy finds himself pressured into going out on the town with John and Shane one night, and he’s shocked once again when, instead of John, a drag queen named Vera shows up to sit with them—a drag queen who looks remarkably like John and Cole. The next day, Jeremy learns that John has Dissociative Identity Disorder, in other words multiple personalities. He’s either the sweet John who resides with Shane most of the time, or the tough, abusive Cole who makes an appearance when John gets mad, or he’s occasionally Vera, a cigarette-smoking, vamp.

This story was so complex, reading each new chapter was like peeling the layers from an onion or the petals from a daisy. He loves him. He loves him not. He’s with John. He’s with Cole. He’s with Jeremy. He’s not. Each layer revealed a new twist or brought new drama to light. Both Shane and Jeremy were attracted to each other, and though Jeremy finally found out that Shane was John’s brother rather than his boyfriend, that didn’t seem to stop either of the men from stepping into the line of fire of Cole’s temper. And, according to Shane, his temper had previously been shown to be deadly.

Without giving away plot details, I will say that I was holding my hand in front of my eyes as I read the second half of this story. Lately, Rick Reed’s stories have me reverting to childish behaviors like trying not to peek at the scary parts. Granted, that’s a bit difficult when you are trying to read a book, but the author has become very adept at writing thrillers that scare the heck out of me. Despite that, I keep coming back for more because his stories are addictive, exciting, complex, and highly detailed. The plot twists are bizarre and frightening and done to perfection!

The only downside for me with this story is that I didn’t feel enough of a connection between Jeremy and Shane. I could see an attraction between them, but Shane’s behavior was so distracting throughout the story that I couldn’t warm up to him, and I got to the point where I didn’t much care if he had a happy ending or not.

I highly recommend this story, especially to those who enjoy thrillers with their MM romances. You would have to look darn far to find a better combination.

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