Back in the Burbs
By Tracy Wolff & Avery Flynn
Originally Published March 30, 2021
Single POV, First Person
I've always found the HOA to be absolutely ridiculous, so when I read the synopsis for this book about a woman who takes on the HOA and has a bit of an enemies-to-lovers romance with her hot neighbor? I was sold!
Mallory's life has taken a complete nosedive. She catches her crappy husband in the act with his assistant, the divorce is going to leave her with nothing, her conservative parents are telling her to win him back, and then, to top it all off, her favorite aunt dies. Let's just say it now, Mallory is a. Hot. Mess. When she learns her aunt left her old house to her, Mallory is determined to fix it up to its former glory and restart her life for the better. Never mind the hundreds of HOA violations she discovers the needs to get fixed and the gruff attitude from her hot neighbor who is, of course, on the HOA board ... worst of all, upon arriving at the house, she discovers her aunt had a secret and she's left Mallory to clean up the mess ... literally.
This book is full of so many things to unpack. Emotional turmoil, deep-rooted psychology, and the difficult-to-master art of forgiving and forgetting are the cornerstones of this story and it is a bumpy ride. Mallory is in the dregs and she is forcing herself to shed who she was and become someone she actually likes being. Her inner struggle was full of so many ups and downs, growth and regressions, it was hard not to root for her or shake your head at the book while reading when she did something to hurt her own cause. She was very human, relatable in a spastic jumbled kind of way. She is also 35, and I felt it wholly refreshing to read an MC who was older than the typical 23-25 year olds this genre is usually full of. The romance in the book shifts a few times throughout, not really a straight line but more enemies-to-civil-to-enemies-to-useful for each other-t0-friends-to-coworkers-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers-to man I don't know, but it was a mess and relatable and so fun to read! Nick, the love interest, is a very solid guy who does his best to be what Mallory needs, but he also leaves room for her to fix herself and realize what it is she truly wants. He helps her fight for those wants and their relationship was sweet and spicy all at once!
I really enjoyed this one, my only qualm was the dynamic between Mallory's whole family. I wish she had been more steadfast when it came to handling her parents, and without saying spoilers, I didn't like how one character gets out of being held responsible for despicable behavior. It was a loose end that was tied up too quickly and too neatly for my tastes and it made the rest of the empowering women themes throughout the book feel cheapened.
Alas, we can't all get what we want, but Back in the Burbs was funny, relatable, and a wonderful summer read!