“Love thy neighbor—and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier.” ~ Mae West.
When I came across that quote in Midwest Living magazine, I immediately thought of a common theme used in movies and romance (and romantic suspense) novels—the man next door. From Meet Me in St. Louis to Mr. Perfect (by Linda Howard) what is more delicious than the heroine discovering the boy she grew up with has turned into a man she could fall in love with? Or the man who moved in next door/across the hall/down the street is definitely worth more than a friendly wave? He could even save her life.
It’s fun to watch the heroine’s journey of discovery as she tosses aside old assumptions. Bad boy becomes sheriff. Nerdy geek returns home a buff millionaire. Mousy bookworm is now a celebrated novelist. People change, attitudes don’t always. Think high school reunions. During an episode of Bones, the celebrated forensic anthropologist returned to her home town to solve a murder during her high school reunion and she was still treated as “weird girl.”
Sometimes the man next door isn’t what everyone thinks. Danger can hide beneath a pleasant face and mild demeanor. Remember how the neighbors in Cleveland—and even his family members—couldn’t believe Ariel Castro held women captive all those years? Or the pedophile everyone said was such a nice man.
Since I do not read horror novels (I don’t watch horror movies, either), I prefer the next door neighbor to be the good guy. The man who leaves a successful career to return home to rescue the family business or take care of his aging parents. The man who always had a secret crush on the heroine who never left town.
While these stories are fun to read, they’re even more fun to write. The best part is every writer can start out with the same theme and the resulting stories will all be different.
What is your favorite boy-next-door movie or book?