Book Review: Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe – Review By Toni Linenberger
Brittle: that’s the best word I can use to describe Molly O’Keefe’s Wild Child. Unfortunately that word doesn’t begin to illustrate the mastery of language necessary to create such vivid images and characters. The hero and heroine are brittle, fragile pieces of blown glass; a wrong word, look, or touch will send them shattering into thousands of pieces beyond repair. This book is so much more than the back cover copy indicates.
Monica Appleby is a woman with a reputation. Once she was America’s teenage “Wild Child,” with her own reality TV show. Now she’s a successful author coming home to Bishop, Arkansas, to pen the juicy follow-up to her tell-all autobiography. Problem is, the hottest man in town wants her gone. Mayor Jackson Davies is trying to convince a cookie giant to move its headquarters to his crumbling community, and Monica’s presence is just too . . . unwholesome for business. But the desire in his eyes sends a very different message: Stay, at least for a while.
Jackson needs this cookie deal to go through. His town is dying and this may be its last shot. Monica is a distraction proving too sweet, too inviting—and completely beyond his control. With every kiss he can taste her loneliness, her regrets, and her longing. Soon their uncontrollable attraction is causing all kinds of drama. But when two lost hearts take a surprise detour onto the bumpy road of unexpected love, it can only lead someplace wonderful.
I have been looking forward to reading this book for a while. The idea of a small town waiting to be rescued is one of my favorite tropes. Fools Gold, California (Susan Mallery) and Sweetness, Georgia (Stephanie Bond) anyone? I wanted to see what Ms. O’Keefe did with the dying small town idea. Not surprisingly, she grabbed hold with both hands and made it her own.
Her own was not quite what I expected. The majority of small town romances I’ve read have been lighthearted and fun. I did not expect the brittle, fragile characters and raw emotion that O’Keefe brings to the story. Even the town itself has an air of despair that hangs over it. There are wonderful things going on in the town: a renowned art camp; an annual okra festival (even though the okra cannery is long gone); a local diner with the best pie in the state; and, construction on a new bar and microbrewery. However, these things cannot overcome the loss of jobs and local revenue.
Jackson’s mission is to save the town. He believes by winning a contest to bring the cookie factory to town he will solve the town’s problems. Once the town’s problems are solved his sense of obligation will be met and he can move on. He doesn’t realize that by trying to solve the town’s problems he’s holding everyone at bay, including his teenage sister. He is a caricature of himself. He wants to save everyone else, never realizing he’s the one that needs to be saved.
Monica’s mission is to put to rest the ghosts of her past by writing a book about the night her mother killed her father. Her first book detailed her rebellious teenage years. She doesn’t believe that writing the book will solve the mysteries of her childhood. Rather she needs the money. She doesn’t realize how dredging up the past will impact her present. Early on in the book she tells us that she’s decided to let go of her Wild Child past and not fall into the same destructive behaviors.
There’s no way these two should be good for each other. Yet, inexplicably, they are better together than they are apart. Monica sees that Jackson is broken. Jackson doesn’t see the Wild Child; he sees Monica. Together they are able to not only keep each other from shattering, but begin to shore up the blown glass. The end of the book is not the end of their journey, rather it is the beginning. I can’t wait to catch up with them in the next two books in the series.