Little Bridge Island, Book #2
Heat Factor: I expected closed door, but it wasn’t. Nor was it especially steamy.
Character Chemistry: Erm…
Plot: Righteous children’s librarian with a passion for true crime and awkward sheriff are thrown together because 1. Abandoned baby in library and 2. Small town
Overall: I was disappointed on a few levels
A friend of mine who happens to be a children’s librarian asked me if I had picked up this book for the blog some months ago. As the book is published by William Morrow, and Meg Cabot is really well known, I had thought about requesting it but ultimately decided to use my ARC reviewer spoons elsewhere. But after my friend asked about it, I put a copy on hold at the library (libraries are so great!!!) and let fate take its course.
Now, here we are.
I don’t really know what to make of this book. William Morrow does offer a lot of romance titles, but it’s more in the women’s fiction line, so by this time I have a certain expectation of what I’m going to get when I pick up one of these titles. So I can’t say I was expecting a lot of serious emotional development, but I also wasn’t expecting that the protagonists would have such a seriously shaky and unconvincing relationship.
Here’s where it lands: After growing up in Little Bridge, John moved back to town after he and his wife decided to divorce and he was asked to run for Sheriff. Molly moved to town after she needed a change of scene when she broke off her engagement, and a fellow librarian she knew was retiring and needed a replacement. John’s been back for some years, but Molly’s only been around a few months, so they haven’t yet met when John’s called in because Molly found an abandoned newborn in the library’s bathroom.
John is immediately interested in Molly, but is a little (though not nearly enough, IMO) turned off when she starts telling him how to do his job. Molly thinks John is hot but an unsympathetic jerk who can’t even catch a thief who’s been robbing houses near the high school, so how could he be expected to deal with this baby situation properly?
So, I read some reviews that were very anti-John, and I can understand that. He’s grumpy and awkward, and super fixated on making sure he doesn’t make mistakes after receiving the department’s harassment training. He doesn’t think very highly of his staff (I’d say maybe not without reason, but leadership is important…). He also comes across as stodgy/old because he’s completely out of touch with current culture, as demonstrated by his interactions with his teen daughter and Molly. Yeah, he’s recently divorced from his high school sweetheart, so he has no idea how to date, but still…
I personally really did not like Molly, and I would rather have a bone to pick with Molly and John’s relationship than with John’s character.
My beef with Molly is this: she’s incredibly self-righteous and unbending, and always in the sympathetic, optimistic way. After being judgemental to John to his face, she usually has an experience that leads to an internal monologue that maybe she wasn’t entirely right, but somehow it’s still John apologizing.
For example, their first interaction is in the library when John is questioning Molly about finding the newborn. John makes a comment about leaving the baby being a crime, indicating that he might arrest the baby’s mother, and Molly instantly thinks this is the worst thing in the universe. I have multiple problems with this. For Molly’s side, I would agree that bigger picture systemic or mental health issues might need to be addressed, and that would be more effective than legal punishment. But John notes more than once that there are at least three safe haven locations – none of which are the library – where the child could have been taken that would not have resulted in criminal charges. Also, the assumption that mothers (or fathers – because eventually John goes there, too) are automatically bonded with their children and would never! makes me RAGE. ESPECIALLY when later on in the same book Molly gets all judgey at John because she thinks that the baby’s mother’s parents are problematic. PICK A LANE, MOLLY. Are parents saints who would never do bad things, or do they ruin relationships with their children by being terrible? MAYBE THERE’S NUANCE HERE. And all of that doesn’t even get into the fact that John doesn’t actually say he’s going to arrest the mother. He says he has to investigate and that if the mother committed a crime she could be arrested. Like. Duh.
And that’s just the first interaction Molly and John have. It’s not absurd for protagonists to get off on the wrong foot and then get to know each other better and see the error of their ways, but Molly is constantly judging John and everything he does, always thinking she’s got the moral right of the situation, and John is always reacting to that and trying to figure out how to fix things with her.
Which brings me to the romance. Given the above, you might get where I’m at when I say I do not at all understand how these two actually have a relationship. Except for the fact that they’re physically attracted to each other and are interested in pursuing each other, they have absolutely zero relationship development that gets them on the same page. Why does John want to keep making changes on his end to convince Molly he’s worth a shot? I mean, adjustments and tweaks are normal relationship things, but if she’s not into the basics of John, he should peace out. For her part, if Molly thinks John is incompetent at his job and that his beliefs are basically diametrically opposed to her own, why does she keep wanting to talk to him? She just got out of a relationship with a man who was totally not at all on the same page as her. John and Molly argue and then sort of apologize to each other often, but they never really take the time to sync with each other or understand each other, and Molly constantly holding John to a standard that he fails to meet is cringeworthy.
Moreover, none of anything that happens even delves into John dealing with his divorce and the fact that his wife is “not very maternal” so he’s a single dad OR into Molly dealing with the end of her engagement and her fiance getting engaged to another woman only a couple months later. Which actually is not super surprising in my experience of women’s fiction (at least the William Morrow branch of women’s fiction), which tends to be a little more emotionally detached than genre romance. It’s just … there’s a lot to dig into, and it’s kind of weird that none of it really gets dug.
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