Oh, hai, it’s Wednesday! And snowing. Again. Yay.
This week has been almost every possible kind of surprising, which I’m mostly grateful for, and also amused by. Life! So weird and wonderful.
Speaking of weird and wonderful, this week’s recommendation is a book by the incomparable Molly O’Keefe that I’ve been meaning to say things about for ages and ages. Here’s the blurb—
Perfect for readers of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson, this sizzling romance tells the story of a sexy small-town mayor and a notorious “bad girl,” who discover that home really is where the heart is.
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 enjoy and admire Molly’s work because it is so complex and multilayered, and because she’s so unafraid to push her characters, just push them and push them inside the same scene so that something that begins beautiful can become difficult, angry, intense, and then break open into revelation. She is masterful at this, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her more masterful than in Wild Child.
This is a complicated book with complicated characters, and it requires a certain amount of patience, I think, to sit with characters who refuse to fit the patterns we anticipate, who struggle so much. But there is a great deal of beauty, too, in watching them change, watching love open them up.
Last Friday I went to Beloit to read from Deeper, and it was a wonderful experience — fun, affirming, fascinating. One thing that came from that visit and the conversations I had with Mary Ann Rivers in the aftermath was a strong desire on my part to read aloud more, and to hear romance read aloud. If you look at the comments to my last Friday giveaway, you’ll notice a pattern: most of us have never been to a reading. I think in romance, especially, we are afraid to read aloud. We are too likely to believe what we’re told, which is that romances are silly, poorly written, disposable, not worth reading.
This is not true.
It’s not true, and it’s a harmful thing to believe about ourselves as writers — that we are writing books not worth reading aloud. It’s also a harmful thing to believe about what we’re reading — that we are engaging with novels that we have to be ashamed of, that aren’t worthy, somehow.
So I’m going to try this thing on Wednesdays, reading from the books I’m recommending, and I’m going to be thinking about reading more generally and how we might bring more of it into our romance world.
This is a segment of my favorite scene from Wild Child. What I love about this passage is how Molly investigates the tension that can live in us, not just in our minds, but in our bodies. Monica, the heroine, desperately wants to do things, physical acts, that bring her closer to the hero — and just as desperately, she needs to put distance between them. We watch her think through this, feel through this, but we also watch her body try to handle it, and it’s her body that gives us a sense of how difficult this moment is for her, and how completely transformative.
Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads