Sunday, 20 October 2013

Review: Wild Child - Molly O'Keefe*

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.

This book caught me off guard a little and looking at other reviews I was not alone. From the blurb I was expecting a light and delightfully fluffy romance, but light and fluffy Wild Child is not.
This is my first O'Keefe novel so I didn't really know what to expect when going in, but what I was hoping for was something light and distracting to while away my evening. Wild Child is considerably more substantial than what I was expecting and from the beginning O'Keefe doesn't shy away from any difficult issues.

Set in the struggling town of Bishop, Arkansas, Wild Child begins with mayor Jackson Davis attempting to save the fate of his beloved hometown which has suffered with the closure of the local factory. Jackson is an interesting hero for a romance novel, not the first mayor that I've encountered, but certainly one of the more rounded and reticent. Having brought up his sister after his parents both died in a crash when he was just starting out in life, Jackson isn't used to living life for himself and he treats his mayoral duties as an extension of that. While not necessarily a unique situation, Jackson does come across as less martyrish and merely more troubled than previous heroes.

Monica has led a similarly difficult life, although considerably darker than Jackson's. Having survived a turbulent childhood (to say the least) Monica is back in Bishop to write the story of the night her mother shot her abusive father. Still suffering the after effects of a rebellious and troubled youth, Monica has trust issues and isn't looking for a relationship with anybody. With Monica, and her mother, O'Keefe has also tackled the interesting question of the adverse effects of celebrity and reality TV.

Jackson and Monica have to fight hard for their relationship, both characters have to face the difficulty of analysing their feelings and questioning what they really want. I found Jackson and Monica's relationship a bit raw and awkward to read at times, but that may just be me. Monica has a longer journey than Jackson in the novel and I feel that despite the progress that she does make within the book several of her issues are left unresolved.

The secondary characters in the novel, those that usually lend some light relief to the plot, do not escape O'Keefe's dark intention. Particularly troubling is the storyline featuring Jackson's best friend, Shelby. Even good natured 'mother figure', Cora, reveals hints of an unhappy past. While I don't mind books that tackle heavier issues, the sheer amount covered in Wild Child tends to weigh the book down and there is little to no light relief to be found. In attempting to cover a lot of different issues I feel that O'Keefe sometimes struggles to give them all the space they need and is unable to resolve them all satisfactorily. Having said that I get the distinct feeling that this is only O'Keefe's first visit to Bishop and I suspect we will be seeing more of the secondary characters soon, something that I am interested in reading.

Wild Child is a very well written and engaging novel that I did enjoy. The characters, while complex, do win you over and it is easy to become invested in their lives. However, Wild Child certainly isn't a light read and does attempt to tackle some very dark and difficult issues so that is something to be aware of.

*ARC copy received from NetGalley in return for an honest review, Wild Child is released on 29th October.

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