I requested an advance review copy of Grace Worthington’s “A Wedding in Wild Harbor” because the premise had me at subterfuge. A man and woman who don’t like each other agree to a pretend relationship for their own gains. Liam Henry is a Chicago businessman who wants his mother, Jane, off his back when it comes to his dating life. Cassidy Woods is in her last year of college and wants to save the bookstore where she holds a successful children’s reading program in Wild Harbor, a small beach town. The description alone promised shenanigans, and if it sounds like a Hallmark movie, I would agree with you.
Here’s the thing with Hallmark movies: I’ve come to expect a story line where the main character either is an entrepreneur or wants that promotion at work more than she wants a relationship or anything to do with marriage. This story started with a man who is like this. But some of the story line troubled me. It veered too closely toward tragedy for a plot that should resemble comedy’s calling card. Let me explain.
Liam is wealthy, wears beautiful suits, and drives an Alfa Romeo. He reminded me of two characters from romantic comedies: “Edward” from “Pretty Woman” and “Reuben” from “Along Came Polly.” Like his father before him, Liam buys up businesses, fires their employees, and turns the empty space into a business he feels will make a better profit. Relationships are too risky in his book, so he is still single and holds people at arm’s length. He lost his father and his brother, so their loss informs his behavior. His mother Jane is battling cancer, and Liam’s focus has been on her treatments and well-being. He is a guardian to his brother’s daughter who is at a boarding school at the beginning of the story. He has no time for dating and no room for things he can’t control.
He meets Cassidy Woods while driving to Wild Harbor to seal the deal on a property he is buying. He becomes distracted while driving, goes left of center, and forces Cassidy to veer off the road. Liam stops to see if she’s alright, and she recognizes him as the motorist who drove her off the road. Instead of apologizing, he says she overcorrected.
I didn’t like that answer. Liam several times corrected Cassidy’s interpretation of true events. He tried to make this near-accident her fault. He tried to be his own spin doctor. I didn’t like this guy.
Cassidy meanwhile doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. She spends her money on her reading program at the bookstore where she works. She is blindsided by the fact the owners are selling the bookstore, a refuge for her growing up. She has epilepsy and a seizure at school made her the target of a bully. She decided to spend her time reading having adventures, rather than in the company of other children. She is like Liam in that sense of wanting to keep people at arm’s length. That marked moment, as Lysa TerKeurst would say, led her to want to make the bookstore a safe place for other kids, and now Liam wanted to take that dream away.
Just like I thought, the two characters found themselves in awkward and humorous situations. One of the conflicts arrived in the form of Cameron, this guy I pictured as Joey Donner from “10 Things I Hate About You.” But remember the part about Liam’s father’s death? Well, his father’s business dealings appeared shady. The scenes started to look like an episode of FBI. I felt like yelling, “We had a contract, Grace!”
I expected to see characters navigating conflicts; otherwise, I might not become that invested if they had smooth sailing throughout. However, the synopsis made me think “romantic comedy,” so I kind of felt blindsided by scandal and crime thrown so far into the story. I know from studying plays during my years at Kent State that comedy and tragedy can share the same subject matter. I remembered a lecture I heard long ago when my class studied plays by Eugene O’Neill. The professor said this quote and probably attributed it to Mark Twain, but it turns out it was TV personality Steve Allen:
“Tragedy + Time = Comedy.
“When I explained to a friend recently that the subject matter of most comedy is tragic (drunkenness, overweight, financial problems, accidents, etc.), he said, “Do you mean to tell me that the dreadful events of the day are a fit subject for humorous comment?“ The answer is ‘No, but they will be pretty soon.’” – Steve Allen
I felt like the lovers were divided by tragic events, including some still looming in the future, and not enough pages were left to turn this around. I had to push myself to finish the rest of the story because I didn’t find that I was rooting for this couple. My ambivalence aside, I did enjoy the ending and am happy I read to the end.
Thank you to Victory Editing Netgalley Co-Op and Poets and Saints publishing for allowing me to read and review this last book in the Wild Harbor Beach series. “A Wedding in Wild Harbor” is book 5. The first four are:
Love at Wild Harbor, Book 1, the love story of Lily Wood (Cassidy’s sister) and Alex Briggs;
Summer Nights in Wild Harbor, Book 2, the love story of Megan Woods and Finn Avery;
Christmas Wishes in Wild Harbor, Book 3, the love story of Mia Sutton and Max Malone; and, finally,
The Inn at Wild Harbor, Book 4, the love story of Aspen and Matt Woods.