Book Review: Never Been Kissed by Molly O’Keefe

in Book Review, Toni Linenberger

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18630551The first book in Molly O’Keefe’s Boys of Bishop series, Wild Child, came out last fall.  I was amazed at O’Keefe’s ability to write such a brittle story that reflected the heroine so well.  I’m not sure how you manage to write brittle, but O’Keefe nailed it.  Wild Child gave us a glimpse of what Bishop was and hints of what it could be.  It definitely defined the town as its own character and integral to the overarching story.  However, we had to wait until this summer to fully realize what the town could become.

O’Keefe returns to Bishop with Never Been Kissed.  It is Kissed that starts to drive Bishop into what it really needs to be to survive:  a community.  Not surprisingly in an O’Keefe book, community comes from the place least expected.  But once there, it begins to grown and change and make everything a better example of what it was.

As the daughter of a wealthy politician, Ashley Montgomery has had enough of her parents’ expectations for her future and is going her own way, volunteering to work at a refugee camp in Africa. But her act of charity turns dangerous when she takes a boat trip and is abducted by Somali pirates. Enter Brody Baxter, who was a bodyguard for the Montgomery family ten years ago and doesn’t think twice about coming to Ashley’s rescue. Handsome and tough, Brody has always done what needed to be done. So he swoops in, saves Ashley, and brings her to a place where she can rest and recuperate without the glare of the press and her demanding family: Brody’s small hometown of Bishop, Arkansas. But Ashley soon realizes that she’s not the only one in need of healing.

Holed up with Ashley in a tiny apartment over his brother’s bar in Bishop, Brody is tempted and torn in ways he never anticipated. Beautiful Ashley, vibrant despite her ordeal, fearless enough to love him beyond his wall of self-punishment, is now determined to save him. But with a little faith and a lot of love, they just may find happiness in each others’ arms.

Brody and Ashley drive this story, but at the heart it is more about bringing people together.  Brody comments midway through the book that building community is what Ashely does.  She helps bring Brody and his brother Sean back together.  She brings Sean and Brody back to their father.  She begins to bring life back into the community.  Even as she integrates into the community, Ashely challenges Brody.  With her he comes into himself and lets go of many of the ghosts of the past.

By bringing Brody and Sean back together, Ashely begins to facilitate the secondary romance between Sean and Cora.  Once Sean lets go of his past he is able to move forward and see what is right in front of him.  Cora owns the local diner; though they are not really in competition they’ve set themselves up that way.  It is only when they begin to look past their automatic animosity they begin to realize they are both after the same things.  They’ve been throwing sparks since Wild Child and it was really fun to see them begin to work together on something.

One of the things I found most interesting about this book is that it features two interracial couples.  Despite being a town in the south, this doesn’t seem to make an impact on Bishop.  Though we know they are interracial couples it does not drive the story.  Many of the seeds of complete and utter acceptance may have been sown when Sean’s parents adopted Brody as a kid, but the complete lack of concern by the town is amazing and wonderful.  More to the point, this is yet another sign of how the building of community brings everyone together.

Thankfully we have two more Bishop books to go.  There is still room for everyone to fully come together and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.  If you haven’t read Wild Child, I recommend starting there.  Though Jackson and Monica don’t play a large role in this installment, it helps to watch the growth of the community play out.  This is a perfect summer read for new and old visitors to Bishop.

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