The story begins like a typical resort town contemporary romance. This isn’t a bad thing, because I like contemporary romance and the book is well written. The son of a wealthy family crashes (literally) into a maid at his parents’ hotel. The book could easily have turned out to be poor maid makes it good by snagging a rich guy.
Sure, he has more money than she does, which allows him to replace the bike he destroyed and treat her to an elegant dinner, but money is barely an element of the story. Instead, this is a tale of the long-term effects of rumors when people believe them despite the evidence before their eyes. It’s about getting a mature perspective on the place where you grew up, seeing both the cracks and what made it a home. It’s about single parenthood and irresponsible partners, classism, pride, bullying, and distrust.
She’s a Cinderella only if the fairy tale was about a girl making her own way through life who is dragged kicking and screaming to the ball.
Maddie is an independent, lovely person who will do whatever necessary to support her family, even her mother who has disappointed her. Money troubles cost her the dream of a college education and she has a hard life, in good part because of false rumors, but she doesn’t let that make her bitter. Thomas, her son, captures hearts, but cries when his mother leaves and is affected by the ups and downs in Maddie’s relationship with Mac just like a real baby would be.
Mac, on the other hand, grew up with all the advantages. He’s well off, college educated, part owner of a successful firm, and has a family that loves him. He’s also a bit arrogant and oblivious when it comes to the lives people without his background live. What makes him such a good match for Maddie, though, is how he doesn’t deny what’s in front of him but rather revises his understanding of the situation and grows. Which is not to say he doesn’t stumble. He wants to be Maddie’s knight in shining armor, but good intentions don’t always have the intended result.
I want to say more, but I don’t want to spoil a lovely story. I’ll say just this: I enjoy reading contemporary romance because of how it demonstrates coping and reconciliation tools necessary to keep a relationship strong even during the rough times. They face more than their fair share of trials both personal and of a broader scope, and yet earn their way to a solid happily ever after.
One last curious note: Sometimes it felt like the author had to backtrack the story to fix something she believed her readers would find hard to accept. Rather than removing the difficult moment, though, she adds another layer to it in a later scene that smooths the jarring edges. It’s an interesting approach and ultimately one I liked because it kept me revising my impressions of people, sometimes to the better and sometimes not. It’s true to the reality that we don’t always see the full picture during an encounter, and if we hold the initial judgment as fact, we might never find the truth.
I’m happy I gave Gansett Island a try and already picked up the next two books because I’m intrigued by the hints at what’s to come and not yet ready to leave this crowd.