The female mayor of a small town navigates politics, relationship troubles, and the reality that life doesn’t always go according to plan.
Gwen Marsh’s life looks great on paper, but being the mayor of Cambria takes its toll. She’s under constant scrutiny at work, and there’s also her boyfriend, Jason. She knows something is off, but is unable to pinpoint the source of her unease as they lie in bed at night: “She should have felt calm, settled even. Instead, she felt cold dread....What’s wrong with me?” The strain worsens when Jason’s new job with BGB Pharmaceuticals keeps him away from home for days at a time. Then Gwen finds out that her chronic stomachache is actually an unexpected pregnancy, and it’s make-it-or-break-it time for their already rocky relationship. She debates whether it’s the right time or the right man with whom to start a family. After all, her personal life is never safe from the public eye, and it could interfere with her tidy plan to become the next governor of Colorado. Meanwhile, Jason explores the fine line between friendship and romance with a new co-worker, Alex. She is a well-rounded supporting character, capitalizing on Jason’s kindness and vulnerability. Slightly less developed, but still integral, is Gwen’s colleague Karen, the forefront of the movement to undermine the mayor’s authority. But a plotline involving Evan, a local college student with a schoolboy crush on Gwen, falls a bit flat. Aside from Gwen’s pregnancy, her cousin Val’s upcoming wedding gives the novel a nice sense of forward momentum. Val provides a sounding board for Gwen’s fears about motherhood. When it comes to Gwen and Jason, it’s nice to see a fictional relationship mirror the pitfalls of so many in real life—guilt, bickering, insecurity, lack of communication—but it can be hard to empathize when they spend so much of the novel at odds. Nevertheless, Rivers (Wallflower Blooming, 2016) convincingly creates a world in which the choices that women—and men—must make about career, romance, and family aren’t just theoretical. They’re personal.
Chicken soup for the working woman’s soul.