Despite some lurid plot premises and extremely convenient coincidences, the feisty characters and rueful emotional wisdom of this sequel will win over all but the hardest-hearted reader.
It’s one year since Phoebe, Ness, Nance, and Beryl joined forces Bad Girl Creek (2001) to get over bad health and bad men by working and living on Phoebe’s California flower farm, dubbing themselves the Bad Girls in honor of the creek running through it. Hundreds of miles away in Nebraska, 29-year-old Mary (“Maddy”) Madigan quits her drunken boyfriend and the rodeo they sing in to head for Oklahoma City, where her twin sister was killed five years earlier in the bombing of the Murrah Building. There, she runs into Rick, the can’t-commit music journalist who drove Nance to the Bad Girls. Even before Maddy and Rick fall into bed together, we learn that (1) Phoebe’s beloved Juan was killed in a car crash on their wedding day and she’s pregnant with his baby, and (2) Nance is going to marry Phoebe’s brother James, even though she’s anorexic and not exactly over Rick. In a Santa Fe bar hosting a performance by her mysteriously wealthy boyfriend Earl (who might be the legendary studio guitarist Buckethead, always masked in public by a KFC bucket), Beryl befriends Maddy and disapproves of Rick. They arrive at Bad Girl Creek two days before James’s wedding, causing Nance to keel over, cut her head, and land in the hospital. Yes, it’s a lot to swallow, but undeniably fun to read; the story zips along, powered by the marvelously individual narrators’ voices, particularly those of Maddy and Rick, who are both smart enough to know how screwed up they are. The Bad Girls play mostly supporting roles here, but what hasn’t changed is the author’s hardheaded understanding that some actions cause permanent damage, softened by her cautious optimism that even damaged people can find new love and new purpose.
A slight sophomore slump in the series, but enough heart and soul to bring most of Mapson’s fans back for installment number three to see how she ties up all those loose ends.