When a novelist writer retreats to Block Island to hide, his new life gets off on the wrong foot with a big lie.
Anthony Puckett, son of a blockbuster writer of James Patterson–esque dimensions, published his first novel to acclaim so fervent it made his father jealous. Unfortunately, his sophomore effort was found to contain 1,200 words plagiarized from a little-known Irish author. (How do you steal 1,200 words from one novel and drop them unchanged into another? Don't think about this too long.) His downward spiral hits bottom when his soulless bitch of a wife puts him out of the house and cuts off communication between him and his 4-year-old son. Off he goes as "Anthony Jones" to a borrowed cabin on Block Island, where his next-door neighbor is a former attorney who graduated fourth in her class at Stanford Law but is now unhappily married to a surgical oncologist who has demanded she abandon her career to become a stay-at-home mom. In secret, she has become a popular food blogger under a false identity: an articulate, sensitive stay-at-home dad posting as Dinner by Dad. In a coincidence that the author herself labels bold, Dinner by Dad is the favorite food blog of the island native who becomes Anthony's love interest—Joy, a single mom and whoopie-pie entrepreneur with a teenager, who in turn ends up babysitting at the home of the food blogger. Novelist that he is, Anthony often identifies "plot twists" in his life as they arrive, and the final section of this book will give him plenty of material, with an apparent kidnapping, a hurricane, a sudden death, and an earthshaking backstory reveal. Moore (The Captain's Daughter, 2017, etc.) has a pretty jaded view of writers—liars, plagiarists, lukewarm mothers, and terrible fathers. This book has all the elements of an Elin Hildebrand novel—island setting, writer character, second-chance love story—without the polish and sophistication, which unfortunately cannot be pasted in via references to Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, etc. Editing could have deleted some of the flat-footed, sometimes-laughable dialogue and the near-silliness of the cavalcade of climactic events. Also, how many times does someone have to say they have something to tell you before you let them spit it out?
Fans of the island-lit genre will find familiar pleasures but also unrealistic situations and cringeworthy moments.