“Oh, the children were delighted with the cookies that Island Bakery had provided. They were having fun slathering on the frosting and sticking on the different-colored candies. Most of these were going into their mouths, actually, but that was fine. That wasn’t the problem.”
The real problem at this library event, as new children’s librarian Molly Montgomery discovers a few pages later, is that a baby has been abandoned in the bathroom.
In No Offense (William Morrow), the second in Meg Cabot’s Little Bridge Island series, the abandoned baby kicks off a mystery that upends the town and all its residents. Molly is immediately plunged into the complicated and drama-filled world of her new home. Naming the child Baby Aphrodite, Molly’s discovery puts her directly into the orbit of Sheriff John Hartwell, and the mutual sparks fly.
Molly is determined to help John with the case, which ensures they will spend more and more time together. As they investigate, it turns out that a group of vandals, known as The Sunshine Kids, may be involved. The developments of their investigation bring them closer together, but they also raise questions about their compatibility as a couple. Added to that friction, John’s teenage daughter, a determined reporter, the town’s wealthy matriarch, and the meddling of the other colorful residents of the town start to drive a wedge between the two.
Molly and John’s backstories are compelling and have us rooting for their relationship to work. Both have been hurt in the past. Molly has just gotten out of a problematic relationship and must work multiple jobs to make ends meet while still pursuing her passion for a career as a librarian. John, a divorced father, must balance co-parenting his daughter, pursuing a relationship with Molly and fulfilling his duties as the Sheriff.
Eventually, Molly and John find the baby’s parents, and the conflict that follows about what should be done with this small family further explores the themes of parenthood and responsibility prevalent throughout the novel.
John and Molly may seem on the surface like tropes we’ve all seen before, but Cabot fleshes them out, creating nuanced characters. John participates in a mother-daughter dance performance with his daughter without falling into toxic masculinity. Molly spends a lot of time outside her library, is very social and outspoken, and is definitely not your stereotypical librarian.
While the story starts off as a mystery, No Offense is a romantic read at heart, and the investigation adds spice to the plot. The novel leads in the end to a satisfying and comforting conclusion, making this a breezy and charming book you can pick up on a sunny day for a light read on the beach. Even the mystery element is low-stress and low-stakes.
Exploring the themes of parenthood, community, responsibility, generosity, and fairness, No Offense ultimately is a novel that celebrates human relationships and the value of kindness and understanding while immersing us in the always-entertaining world of Little Bridge.