20 November 2014

Review: The Bridge Tender by MaryBeth Whalen

Not Whalen’s best

I’m going to admit two things before I start, because one in particular affected my enjoyment of The Bridge Tender. First, I thought it was a romance, because the book description I read when I downloaded it made it seem like an amusing romance about a widow finding second love. It even gave the guy’s name and occupation, so there was no mistaking what was ‘supposed’ to happen.

So when I was a quarter of the way though and the main character—the widow—hadn’t even met the guy, I was starting to get confused and a little annoyed. This wasn’t what I signed up for—dragging backstory and depressing introspection (yes, I get that she’s a widow. But I thought this was a romance, which means she’s supposed to be past her grief and ready to move on). I went back and checked the book description, and it had changed to this:
On their honeymoon, the new Mr & Mrs. Ryan Shaw made a pact: No matter the sacrifices along the way, one day they would return to Sunset Beach, North Carolina—this time to buy their own home.
But that dream was not to be. Seven years into a beautiful marriage, Emily is left a widow, heartbroken, and way past caring about anything.
Until a man approaches her, claiming to have something left to her from Ryan. Something secret.
Unsure if she can ever embrace a new life without her husband, but even less sure about continuing to stay where she is, Emily heads to the coast to keep her end of the promise she once made.
Without delay, she becomes immersed in the lives of the locals, including the reclusive bridge tender with an unexpected past. As the community debates over building a new bridge, Emily must decide whether she will build a bridge of her own, one that will take her out of a painful past and into the new life—and new love—that her lost love made possible.
Ah. Not a romance then, which might explain why it was taking so long for the romance to get going. Although, in my defence, it still takes a long time to get into even this plot. Emily doesn’t “head to the coast” to keep her promise until a quarter of the way into the book, and it takes even longer before she really gets “immersed” in the lives of a small group of locals.

The second thing was my fault entirely. I misunderstood the title. The ‘bridge tender’ refers to the person who looks after (tends) the bridge, not a tender moment concerning a bridge. My bad.

As a result, I found the plot dragged, Emily was depressing and introspective, and I didn’t enjoy The Bridge Tenderas much as I’ve enjoyed other novels by Marybeth Whalan.

Would I have enjoyed it more if I’d read this blurb instead? Maybe, but I found myself waiting for something unexpected to happen. It did, but it took a long time. Emily was a distant character all the way through, and while I could empathise with her as a widow still grieving the loss of her husband, it wasn’t exactly fun reading. This distance also worked against her in the second half of the story, where she was becoming more involved in the lives of the locals, as the distant viewpoint never made it feel like she was truly “immersed”.

However, the writing was solid and I liked the way the Christian message was woven subtly throughout the novel. But I’ve enjoyed other Marybeth Whalen books more (I think my favourite is She Makes It Look Easy, for the way it shows us it’s what inside that counts, not outward appearance, and that being 'perfect' isn't all it's cracked up to be).

Thanks to Zondervan and BookLook Bloggers for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Marybeth Whalen at her website.

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