Meg Cabot has started something of an annual tradition with the early Fall releases of her Little Bridge Island series, interconnected romance novels set on the titular fictional island in the Florida Keys. The latest addition, No Words, is not only a delightful, romantic new chapter in the world of Little Bridge Island, but it is a tribute to authors, books, and the readers that love them.
Jo Wright is the author of the popular, long-running middle grade series Kitty Katz. She is invited to speak at Little Bridge Island’s first ever book festival, and she agrees on the condition that her professional nemesis, Will Price, who lives on the island and writes sentimental novels featuring doomed romance, won’t be in attendance. Despite assurances to the contrary, Will is, in fact, at the festival. He’s actually the one paying for most of it.
The setup is ostensibly rivals-to-lovers romance, the tension between Jo and Will stemming from an insult he levied at her work a few years earlier. The romantic parts of the book focus not only on the truth behind his comments slowly coming to light, but on the challenges faced by two people saddled with a lifetime of baggage that is getting harder and harder to carry.
Jo and Will have great chemistry. So much so that the “hate” part of their relationship soon evolves to something much more complex. After all, how can you harbour a grudge against someone who genuinely means well and is doing their best?
By her own admission, part of what inspired Meg Cabot to write No Words was her missing book festivals during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it really shows. The book is populated with quirky side characters writing tropes and series that any book lover draw parallels to. They make up a lively background at the various – and very detailed – book festival events that Jo and Will attend. It’s clear Cabot is speaking from experience as she details the highs and lows of attending a book festival as an author, from the packed schedules, to the schmoozing, to the community and dynamics that springs up among a group of colleagues that only occasionally see one another in a very charged environment.
This doesn’t feel like the other two books in the Little Bridge Island series, which are romance novels played straight. Instead, No Words feels like a love story on two fronts: the very obvious love that Cabot has for her job, despite the challenges, and the romance between Jo and Will, which might not take absolute centre stage the way couples in her other romance novels do, but I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing.
To echo a sentiment expressed by some of the young women in the book: I am obsessed with Meg Cabot’s books. Exactly 20 years ago, give or take a couple of weeks, I picked up my first one. It was, predictably, the first Princess Diaries book, which my mother got for me since we had just seen the movie in theatres. Since then I have read almost every single one of her books (the Ally Carter series somehow passed me by). I grew up pining for Michael Moscowitz, and Jesse de Silva, and as an adult wonder where I might find a Reed Stewart or a Cooper Cartwright.
Meg Cabot has been a near constant presence in my life for almost as long as I can remember, and as her readers grew up, so did her stories. The Princess Diaries and Mediator series followed us into adulthood. In all that time, the common denominator in all her stories – whether they’re about princesses, movie stars undercover at a high school, reincarnated Arthurian figures, or just adults trying their best in the real world – has been the romantic component.
Meg Cabot just loves love.
Which is why it doesn’t bother me that the romance doesn’t occupy the entirety of the plot of No Words. Romance is the backbone of her entire bibliography. With No Words she gives us not only the achingly sweet love story we’ve come to expect, but also a look at people who genuinely love what they do for a living, a sense of everything social that many of us have missed over the last two years, and all set against an idyllic Florida Keys backdrop. Summer might be well and truly over, but No Words keeps the romantic beach-read vibe going just a little longer.
No Words is available now.
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