No Judgments, by Meg Cabot

Another fluff book, pandemic still raging, blah blah, you guys all know the drill by now. But, after the mediocre review I gave to No Offense, it might not be expected that I review another Meg Cabot book so soon. You see, I bought No Offense and today’s book No Judgments, in the same shopping trip, and it turned out they were part of a new series, so I thought, why not give it a shot? There certainly were a lot more positive blurbs about the latter book, and I had no other immediate reading options, so…here we are again on Little Bridge Island in the Florida Keys.

No Judgments: A Novel (Little Bridge Island): Cabot, Meg: 9780062913579:  Amazon.com: Books

Bree Beckham has come to Little Bridge Island after a breakup and dropping out of law school. So far, she has fared well, making good friends and enjoying the island life. But when a nasty hurricane appears on the horizon, Bree and her friends buckle down for the storm of the century. Bree soon finds an unexpected purpose in the storm: to rescue all the pets left behind in people’s hurry to evacuate. Along for the ride is her boss’s nephew, Drew Hartwell. It looks like lightning won’t be the only thing causing sparks on the island…

I don’t know what happened between No Offense and No Judgments, but this was infinitely better than the previous installment (well, this book was written before No Offense, so I guess poor Ms. Cabot suffered a downgrade between books)! Everything—the writing, the characters, the story—was much more compelling, tight, and fleshed out.

Some of that might have been because the stakes were higher. Rather than fighting for the life of a single child, we’re talking about an island in the clutches of a hurricane, and dozens of pets being in danger. I love a good man-vs.-nature story!

On that note, there was something comforting in reading about a disaster that people come together to fight. Bree has people left and right offering to let her evacuate with them. Bree is lucky enough to find shelter in her boss’s mansion—I repeat, mansion. And after the hurricane, people help clean up, distribute supplies, and otherwise look out for each other.

Maybe being in a pandemic for so long has made me wish that getting through one was just like getting through a hurricane: hunker down for a few days, and then everyone will come together to harmoniously clean up the mess. But although pandemic cleanup is just as messy as a hurricane, at least hurricanes only last a few days. Nonetheless, watching the disaster bring a community together was sweet to watch.

And, come on, a little wish fulfillment of riding out a natural disaster in a mansion with food, generators, and sweet, kind people never hurt anyone. It was actually a greater source of comfort than the romance itself.

Bree and Drew were a much more compelling romantic couple than Molly and John, but…the romance still felt kind of shallow. I was much more interested in their adventures (again, because higher stakes), even if I thought they got together too quickly. But hey, at least there was a lot less annoying dialogue, and there was no third-act misunderstanding! Oh my word, I could not tell you how elated I was that there was no third act drama to pull the characters apart for drama’s sake!

Like I said, the writing was much tighter this time around. My critical eye finally got to relax and enjoy the story, which actually came full circle this time. Bree and Drew’s backstories are not forgotten about, and Bree actually gets retribution for her tragic past. You see, Bree’s ex-boyfriend’s best friend sexually assaulted her a while before she came to Little Bridge, and she gets to have a cathartic—if kind of melodramatic—showdown with the guy.

The book attempts to have a running theme of not judging people, but it doesn’t come into play as much as it probably should. But, you know, it’s a romance, and who needs themes when the book actually gives you the story it promises? If No Offense had a misleading summary, then No Judgments hits you exactly what you think you’ll get.

I don’t know what caused such a downgrade between books, but that’s why I’m going to pretend that No Judgments was written first. It was a surprising comfort read, even if it’s not a romance for the ages. But a little comfort goes a long way not just in calming my own anxiety, but also my critical eye.

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