Wild Child [Book]

Wild Child is a 2013 romantic novel written by author Molly O’Keefe and published by Bantam Books. It was the first book in the Boys of Bishop series to be set in the fictional town of Bishop, Arkansas.

The novel opens with Jackson Davies, the relatively young mayor of Bishop, watching a television interview with Dean Jennings, CEO of Maybream Crackers, who plans to relocate a factory from South America back to the United States. To decide on the right place for it, Jennings will be hosting a televised competition among small towns with unused industrial facilities. Jackson hopes that winning the factory could revitalize his dying town with its shuttered okra-processing facility. But Jackson’s secret, personal goal is to be free of small-town Bishop, to which he returned years ago only to take care of his younger sister, Gwen, following an accident that killed their parents.

However, coming back into town is thirty-year-old Monica Appleby, a former reality television star who lived as a troubled youth in Bishop with her mother, Simone, and later penned a memoir, Wild Child, detailing her sexual escapades with various celebrities. She has checked herself into the Peabody, described as “the last standing antebellum plantation in the state” turned hotel, with the aim of spending time in town to write about the night her mother killed her father in self-defense, which happened at a local bar called the Pour House when Monica was a child.

When Jackson learns that Monica is planning to interview locals about the murder during the same week a crew will be filming in Bishop, he panics and extracts from her a promise to be discreet. However, despite their initial antagonism, Jackson and Monica exhibit an immense sexual interest in each other. When CEO Dean Jennings comes to town (after having a brief, side-of-the-road sexual encounter with Shelby Monroe, who runs the local summer art camp) and sees Monica, he takes an immediate interest and suggests her story could be the key for Bishop landing the Maybream factory. Jackson begs Monica to be part of the art camp, and the two eventually become closer, slowly working through their own past traumas and expectations toward a mutually fulfilling sex life. Jackson confesses his intentions to leave Bishop after the August mayoral election, and Monica confronts him on his plan, especially its effect upon Gwen.

Bishop advances to the semi-finals of the competition to land the factory, alongside towns in Alaska and Michigan. However, at the moment of this announcement, Monica’s mother, Simone Appleby, shows up at the Pour House with a camera crew in tow. This causes consternation, as the next phase of the competition will involve the film crew returning during the yearly Okra Festival. Monica and Simone confront each other, and Monica eventually interviews her mother for the book.

Jackson and Monica have a fight after he discovers she gave Gwen condoms, but he later works at reconciling himself both with his somewhat estranged sister and with Monica. Gwen wins the Miss Okra pageant.

CEO Dean Jennings shows up as the film crew is about to do a live shot allowing each community to make its final pitch to the voting viewership. He demands more attention from Shelby and crudely references their brief encounter as the cameras go live, meaning that Jackson’s punch to Dean’s face is broadcast across the country. The factory thus goes to Alaska, but Simone offers to do one more season of her reality show set in Bishop, with the hope that this will provide some boost to the economy. The book ends with Jackson, Monica, and Gwen planning a road trip west to the Grand Canyon, and Jackson thinking of returning to the law school he had abandoned to take care of Gwen. Monica says that she may want to return to Bishop from time to time: “It’s just a town, Jackson. Not innately evil or innately good. It’s not going to save us or ruin us. It’s where our friends live, that’s all.”

For additional information:
“Molly O’Keefe’s Wild Child: Will It ‘Make Your Heart Sing’?” Miss Bates Reads Romance, November 2, 2013. https://missbatesreadsromance.com/2013/11/02/molly-okeefe-wild-child/ (accessed September 15, 2023).

Moon, Sarah. “The Sly Subversiveness of Molly O’Keefe’s Wild Child.” Clear Eyes, Full Bookshelves. https://www.cleareyesfullshelves.com/blog/wild-child-molly-okeefe (accessed September 15, 2023).

O’Keefe, Molly. Wild Child. New York: Bantam Books, 2013.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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