Maddie Chester has lived on Gansett Island her whole life, but between her large breasts attracting unwanted male attention everywhere she goes and ugly stories that a group of boys told about her in high school, she's been branded the town slut. Nothing could be further from the truth, but now that she's an unwed mother of a nine-month-old son, the rumor mill has run amuck. Running late for her work as a maid at McCarthy's Inn, a job she desperately needs to take care of her baby, Maddie's luck only gets worse when a man steps into the path of her bicycle, causing her to crash. He turns out to be none other than Mac McCarthy himself, the favored eldest son of her employers. Mac leaps into action to get Maddie medical attention for her injuries, but when he offers to take over all of her job responsibilities, as well as move in to her apartment to help care for her son, it's too much. The McCarthy's have always been trouble for Maddie and she doesn't really want Mac around, but when it appears she has no other good options, she finally relents, never expecting to find the perfect knight in shining armor coming to her rescue.
Mac McCarthy couldn't get off Gansett Island fast enough after graduating high school and he's mostly stayed away ever since, now owning a successful business in Miami. But after running himself into the ground, leading to a serious health scare, he knows he needs some down time. He returns to the island to relax and help his father with some repairs to the resort in preparation for his parents selling it, but then he quite literally runs into Maddie. Feeling guilty that he caused her injuries and that she won't be able to work, he insists that he take over for her, not only at the inn, but also at home. She isn't happy about it at first, but when she sees that he's genuinely serious and not bad at doing her jobs, she begins to warm up. Within hours of meeting her, Mac is all but certain she's the only woman for him, because he's never felt this way about anyone else before. But between their meddling family members who aren't pleased about their budding relationship and Mac making a big faux pas while trying to make up for Maddie's difficult past, he may have a hard time convincing her that they're right for one another.
Maid for Love is the first book of Marie Force's Gansett Island series and the first book I've read by her. I've heard many good things about her writing and had taken a book marketing class she taught a while back, which gave me a good feeling about her as well. I had high hopes going into reading this book and I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed. The series features the McCarthy family who are the well-respected owners of a resort hotel and marina on the island. Mac, the oldest of the McCarthy siblings, returns to Gansett for a much-needed sabbatical after pushing himself too hard in his business in Miami. He's barely been back for a few minutes when he accidentally steps into the path of Maddie Chester's bicycle, causing her to crash and end up badly hurt. As a single mother, she desperately needs her job as a maid at the McCarthy's hotel, but after her spill, she can barely walk, much less do her work. Feeling terrible that his carelessness caused her injuries, Mac steps up, insisting on taking over her duties at the hotel, as well as spending his nights at her apartment to help care for her nine-month-old son. Maddie isn't happy about it at first, but realizing she has few other options, she finally relents. Mac ends up falling head over heels in love at first sight, and while it takes Maddie just a bit longer to warm up, his charm and protective care win her over quickly. However, family conflicts and Mac's need to fix things from Maddie's past place their fast-moving relationship in some jeopardy.
Feeling stifled by the time high school was over, Mac couldn't wait to get off the island, so he went away to college, then started a business in Miami that has kept him so busy he rarely comes back. However, burning the candle at both ends, keeping the business running smoothly for years, leads to a health scare. When the doctor prescribes rest and relaxation, Mac heads home to Gansett where he intends to take it easy for a while, but after his unfortunate encounter with Maddie, the protector in him simply can't leave the poor woman high and dry. He insists that he will take on all her duties as both a maid and a daycare provider, as well as move in with her to care for her infant son. She's a bit prickly about it at first, but once he wins her over, he's totally smitten by both her and her son, Thomas. He knows everything is moving fast, but in all his years of dating, he's never before felt anything like what he feels for Maddie after only knowing her for a few days. When he finds out how hard things have been for her in the small-town environment of the island, he also feels compelled to set things right for her in that respect, too, which is where he runs into a little conflict with her that nearly ends their budding relationship. I absolutely adored Mac. He's a protective caretaker and a total sweetheart who apparently takes after his father. I love how he tenderly cares for Maddie and he's a natural at fatherhood with little Thomas. He also doesn't stand for his mother's snobbishness and doesn't care one bit about the island rumor-mill, instinctively knowing that Maddie isn't who the town thinks she is. He's also not afraid to get his hands dirty performing the unconventional job of being a hotel maid. I personally found all of his actions to be sweet and romantic even though Maddie had issues with his biggest gesture.
Maddie has lived on the island all her life with her mother and sister, but her father left when she was a child and never came back. Her body developed faster than the other girls, and once she had breasts - and rather large ones, too - all the boys around her wanted to either ogle her or try to cop a feel. She was always a good girl, and just because she didn't give in to one boy's pressure for sex, he spread a rumor around town that she'd slept with him and all his friends, which included Mac's younger brother. Between that and her having a child out of wedlock, she's been branded the town slut, but nothing could be further from the truth. Now as a single mom, she desperately needs her job at McCarthy's Inn and she also cleans the elder McCarthys' house, but she's always been treated poorly at both jobs. After having such bad experiences with the McCarthys, she doesn't want to have anything to do with them on a personal level. When Mac knocks her off her bike and she finds out who he is, Maddie just wants him to go away, but when he really steps up to the plate, she can't help but slowly warm up to him. She's surprised to discover how comfortable she feels with him and ends up falling for him almost as fast as he falls for her. But family troubles and Mac taking one of his gestures a little farther than she would have liked without telling her is nearly a deal-breaker. Maddie is a very sympathetic character, a hard worker and a wonderful mother, who needs a self-confidence boost after all she's been through, and Mac is more than ready and willing to provide it.
With Maid for Love being the start of a long-running, small-town romance series, there are supporting characters aplenty that I'm sure will be seen in future installments. Mac's old friend, Joe, who is the ferry operator has been sweet on Mac's sister, Janey, for years, but she's engaged to someone else she doesn't get to see often. Clearly that relationship is doomed, because Joe and Janey become the hero and heroine of the next book, Fool for Love. Maddie's sister, Tiffany, isn't too keen on the idea of Maddie taking up with Mac, and she seems somewhat unhappy in general. It's hinted that her marriage might be on the rocks, and I'm guessing it probably ends at some point since she's the heroine of the seventh book, Longing for Love. We're briefly introduced to Luke, who works at the McCarthy Marina and who becomes the hero of the third book, Ready for Love. Then there's Mac's brother, Evan, a musician who grovels very nicely, which made me much more open to him as the hero of the fifth book, Hoping for Love. Then there's Mac's parents, Linda and Big Mac. Big Mac is a gentle giant who seems to be kind, loving, and patient with everyone, but Linda rubbed me the wrong way with her bad attitude toward Maddie and her meddlesome opposition to Mac and Maddie being together. She does come around by the end, but she'll have some work to do to fully win me over to her side. Luckily there are plenty more books in which she'll have the opportunity to prove herself a genuinely good person.
Maid for Love is something of a take on the classic Cinderella story. Maddie is the beleaguered maid who's been done wrong, while Mac is the proverbial prince who saves the day. Being a sucker for these kinds of romances, I ended up enjoying it a lot, but there were a few minor quibbles I had with it. Mac's big gesture almost ruined the good thing he had going with Maddie and I have to admit that I didn't entirely understand where she was coming from. I got that after her impressive breasts causing such a stir for most of her life, that she didn't want to be the center of attention, but she mostly dinged Mac for lying to her and keeping secrets. She did have one major incident in her past of someone lying to her, but perhaps she just wasn't shown struggling enough with trust issues for me to get it. Also, since what Mac did was for a good reason and not a bad one, it just didn't quite ring true to me. If anything, I got a bit teary eyed over the protectiveness and sweetness of Mac's efforts. Ultimately I accepted that it was what it was, but because it did cause trouble between them, I felt like the reconciliation and the ending was perhaps a teensy bit rushed. Not that it was a bad ending or anything, but the final page just crept up on me without me realizing it was coming so quickly. Overall, though, these things didn't detract much from my enjoyment of the story. Love-at-first-sight romances can be hit and miss with me. This one ended up being a hit, because the author established a strong emotional connection between Mac and Maddie almost from the moment they meet, making it a squishy, feel-good story. I adored Mac and Maddie and there are lots of other great characters I can't wait to see more of in the books yet to come, so I very much looking forward to continuing the series soon.
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