The Secrets of Love Story Bridge
The Secrets of Love Story Bridge greatly improves upon the last Phaedra Patrick novel I tried out. Perhaps she enjoys a better mastery of the masculine perspective, or maybe this particular set of characters resonated more for her, but a sense of warmth cuts through the treacle, making it a pleasant and sweet read.
Mitchell Fisher has long since rejected love. Hammered by soul-deep guilt over the death of his wife Anita he satisfies himself with parenting their nine-year-old daughter, Poppy and nightly writing letters to his wife’s ghost. Mitchell regrets how focused he was on his work, and that he didn’t spend enough time with Anita and Poppy before the event that claimed Anita’s life.
Mitchell also relishes his job – though once he was an engineer building bridges, now he’s assigned to bolt cut the padlocks attached to the titular bridge in Upchester. Said bridge has become a popular site for young lovers since the boy band Word Up used it as a location in one of their music videos, and Mitchell grumpily chops through the steel and iron left behind by young fans, even as he faces down defiant and in-love young people who want to attach their locks unto immortality.
While working at the site one day, he comes upon a woman clamping a love lock to the bridge, who moves too close to the railing and accidentally tumbles into the river below. Mitchell dives in and rescues her, and in the brief time they have together before the medical professionals sweep them apart, he feels a connection to a woman for the first time since Anita. He passes out from the exertion of the rescue, and when he regains consciousness, she’s disappeared. The media intervenes, the story goes viral, and soon Mitchell has a name for the woman – Yvette Bradfield.
It turns out that Yvette had been missing for a year before the incident on the bridge. Yvette’s sister Liza is happy Yvette’s been spotted, but she wants to investigate Yvette’s lost time and find her again. Liza, Mitchell and Poppy team up together to solve the mystery, and along the way Mitchell’s attraction to the chatty, colorful, pop music loving Liza grows – and so do Mitchell’s attempts at engaging with the outside world. Road trips, day trips and nights spent with Liza encourage Mitchell to reach out. But what will Yvette truly be like when she’s been tracked down, and what secret is she hiding?
I’m grading The Secrets of Love Story Bridge as highly as I am mainly because of the beauty of Mitchell’s story. Watching him regain his ability to love, to have friendships, to interact with his daughter while letting her experience the world outside of their door, is a wonderful journey to follow him on. His relationship with Poppy is one of the best father and daughter relationships I’ve read thus far this year.
The supporting characters are good too. Liza is original and interesting, Mitchell’s playboy friend Barry is amusing, and Yvette is appropriately sympathetic when she arrives in the narrative as a proper character.
Poppy is special all by herself, and is an incredibly original child who comes off as a realistic nine-year-old. The book does a good job of exploring her bond with Mitchell and her developing friendship with Liza.
Liza and Mitchell’s relationship – revolving as it does around music – is also delightful.
But the unoriginality of Yvette’s plotline bothers me. For all of the mystery surrounding her, the reason why she disappeared is pat and disappointingly trite, and knocks the book down several notches.
There’s a lovely sub-plot where Mitchell uses his fame to ask people to tell him their stories about the love locks at the bridge, and gets a variety of letters back. These letters are well-written and thought out, and add to the romance of the story.
Overall, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge is a moving story with beautiful character work that outweigh the novel’s faults and make it a worthwhile read.