Fools Rush In

Catch of the Day
by Kristan Higgins
(HQN, $6.99, G) ISBN 0-373-77224-6
Catch of the Day is marketed as a contemporary romance, but readers will find that romance is in very short supply in this book. The hero is a brooding loner who never opens up, either to the heroine or the reader, and the heroine is possessed of the kind of verbal diarrhea guaranteed to have readers rolling their eyes. Even the cover misses the mark: the cute puppy on it shows up on the next-to-last page and has nothing to do with the story. This book promises, but doesn’t deliver.

Maggie Beaumont is a thirty-something single woman who owns Joe’s Diner, the only restaurant in Gideon’s Cove, Maine, population 1,407. (Oh, come on, I live in an isolated town of 350 and we have four restaurants.) Maggie has already made herself a laughingstock among the townspeople by falling head-over-heels for the new priest, Father Tim O’Halloran. When she met him she didn’t know he was a priest, of course, and blabbed all over town about the hot new guy she’d found, leading to her abject humiliation in front of the entire church congregation.

Even though it’s been months since that day, Maggie just can’t seem to get over Father Tim. One night, having drunk too much, she declares her love for him in front of an audience, and Father Tim decides it’s time to set Maggie up with a few blind dates and help her get over this schoolgirl crush. Heaven knows, readers will agree.

Maggie’s identical twin, Christy, is living the perfect life of wife and mother that Maggie would like to have. Their mother never misses a chance to remind Maggie that her biological clock is ticking madly away. So, even though Maggie enjoys running the diner and knowing all the townspeople, she agrees to Father Tim’s scheme.

After a few predictable disasters, Maggie ends up with Malone, a surly, brooding lobster fisherman who comes to her rescue in a restaurant one evening. Maggie and Malone hit the sheets (off-stage) but he keeps his distance. Their infrequent encounters lead to little more than hot sex, leaving Maggie to wonder just what she’s found, or not found, with the man known as “Maloner the Loner.”

Readers will wonder, too. The story is told in first-person and present tense, giving the reader no clue as to the workings of Malone’s mind. We’re told his ex-wife ran off years ago and took their daughter, but the girl shows up in the story and they seemingly have a loving relationship, so what’s his problem? By the end of the story, I was as much in the dark as when he first appeared. Malone and Maggie don’t have a single conversation that sheds any light on this.

Maggie tends to stammer and mumble her way through conversations when she is nervous or unsure, which feels like the majority of the time, and it’s annoying as hell to read. Add to this a Big Misunderstanding that will leave readers infuriated, and the “romance” pretty much vanishes into thin air.

Yet Maggie has flashes of real likeability, too. She’s occasionally quite funny, and her strained relationship with her mother takes an interesting twist when Maggie finally gets fed up and tells her off. In fact, there are subplots involving Maggie’s parents and her younger brother, as well, and the author does a good job of inserting local flavor.

Catch of the Day is awash in unrealized potential. Readers looking for a good romance will likely be disappointed.

--Cathy Sova

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