Though I had actually read, and greatly enjoyed, Kristan Higgins before, it was my sister who handed me Catch of the Day. “I think you’ll really like this,” she said. “It’s kind of a romance between a woman and her dog.” While I’m not sure I’d entirely agree with that assessment, I loved the book and have read it twice this month, laughing and crying both times.
Maggie Beaumont has never been lucky in love. Her high school sweetheart strung her along through college, but, as soon as he hit his first wave of success, dumped her for someone he considered higher caliber. Oh and Mr. Wonderful dumped her front of the whole population of Gideon’s Cove. More recently, Maggie’s been nursing a crush on the local priest, Father Tim, who is charming and compassionate – and completely dedicated to his vocation. When this crush gets enough out of hand to cause Maggie extreme embarrassment, Father Tim decides to matchmake a bit, to send some Catholic XY traffic her way.
Thus begins a series of very funny, very disastrous first dates that end only when Maggie begins to see possibilities where she never thought to see them before – like Malone the Loner, a battered, gruffly sexy local lobsterman.
I believe that if you come to this book looking for a straight romance, you will think what’s here is not enough. This was the opinion of my sister and AAR’s other reviewer. However if you look at Higgins as a sort of rural Chick Lit writer, this is strongly romantic Chick Lit which was more than good enough for me.
The book is told in first person POV which gives Higgins plenty of opportunity to showcase her heroine, Maggie, a generous, extremely hardworking, funny, self-deprecating gem of a character. Reading about Maggie made me wish she really existed so that we could be friends, so that I could visit her diner and have a slice of her blueberry pie. She is more than likeable, she’s genuinely lovable. A great friend, a great sister, a fantastic neighbor, an example to pet lovers everywhere. But Higgins’s secondary characters are fully dimensional as well, from the members of the semi-dysfunctional Beaumont family, to her fun, flirty, fairly promiscuous friend, Chantal (whom I couldn’t help but picture looking just like Joan the office manager on Mad Men).
Malone is far more mysterious, revealing very little about himself and his emotions. This gives the book its tension – Maggie reacts more strongly and more emotionally to what she doesn’t know about Malone than she does, which leads to at least one Big Misunderstanding. But this is a common theme in Chick Lit, the heroine who is trying to navigate the changing rules of the modern dating scene. That Malone is so closed mouthed only makes him harder to read than other men. I loved how he showed her in ways he couldn’t tell that he understood her better than anyone else in town except for her twin. His smoldering intensity is also quite hot.
Other things that I loved include Maggie’s family, Father Tim’s humanity, and the details Higgins includes about Maggie’s job. The loving relationship Maggie had with her sister, Christy, who has had an easier time achieving her dreams of hearth and home, was a highlight. Family is rarely an emotional safety net in romance, but it is here, even though Maggie’s mother is a bit hard to take sometimes. These people are mostly functional as a family; even though they are flawed, what they have to give is enough.
It’s frankly fantastic to see a good priest in Women’s Fiction too – one who cares about people and is serious about his vocation and works hard to be kind and compassionate. More, please! Father Tim was a great character, glossy and charming on the outside, a bit vulnerable around the edges. Nice and three-dimensional. And then there’s Colonel, Maggie’s faithful Golden Retriever who accompanies her to work, on her volunteer rounds, and on walks around the town. Reading their relationship, it’s clear that Higgins is a pet lover herself and has experienced the joys and sorrows of sharing a pet’s later years. The Maggie/Malone bits were great, but it was the Maggie/Colonel parts that penetrated the most. In that sense this book is “a romance between a woman and her dog.”
Catch of the Day is a great book about really nice, though complicated, people. I wanted it to go on longer, but that is my only criticism. This is one book I highly recommend not missing.
-- Rachel Potter
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