by Michelle Jerott, contemporary (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81316-5
I found it! I found the one great romance novel to halt my bad book blues! After all the irritating Poor girl finds rich granny and Millionaire in small town values soap opera tripe most contemporary romances center about, here comes A Great Catch, which has only one intention: to tell a love story and to tell it well. The characters are real, their pain and joy are real, and they are people I would love to invite over for tea. Best of all, it's a great experience to watch them fall in love.
Tess Jardine and Lucas Hall have a history. Once, they were lovers. Then Lucas conducted a Coast Guard rescue mission that resulted in the death of Tess' brother, and he walked out of her life. He's now back in her life, this time as Captain to her First Mate on the refurbished antique steamship Taliesen. As they try to share close quarters, old feelings resurface, but there's always a mad bomber lurking around to add fire to the spice.
Oh, forget the plot. The plot is there, yes, but oh, Lucas and Tess! These two people are fabulous. Strong, proud, yet intelligent enough to rearrange their life courses when things don't go their way, these two people talk and sort out their confusing feelings for each other even as they try to keep peace onboard the ship. Tess is one fine heroine. Allow me the indulgence of mentioning that I cheer when I'm told how Tess had a few relationships with men after Lucas walked out. Healthy ones that didn't work out not because the orgasms Lucas gave her are unparalleled (okay, they are), but also because the chemistry wasn't there. No I'm pining for you all my life nonsense from Tess. Hallelujah for normal heroines!
Tess is also strong-willed. I like how she knows what she wants in life and how she wouldn't hesitate grabbing them by the balls (okay, read that anyway you want, I stand corrected in all contexts, heh heh). Her chemistry with Lucas is there, it just smolders. Every touch, every repartee, every joke and banter, ai yai yai. When the pants finally fly across the room, I think I need a long soak in a bathtub of ice.
I find myself hanging on to every word, waiting in bated breath for them to fall in love all over again. And when they do, I sigh - isn't it wonderful that I am there to witness it? Lucas and Tess are so real, it is so hard to say goodbye to them after the last page. Oh, and the last few chapters are incredible. Danger, explosions, and some of the most inspiring and heartwarming declarations and realizations I've read - when these people, when Tess realizes that this is it, this is love, wham! It's so romantic when love and explosions go hand in hand.
Anyway, I do have a small quibble: Lucas. I am never allowed enough a peek into his head. It's nothing major, but I would love it more if there are more space allocated to Lucas' thoughts and hesitation. Guilt/desire and forgiveness, explored so well in A Great Catch, can only be better if Lucas has more ample space to confront them.
Still, all in all, this is one fabulous book. It's romance, it has no sagging middle, and it has two of the finest, respectable, likable, and romantic characters I've read in a book. Bonus points for not making the Other Woman a caricature of sex-mad hagdom. Take a bow, Ms Jerott - A Great Catch is indeed one.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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