Catch is a romance set in Bodega Bay, one of my favorite places. In fact I read some of this in Bodega Bay by complete coincidence. So I was primed to like this contemporary romance and I was not disappointed. I also found that this romance, which deals with pain and rejection, family of both blood and choice, and growing up with an alcoholic parent, touched me in personal ways that I only understood when writing this review.
Jules, a single mom, is introduced hosing blood off the deck of her fishing boat, so I adored her right away. Jules lives with her parents and young daughter, Bella, and books charters on her boat while also fishing for herself and the rest of the crew. She is still reeling from a divorce and when Wayne, her ex, invites her to his wedding (to the woman he left Jules for) because he wants Bella to be in it, she kinda loses her shit. Jules is permanently cranky and terrified of ever seeming to be anything less than completely independent lest townspeople pity her for the divorce.
Jules and Tyler grew up together. He was, and still is, her brother’s best friend. He is now a very rich businessman with a residence and office in San Francisco, but every Tuesday his private helicopter (!) brings him to Bodega Bay so that he can visit his brother and Jules’ family and walk Bella to school. Tyler has been in love with Jules for ages but won’t tell her, and Jules doesn’t trust anyone. But hey there’s this wedding coming up, and Jules could use a date…might shenanigans occur? Yes, they might!
In grading this book, I was heavily influenced by my own experiences with codependency, and by my many, many visits to Bodega Bay. When I was a kid, my dad got a spot on a charter fishing boat out of Bodega Bay several times a year, and I spent a lot of mornings going with my mom to pick him up and watching everyone hose blood off the decks, hence my adoration for Jules’ introduction. On one or two occasions I went with Dad, not to fish but just to get in everyone’s way and lean too far out over the deck looking for jellyfish.
The experience of living in a town like that is a world away from that of visiting, but from my minimal experience everything about Jules’ fishing life felt familiar: getting up pre-dawn, dealing with the occasional party of assholes, and cleaning up fish parts. The total lack of glamour but sense of accomplishment that Jules experiences, contrasted with the tourists’ experience of having a fun time with no responsibilities, was something I’ve witnessed myself.
Tyler’s business life is as unrealistic as Jules’ is realistic. Tyler’s wealthy status allows him to fix problems, but the book doesn’t address his work life or what being a wealthy guy in America actually entails. Tyler is both a co-dependent who needs to solve problems and a kind of fairy godfather, gifting his home town with tourism boosting dollars, and showing up at a moment’s notice in his helicopter to deal with crises. The book does not address the income inequality, the well-being of Tyler’s employees and the employees of the many businesses he owns, or even when the guy gets his work done. How does he manage to have so much leisure time?
Billionaire/millionaire/CEO tropes are always tricky for me and all I can say is that while I found it easy to like Tyler and to relate to his need to solve problems, the portrayal of an extremely wealthy individual in this book is every bit as sanitized as the portrayal of the rich dukes in Regency fiction who, historically, would have been living their lives at the expense of all kinds of oppressive behaviors and situations.
Setting that aside, as a fellow Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACA) I found Tyler to be both humorously and painfully relatable. My dad, the fishing guy, was also a drinking guy, and that deep need to fix the unfixable runs right down to the marrow of the bone for ACA’s. The adult Tyler has escaped his abusive childhood home, but not his deep need to solve problems. Sometimes this is an asset, as when he helps Bodega Bay strengthen their tourist industry by supporting local artists and galleries. But whenever he decides to fix his father, oh Tyler, honey, you gotta let those sunk costs sink already. I know you want to clean his house, get his teeth fixed, and check him into rehab, but that’s just not your to-do list to write.
Tyler’s need to fix things and to protect himself emotionally (something he’s clearly not good at) collides with Jules’ need to endlessly prove her independence, something everyone around her is already convinced of. Jules is an understandable character but a tricky one. She receives any expression of affection as one of pity, and any offer of assistance as an indication that people think she’s a failure. Jules’ love for her daughter hints that she has the warm squishy heart of a true cinnamon roll as much as she tests the patience of the other characters and the reader with her barriers and assumptions.
More than any other genre, romance is personal, and this was certainly true for me with this book. I felt as though all of the characters were completely real (OK, I didn’t believe Tyler’s business life details, but I DID believe in him as a person). I cared about them and their stories, and I enjoyed their character arcs.
But mostly, this book captured a place that I love and an experience that I can relate to. Every time I think about the book I remember some of the happiest moments of my life, and some of the most painful. Therapy is portrayed positively in this book, and it has certainly helped me immensely. If you grew up with a parent who was an addict/alcoholics, please get all the mental health support you need so that you can live the healthy life that you deserve to live. Meanwhile, it’s so amazing when a book can pull me right back to a moment in my own life and fashion a happy ending alongside it.