HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-335-00564-9
Contemporary Romance, 2018
Love in Catalina Cove is, naturally, the first in a series set in the Louisiana town and it will no doubt go on for at least twenty-nine books or HQN gets gobbled up by a Chinese company, whichever comes first.
Vashti Alcindor, our heroine, left that place when she was knocked up at sixteen, treated like the town ho by the folks, and sent to a home for unwed pregnant girls by her parents. That was over ten years ago, and sadly, she had lost the child shortly after. There is nothing for her back there, at least until Aunt Shelby, the only family member that had her back and supported her all this while, died five months prior to this story and left her the B&B. She comes back to Catalina Cove to attend the zoning board meeting, as her sales of that place would be in jeopardy if the board voted against allowing her prospective buyer from tearing down the place and setting up a tennis court. Yes, this is another story where any hint of big city touching a small town is bad – the heroine touching the hero’s peen being the exception, and that’s only because she was born here and hence, she has “good” small town genes.
Naturally, there is a hot lawman waiting in town for her – the sheriff Sawyer Grisham, who comes with the token evidence of his masculinity by also being a former Marine and former FBI agent. Mind you, this is a cozy small town romance, so none of his past credentials matter, but you know how it is with romance heroines. No military background, not gonna get a pound. He also has the usual spoiled daughter – I believe she’s meant to be precious or something – and to round things up, we have everyone else and her sister in this book clamoring to remind me that this is only the first book in a series and damn right I better make sure I have enough money in my bank account for all of those upcoming books.
On the bright side, Sawyer is a nice guy for a hero from this author. He understands Vashti’s plight and baggage, and he’s all ears and giving ladies a big broad shoulder to cry on. Compared to some of the author’s heroes in the past, this guy is a charmer. However, the author’s brand of cringe-inducing misogyny rears its ugly head here too, in how Sawyer is happy to sleep with a town nurse to get his rocks off and, later, work off his lust for Yashti only for poor Lessa to be unceremoniously booted out of the scenery once he decides to get it on with Vashti instead. Also, he loves his late wife, who croaked of stage four cancer, but this only gives him the tedious baggage of not wanting to love anyone ever again because, wah wah, the big boy can’t take even a little heartbreak anymore.
Vashti’s baggage is more understandable, if I can overlook her eye-rolling determination to be a martyred single mother of the century in the name of pride. Is this where I say it is probably a good thing that the author killed off the teen pregnancy plot device spawn before it could take its tenth gulp of oxygen just so for the author to let every other secondary character in this story regale Sawyer – and hence, me – with details of that kid being born on borrowed time? Don’t ask me how they know so much in graphic technicolor when Vashti didn’t call or come back to Catalina Cove all these years – maybe Satan has set up a live feed where they can all secretly follow her life.
Oh yes, that secondary characters talking thing. There is a lot of that here. First, the author tells me the back stories of the hero and the heroine. Then, the heroine meets someone and she tells that someone her back story, because that’s what you do, become an exposition-sprouting machine to the first people you meet, every other day when you go back to a small town you have no fond memories of. And then, someone tells the hero the heroine’s back story. And then, the hero and the heroine discuss her back story. The same details every single time! Now, do the same for the hero’s back story too, and have this run concurrently with the tedious process I’ve just described above. There is so much repetition of the same bloody details in Love in Catalina Cove, I’m convinced this is a Kimani-length story that was bloated up with all this padding just to keep the Brenda Jackson books coming.
Furthermore, nothing happens here that is out of the ordinary – every plot development here is a straight-up cliché right down to until-then secret granddaddies showing up to throw money and love at the heroine.
Therefore, Love in Catalina Cove is a true test of one’s patience, and enduring the wretched circular conversations revolving around the same details over and over only leads to a pay-off that boils down to just how much this story reminds the reader of every other small town romances out there. So what’s the point of reading this story? Well, the descriptions of Catalina Cove is nice, but if scenery is what people want, it’s probably more rewarding to actually go visit a seaside town instead.