Catch of the Day by Carla Caruso

In brief: Winnie reluctantly leaves Sydney to establish a niche magazine in country South Australia. In between getting ‘scoops’ from the locals, she starts to realise that big-city living isn’t everything – is this due to Alex, handsome cray fisherman?

The good: I really felt part of the world of Kingston SE and was sad to leave.

The not-so-good: There are some unrealistic events – but they’re so fun, you’re happy to accept them.

Why I chose it: From Destiny Romance, via Net Galley – thank you!

Year: 2013

Pages: 344

Publisher: Destiny Romance

Setting: South Australia and Sydney

My rating: 9 out of 10

Catch of the Day was a book that took me entirely by surprise. I suspected that I was in for a light, easy romance, but what I got was a quirky, funny comedy that nailed how it feels to be a complete outsider in a tiny town. A fish out of water is a good likeness and in this case, the heroine Winnie Cherry (love it!) manages to also land a pretty good catch.

Winnie’s in a bit of trouble after a Christmas snog gone wrong. She happened to lock lips with her boss and now finds herself exiled to Kingston SE, home of the big lobster and not much else. Her brief – start up a niche coastal living magazine. Her staff – one advertising manager, Olive and one casual photographer, Alex. Her mind – in desperate need of a grande latte and some heavy traffic. Winnie’s not a country girl – she fled Adelaide as soon as she could for Sydney, where everything happens and PR invites are a dime a dozen. Here, she knows nobody and the only friend she looks like getting is a stray cat. Alex, part time cray fisherman (cray = lobster) and part time photograph is certainly not into Winnie, especially after she broke his fancy ute’s wing mirror. So why does he keep offering to help her out?

As time goes on, Winnie finds herself getting to know the locals more as she collects ‘scoops’ for the magazine – hearing about The Wedding of the Year from a local Bridezilla ends up as a request to be a bridesmaid, while a chat about roses and chickens turns into an attempt to solve an ancient mystery. A prank at the beauty salon turns into an unlikely friendship and Olive needs Winnie’s help to catch the man of her dreams. As her Sydney friends forget about her, Winnie finds that Kingston not only likes her, but welcomes her. I loved how Winnie’s change of heart in regards in Kingston changed gradually and how she was mature enough to accept that yes, she was a little like her dreaded mother.

This is a classic fish out of water story, but what makes the novel shine bright is the humour. Winnie continually finds herself getting into scrapes – heels at a field day and nearly nude on the main street are just two examples. The characters are also brilliantly well written. Winnie is realistic (she worries a lot but not enough to be annoying) and she’s witty without it seeming like her lines were pre-written. Despite being in a situation she’s never wanted to be in, she nails it with good grace. The hero, Alex…well, we know early on that he has secrets but I didn’t see the magnitude of them! He’s a likeable man of mystery with a gentlemanly air. The townspeople are lovingly written without conforming to tired stereotypes – a good advertisement for living in a small town.

The romance was just how I like it – not in your face but a slow build that gains momentum as time goes on, which made it quite believable. Alex took a backseat to Winnie’s major problems (getting the magazine off the ground) initially, but as their friendship builds trust, we read about him more and more. In fact, I’d say the main plot is Winnie’s enforced sea change – the presence of Alex just makes things in Kingston more delicious.

Caruso truly has a talent for this kind of fun novel, so I’m really glad to see the book both in print and as an eBook. A great summer read!

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