A Great Catch
On paper at least, A Great Catch has some of my favorite elements in a romance: sparkling writing, an unusual setting, realistic conflicts, and charming supporting characters. So why the mediocre grade? Because I had serious problems with the couple in this book. For a couple of career-minded adults in a very difficult profession, they certainly came across as immature and frequently irrational people.
As a woman in the traditionally male profession of shipping, Tessa Jardine has had many challenges, and now there’s good news and bad news. The good news is she has been hired as the First Mate of the Taliesen, a classic passenger liner which has been refurbished and launched on the Great Lakes by trophy widow Dee Stanhope. The bad news? Her captain and superior, Lucas Hall, is the man with whom she had a hot affair (and lost her virginity to) ten years ago, who then transferred out of state with the Coast Guard without any sort of farwell. Worse yet, he was involved in a botched rescue attempt on a sinking ship in the Great Lakes two years ago – an attempt that cost one of Tessa’s brothers his life.
Tessa doesn’t realize that Dee has hired her to stir up controversy between her and Lucas, which she hopes will result in free publicity. It’s safe to say that Tessa has a lot of reasons to hate Lucas. Lucas, who left the Coast Guard after the accident and is haunted by his grisly work, realizes this, but finds Tessa just as irresistible as he did ten years before (he’s constantly ogling her, though she won’t say a nice word to him). But someone else is interested in Lucas – Dee, the boss, and she’s made it clear that fraternization will cost Tessa her job. Oh, and Dee is also receiving threatening notes from someone still angry over the wreck that killed Tessa’s brother.
Tessa and Lucas must find a way to work together harmoniously and sort out the problems of their past. Though Lucas was officially cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident, Tessa still blames him for her brother’s death. The tension between the two is noticed by the rest of the crew, and bad blood between the captain and first mate can be very destructive on a ship, so Lucas hounds Tessa so he can give his excuses and check out her curves.
Tessa is immediately established as a “strong woman” who doesn’t tolerate sexual harassment or being called “cute.” Initially, I found her refreshing. However, when Lucas orders her to discuss the fact that she hates him and ends up kissing her, she kisses back. And when Tessa and Lucas wind up back in bed, despite the fact that this could cost Tessa her career, I lost a lot of respect for both. Workplace romances must tread a fine line between sexual tension and sexual harassment, and when Lucas paws Tessa on duty over her objections, I became very uncomfortable.
Lucas’ most impressive quality seemed to be his swimmer’s physique. In all fairness, he is truly haunted by the things he’s seen and wants to make amends with Tessa. But his reason for leaving her in the first place was weak, his withholding of important information from Tessa was unfair, and his tendency to constantly check up on her work on board was annoying; it indicated a lack of trust in her abilities. Then again, maybe he was right to do so; in the exciting climax, Lucas solves all the problems problems single-handedly while “strong woman” Tessa screams and cries a lot. It takes more than just saying things like “bite me” and “up yours” to create an independent and believable heroine, and in the final chapters, Tessa fell short.
This is a difficult grade to give; I was swept into the story and enjoyed the camaraderie of the crew and the unusual setting. But I spent the second half of the book wishing that Tessa and Lucas would just grow up. A Great Catch will likely please many, but I couldn’t get past the unprofessional behavior of the hero and heroine.