The catch

Amy Lea

Book - 2024

"In a last-ditch effort to rescue her brand from the brink of irrelevance, Boston fashion influencer Melanie Karlsen finds herself in a rural fishing village on the east coast of Canada. The only thing scarier than nature itself? The burly and bearded B and B owner and fisherman, Evan Whaler--who single-handedly disproves the theory that Canadians are "nice." After a boating accident lands Evan unconscious in the hospital, Mel is mistaken for his fiancée by his welcoming yet quirky family, who are embroiled in a long-standing feud over the B and B. In a bold attempt to mend family fences, Mel agrees to fake their engagement for one week in exchange for Evan's help with her social media content. Amid long hikes and campf...ire chats, reeling in their budding feelings for each other proves more difficult by the day. But is Mel willing to sacrifice her picture-perfect life in the city for a chance at a true, unfiltered love in the wild?"--

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1st Floor New Shelf FICTION/Lea Amy (NEW SHELF) Due Aug 6, 2024
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Romance fiction
New York : Berkley Romance 2024.
Main Author
Amy Lea (author)
First edition
Physical Description
402 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Lea tugs the heart strings in her final Influencer romance (after Exes and O's). Boston fashion influencer Melanie "Mel" Karlsen may appear to have it all, but in truth, her brand is failing and she's still reeling with grief following her adoptive father's death. Now she receives an invitation to visit and promote a Nova Scotia resort--but after a mix-up with her travel plans, she finds herself an hour away in a small fishing town. She gets a room in a run-down local bed and breakfast, where she can tell the cranky yet ruggedly handsome owner, Evan, a lobsterman, judges her as vapid and shallow. Determined to make the most of her vacation, she convinces Evan to take her out on his boat--leading to an accident that lands him in the hospital. Mel pretends to be his fiancée to be allowed in to see him--and Evan's large, quirky family take her at her word. The pair decide to keep up the ruse, hoping to reunite his feuding family and save the inn. Their outdoorsy fake romance reveals they have more in common than either expected, as both grapple with anxiety, depression, and abandonment issues. Lea handles these heavy themes with grace, never allowing them to overpower the fun, or vice versa. Readers will both laugh and cry. (Feb.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Melanie Karlsen, an avowed city girl in Boston, maintains a curated lifestyle as a fashion and beauty influencer but needs to revitalize her brand. When she's offered a sponsored trip to Nova Scotia she jumps at the chance--only to end up desperately seeking an Airbnb in a rural fishing town when a scheduling mishap occurs. Evan Whaler's run-down family inn is her only option, and he's a surly fisherman who seems to find Melanie's very presence offensive. When whale-watching with a stubborn Melanie lands Evan in the hospital, the two fake an engagement to reconcile Evan's feuding family. Snarky bickering between the main characters makes for enjoyable dialogue, and the romantic development is wonderful despite Melanie and Evan's opposing personalities and different backgrounds. Melanie's familial struggles (she's a transracial adoptee who is also her brother's keeper) are well-depicted and complement the charm of Evan's caring family and his town. Fans of the series' first two books (Set on You and Exes and O's) will appreciate seeing previous heroines thriving while maintaining supportive friendships with Melanie. VERDICT Lea's final "Influencer" novel is a fabulous rom-com brimming with magnetic chemistry and delightful tropes.--Hazel Ureta

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

When a fashion influencer is forced to crash in a rural Canadian town, she doesn't expect to find herself falling for one of the locals. Melanie Karlsen's brand is in desperate need of rescuing. Although she'd initially carved out a social identity for herself as a fashion influencer, she's becoming disillusioned with the perfectly edited facade she projects to the world. Accepting an all-expenses-paid spa vacation seems like the perfect reset for both herself and her job, but a mix-up strands her in what may be the least likely place: a remote fishing village in Nova Scotia. The B & B where she manages to book a last-minute stay could barely be described as rustic, and its owner, fisherman Evan Whaler, is even less hospitable. While Melanie resigns herself to counting the days until she can leave, an accident at sea finds her tangled up in an inadvertent lie--that she's Evan's fiancee. Before they can tell his family the truth, Mel and Evan reluctantly decide that maintaining their fake engagement might actually help them both. It's easy to set a deadline to definitively call things off, but as they're forced to play things up for the sake of Evan's family, they're each slowly realizing that there's more truth to their feelings than they'd like to admit. Lea's talent for writing complicated but ultimately likable characters is on full display as things between Melanie and Evan become more and more comically disastrous before they start to get better, and her expert knack for comedy makes this story a standout. This last chapter in Lea's Influencer series is a heartwarming wrap-up with a strong sense of place and hilarious side characters. A sweet conclusion to a swoony contemporary romance trilogy. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

chapter one If I were a character in a classic slasher film, I'd be the first to die. That sounds morbid, but hear me out. First, I lack the necessary endurance to run long distances without being caught. I have no sense of direction, to the point where I regularly get lost in my own condo parking garage. On any given day, I'm usually alone, leaving the killer ample time to strike when I'm vulnerable. And when placed in high-pressure situations, I tend to make rash, ill-advised decisions. Case in point: when being pursued, my first instinct is to trap myself inside the tight confines of the condo elevator. Rookie mistake. "Melanie! Meeelanieee, wait for me!" calls an all-too-familiar, ear-piercing voice. I frantically press the Close button no less than eleven times, heart hammering against my chest wall. Picture the slasher scene where the woman hides in a closet as the killer ponders his next move, mouth-breathing heavily on the other side of the door. As the click-clack of footsteps on marbled tiles grows dangerously near, the elevator doors begin to close. Bless. Just one more inch. Half an inch. And then they stop. A sliver shy of sealing shut, the doors abruptly reopen like a record scratch. My whole body folds inward, desperate to seek refuge like a turtle avoiding all reality in its protective shell. On second thought, turtles do not have the gift of speed. And in the face of my pursuer's demented smile, one needs to run, or at least power walk. One could say I'm being a touch dramatic. See, my pursuer isn't really a crazed, axe-wielding serial killer who wants to hack me into tiny pieces. He's my prepubescent neighbor-Ian Montgomery. "Melanie. You look ravishing." "Hi, Ian." I summon a sweet smile, taking stock of his short-sleeved button-down. It hangs off his lithe frame, juxtaposed with his creased khakis, which are two inches too short since his winter growth spurt. A man in tapered joggers takes advantage of the holdup, rushing in behind Ian before the doors close, sealing us in together. "The color of your top brings out your suntan," Ian tells me, his gaze hovering dangerously close to my cleavage. To be fair, it's at his eye level since he's approximately four feet nine. I respond to Ian with a low "Thank you," shifting a thick lock of hair over my chest like a protective blanket before shuffling to the right, my Greek take-out bag tucked snugly under my arm. Ian wastes zero time reclaiming the dead space. "I also liked your bikini photo from the other day." My cheeks burst into flame when Joggers shoots me an accusatory look over his meaty shoulder. Ian is referring to my latest post-a beach photo shoot wherein I attempted to channel the raw sex appeal of Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. Particularly that slo-mo scene where he emerges seductively from the water, beads of moisture shimmering over his taut, suspiciously hairless bod. As it turns out, I have the charisma of a potato compared to James Bond. "For the record, I did not send this child a bikini photo," I clarify to the back of Jogger's shiny scalp. And it's the truth. The kid keeps close tabs on my social media. Ian pouts. "I'm not a child. I'm basically a teenager." "You just turned eleven," I remind him. Trust, I'm not normally this dismissive of children. But in case it isn't obvious, Ian has been nurturing an unhealthy crush on me since last year when he and his silver fox of a dad moved in next door. Instead of spending his days playing first-person-shooter video games and eating cheese puffs by the bag like most boys his age, he prefers to dream up new and disturbing ways to confess his love for me (including ambushing me in the hallways and writing romantic haikus in my honor). Of course, I've firmly yet politely explained that I'm way too old for him (practically prehistoric) and that his advances are inappropriate. Ian still hasn't accepted this. Either that or the power of agonizing unrequited love has clouded his judgment. I can't help but feel sorry for him. I've never seen him with another kid his age, which is why I try to be pleasant to him despite his overt creepiness. Unfortunately, the nicer I am, the more emboldened he becomes. Ian leans in to take a dramatic whiff of my Greek food. "Smells good. Is it just for you?" "Yup, dinner for one," I say proudly, giving the take-out bag a gentle, loving rock, stroking it like it's a newborn baby. "Greek on Wheels is my favorite," Ian informs me, thick brows bouncing as Joggers exits the elevator on floor six. "And dinner for one sounds like rock bottom." Damn. This kid went for the jugular. I tighten my grip on my food, hitching my shoulders in defense. "Jeez. Drag me, Ian. And it's really not rock bottom." Dinner for one has its perks. There's no one interrupting my Zen by chewing their meat loudly in my ear. Or swooping in to steal the best bite I was saving for last. Ian swings me a knowing side-eye. "No one likes being alone. And you've been alone every night since you broke up with Ronan-the one who was obsessed with cryptocurrency." Ronan was the last guy I dated. He always pressured me to split my meal because he couldn't choose only one item off the menu. I know what you're thinking: splitting food isn't that bad. It's romantic, even. But after a childhood of going to bed on an empty stomach, sharing doesn't exactly evoke the warm and fuzzies. And if lectures about crypto and meal splitting weren't shriveling my libido enough, I had no choice but to end things immediately when he suggested we take our relationship to the next level and move in together after four months of dating. I bristle at Ian, unable to suppress the creeping urge to justify my life choices. "I'm not alone. I have friends." I fix my defensive stare on the button panel. Just a few more floors until sweet freedom. "Two friends. Crystal and Tara," I specify. When I say it out loud, having exactly two friends sounds rather tragic for someone with half a million social media followers. Ian moves on, wholly uninterested in my pitiful social calendar. "I'm going to a poetry reading tonight if you want to join." "Ian, you're being inappropriate again," I warn, bouncing on the balls of my feet when we finally arrive at our floor. "Sorry. My dad says I need to dial it back." He jogs to keep up with me as we head down the hallway toward our respective condo units. "Your dad is right," I say, digging my keys out of my pocket. "Aren't there cute girls or boys your own age you could yearn for instead?" He averts his eyes to his sockless ankles. "None who will talk to me. Kenna Palmer says I'm a weirdo freak." "First, Kenna Palmer sounds like a miserable brat. She'll regret that in twenty years when you're a megarich tech entrepreneur with an all-black-interior private jet. And second, you're not . . ." I bite my lip, summoning the most delicate way to get my point across. "Okay, you're a little weird. Maybe a little . . . intense. Overzealous." He fiddles with the collar of his dress shirt. "Isn't intense and overzealous good?" "Let me put it this way: You're at high risk of getting your heart skewered over a flaming barbecue if you keep up this type of behavior into middle school. And, if you ask me, love is a burden to be avoided at all costs," I warn. "See you later, Ian." For the briefest moment, he dips his chin in consideration. "'Hearts are made to be broken,' said the great Oscar Wilde." "I like being alone. With my heart intact," I call through the crack in the door before closing it completely. I repeat those words as I face my empty condo. I like being alone. The more I say it, the more it will be true. Maybe Ian was right. My Greek dinner for one looks depressing at my dining table for twelve. I was convinced this gargantuan table was necessary for all the wine-and-charcuterie nights I'd host. I never imagined it would be empty ninety percent of the time. After eating dinner on the couch instead, I commence my sacred nighttime ritual: Send daily check-in text to little brother, Julian Do five-step skin care routine Guzzle three mugs of lemon-ginger detox tea Send another email to my accountant to clarify whether the low-five-digit number in my savings account is a typo Drown out the stifling silence with an old rerun, a faux-chinchilla throw hoisted to my chin Root through notifications on my @MelanieInTheCity account until my eyelids grow too heavy for consciousness Tonight proves to be another quiet night for DMs, aside from a new demand for my used socks, worn for an entire week, please and thank you (yes, my DMs are a terrifying place). But among some spam emails advertising Viagra and hot-air balloon rides, there's an email from an address I don't recognize. To: From: Subject: Collaboration Opportunity with Seaside Resorts Dear Melanie in the City, I hope this email finds you well! My name is Shawna and I'm reaching out on behalf of Seaside Resorts in Nova Scotia, on the East Coast of Canada. I'd love to tell you more about a potential collaboration opportunity I think you would be perfect for. We'd like to offer you an all-expenses-paid getaway experience in exchange for an agreed-upon posting schedule, in addition to video content on your socials. I'd love to chat further if you're interested, and we can arrange a week for your stay next month, in August. Best, Shawna Marketing Manager Seaside Resorts Nova Scotia The photos on the resort's website boast a boxy white cedar exterior, comprised of a variety of reclaimed wood planks cut into clean lines. The interior is also sleek, the floors a soft seashell porcelain. The modern architecture contrasts with the jagged rocks surrounding the resort like a fortress, protecting it from the frothy sea below. I reread the email multiple times, shocked I've been offered this opportunity at all. Your content is stale and a little too curated for our evolving brand. That's what one collaboration partner said when they dumped me after five years. And they were among the many companies moving on to greener pastures, in favor of fresh-faced teens in sweatpants and no makeup crying on live video sans filter. See, at the ripe age of twenty-nine, I'm basically the Crypt Keeper in internet years, teetering on the brink of irrelevance. Without new, exciting partnerships, I'm losing followers (aka my sole revenue stream) at a frightening rate. This opportunity has to be a sign. A sign that I'm not destined for failure and on track to being broke within a year. That I won't have to find some random job in order to make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck ever again. With enough new content, I can use the opportunity to revitalize my brand. Maybe a jaunt in rustic nature (with a luxurious twist) is exactly what I need. chapter two One month later My apologies, Ms. Karlsen. I'm afraid I have some bad news," Geraldine, the resort receptionist with a serene spa voice, tells me over the phone. "Bad news?" I repeat, hauling my luggage to a quiet corner of the airport pickup area. Despite arriving in Halifax bright-eyed and ready to embrace rustic luxury, I've admittedly grown a tad weary languishing on the curb, waiting for the resort shuttle for the past hour. "It looks like there's some confusion over the booking dates. We have you in for next Friday, not this Friday." Internal panic ensues. "Next Friday? But I'm already here. In Halifax." "I am so sorry," Geraldine says regretfully. "We have nothing else available until then." "Nothing at all?" I confirm, frowning. "What are my options? Can I go home and come back next week?" She hesitates. "As per our policy, we can't cover an additional set of flights. But thanks to a provincial economic development grant, we can offer to expense your accommodations for the extra week." "Oh, um, well-" "You're going to have a fabulous stay. There is so much to do here. Nova Scotia really is a lovely vacation spot," she cuts in, tone chipper, as though the resort hasn't completely botched my plans. I consider reminding her that they're responsible for the date mix-up. But after years of working in customer service and taking the brunt of people's frustrations, I've grown accustomed to being agreeable when on the other side. "So I've heard. Thanks for your help, Geraldine," I grumble, ending the call when it becomes clear there's no alternative. As I watch a group of burly-looking men in flannel overcoats pile their gigantic bags into the back of a tiny taxi, my phone buzzes with a flurry of texts from my brother. Julian: Hi Julian: Ok plz don't kill me . . . Julian: But HYPOTHETICALLY Julian: If someone were to get pizza sauce on white fabric . . . how would one HYPOTHETICALLY get the stain out?? Julian: Also, I can't remember which towels you said I could use . . . Julian: Did you land yet?? Julian: I see my msg delivered so I'm guessing you're in Halifax?? Plz let me know. Typical Julian. He still hasn't mastered the art of using extreme caution while eating on my white couch. I take in a couple of deep breaths before responding and follow up with a link to a YouTube tutorial on removing sauce stains. My fingers flex at my side as I consider the reality of being away from him for an extra week while he's staying at my place. But the last thing I want to do is lose this opportunity. Maybe an extra week won't be so bad. After all, it means twice the time for content. With renewed optimism, I wheel my luggage to a rental car booth, where they give me the very last SUV in their fleet in absence of a reservation: a Ford Flex. "A Flex? The one that looks like a hearse?" I clarify to the car rental employee. "It's tourist and fishing season," he informs me, as though I should just know. He isn't wrong. By the time I get into my funeral-chic Flex (jet black for added effect), I've already called seven nearby hotels, all of which are completely booked. Is sleepy Halifax really that happening? I try at least a dozen other hotels, ones that aren't those sketchy roadside motels, to no avail. There's no vacancy for my dates on Airbnb either. This is quickly becoming the trip from hell. Excerpted from The Catch by Amy Lea All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.