A Father's Promise

Here's Looking at Ya

Wife in Name Only

Catch of the Day by Marcia Evanick
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-7241-4
Gwen Fletcher is a culinary-institute-trained chef who has dreamed of owning her own restaurant. A cyber friend tells her the only restaurant in Misty Harbor is for sale. Misty Harbor is classic small town Americana. Located on Maineís Atlantic coast, its biggest industry is fishing with summer tourism running second.

Gwen decides to name her restaurant Catch of the Day. The building is in considerable need of repair and renovation. She hires Daniel Creighton, a local carpenter, to do the work. Danielís grandfather Jonah accompanies him. When Gwen inquires about someone to help with cleanup, they recommend Hunter McCord, a withdrawn Viet Nam vet. His father Clarence comes along. Gwen tries out recipes by cooking lunch for the four men.

Youthful, beautiful, and a good cook, Gwen is a hot commodity in female-starved Misty Harbor. Soon every bachelor is showing up at the restaurant door, bringing token gifts, asking her out, and staying for lunch if they can wangle it. Among them is the head of the local chamber of commerce who is looking for a third wife and twin brothers who look like modern-day Vikings. Gwen insists that she needs to devote all her attention to making her restaurant a success. Secretly, she is strongly attracted to Daniel.

As the date for the restaurantís grand opening approaches, Gwen, the middle daughter of a high-powered, professionally successful family, becomes more and more nervous that things be perfect.

This book has some nice characters but not much plot. The heroine writes a lot of lists, makes a lot of plans, and does a lot of cooking (I regret to inform you thereís no appendix with recipes). The hero does a lot of carpentry work, and they both do a lot of lusting after each other.

There are a couple of minor subplots. Danielís face was scarred in an accident, and shortly afterward his fiancťe ditched him for her college one-night-stand. Maggie is returning to Misty Harbor, divorced with a small daughter, but the townsfolk have never forgiven her for her treatment of Daniel. Hunter McCord has suffered psychologically for years from his experiences in a Viet Nam POW camp. His love for his old sweetheart has never died. Now sheís a widow, and Gwen has hired her rebellious, youngest child to work in the kitchen with Hunter.

Gwen clearly has an inferiority complex in comparison to her unusually prominent family members. Although she elected to pursue a career in cooking by choice not because she didnít have the same academic potential as her parents and sisters, she does not see her accomplishments as possibly equaling theirs.

Daniel is a nice beta hero. Heís good with his hands, comfortable with his blue collar career choice (which appears to be more profitable than one would expect), and owns a gorgeous house overlooking the Atlantic he built himself. Heís self-conscious about his scar because he thinks it bothers women. When Gwen shows no reaction, he thinks sheís just better at hiding it than other women. What he doesnít realize for some time is that Gwenís far more impressed with his backside than with the scar. And thatís before she gets a peek at his house!

Gwen and Daniel make a cute couple. The sexual tension between them builds because it seems to take forever for them to reach the point of the first kiss, but itís sweet when it finally happens. This is one couple that readers will feel confident the happily ever after will last.

The view of small town life as portrayed in Catch of the Day is unrealistically rosy - itís the idealized view as we wish it were rather than as it really is. Itís hard to imagine a single small town in America with so many eligible, good-looking bachelors. The local economy is depressed, but Gwen is obviously opening an upscale restaurant, and no one suggests that maybe the residents wonít be able to afford to eat there often. The nearest pizza parlor is in the next town, but Misty Harbor has its own local newspaper. And itís no problem to hire someone to do those pesky little household handyman tasks. If any such seacoast town still exists in America, I want to know about it.

If youíre looking for a book with emotional depth and heavy angst, you wonít find Catch of the Day very satisfying. If, however, youíre looking for a light story with no villains and several happy endings, this might be a good choice.

--Lesley Dunlap

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