Tuesday 10 October 2023
CBR15 Book 56: "Hook, Line and Sinker" by Tessa Bailey
Rating: 4 stars
Seven months ago, Hannah Bellinger left the little fishing town of Westport, Washington to go back to her life in Los Angeles. Her former socialite sister, Piper, stayed behind, happily engaged to a gruff crab fishing captain. While her sister at first mainly argued with and then fell like a ton of bricks for the gruff captain, Hannah spent quite a lot of time with his second in command, the very handsome Fox Thornton. Because of his womanizing ways, Hannah very quickly decided that no matter how good-looking and charming the man was, she was not going to become another conquest for him, but nevertheless enjoyed his company a lot. As a farewell present when she was about to return to LA, Fox left her a coveted Fleetwood Mac album that she had seen at a record expo but decided against buying for herself. Since music is as important to Hannah as breathing, the present was obviously very meaningful. She and Fox keep communicating via text messages, which both try to pretend mean less than they do, despite the fact that after a while, they communicate more with each other than anyone else in their lives.
When in LA, Hannah works as a production assistant to an artsy film director, whom she's had a crush on for years. Since her stepfather is a very influential movie producer, she could probably have gotten a much swankier job, but Hannah wanted to work her way up the ranks honestly. Two years later, just fetching coffee and doing grunt work is getting a bit stale, though. Hannah dreams of working on movie soundtracks, but also struggles to make anyone actually notice her. She thinks of herself as a supporting character in the lives of others. Nevertheless, because she misses Westport, her sister (and if she allowed herself to admit it, Fox), she summons up the courage to pitch the fishing town as an alternate location to the film her movie director boss is currently making, since LA clearly isn't creating the correct vibe. Her absolutely lyrical descriptions of the town sell the temperamental director on the idea, and soon Hannah will be back near her sister and the man she keeps thinking about (as a friend) for an extended period.
Because this is a romance, and circumstances need to conspire to throw our potential lovers closer together, of course, Piper and Brendan, her handsome captain, can't let Hannah stay at theirs for the duration of the film shoot. No, she'll have to stay with Fox, in his spare room. But this is totally OK because they're just platonic friends, Fox won't even be there half the time because he'll be off on fishing trips, and Hannah still nurses that crush on her director, right?
Of course, once Hannah actually spends some time with Fox, she discovers not only that he actually has terrible self-esteem issues, literally seeing himself as nothing but a walking one-night stand, but that the attraction she feels towards him, and that he clearly returns is far from platonic. Fox witnessed his dad's womanising from an early age until it broke his parents up, and everyone around him, including his own parents, teachers, and others in the community seemed to believe that because he looked a lot like his dad, he was going to turn out exactly like him. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy - Fox started dating early and subscribed to the 'leave them before they leave you' attitude, never believing himself worthy of anything else or capable of change. He thinks Brendan is crazy for suggesting he take over as captain on Della Ray once Brendan's new, bigger fishing boat is completed. He makes self-deprecating jokes at his own expense and laughs at all the jokes about what an unreliable manwhore he is.
Everyone warns him away from Hannah because she's the sister of his best friend's fiancée and someone who is clearly looking for a long-term relationship, not some brief and empty hook-up. Since Fox never really brought his female conquests to Westport, no one has really noticed that in the seven months since Hannah left, he hasn't been hooking up with anyone, being quite content with celibacy (because he's head over heels for Hannah). She, on the other hand, very quickly realises that her feelings for Sergei, her director boss, must have faded at some point. The only one whose attention she wants is Fox.
Fox's terrible self-image and how he's never even tried to break free of his man slut reputation (with one notable exception, which ended terribly and just further confirmed to him that his only worth is to give short-term sexual gratification to random ladies) is the biggest obstacle Hannah and Fox have to work through. There's also the fact that Hannah's home and work are in LA, and her stay in Westport isn't going to last longer than the film takes to complete. Fox doesn't believe himself capable of a long-term relationship, nor that he is in any way good enough for Hannah. Neither of them thinks a long-distance thing is going to work, but it might be career suicide for Hannah to move to the Pacific Northwest just as she's actually starting to make her boss notice her and consider her for a promotion.
It Happened One Summer was cute and a very quick read. In that, Piper had the self-esteem issues and had to figure out who she really was, because no one had ever expected anything of her or believed her capable of anything except being a walking fashion plate. In this book, the esteem issues go even deeper and there is definitely more angst. Frankly, it's clear that most people have been hella judgmental and shitty to Fox, and he's let them and laughed along with it because he never thought to argue with their opinions. Because Hannah wants to show him that he has more to offer than just sex, she refuses to sleep with him for most of the book, wanting him to see that she likes him and his company, not just his looks and his body.
Tessa Bailey seems to be a bit up and down quality-wise, with some of her books getting a lot of praise, while others seem borderline unreadable. I picked up these books because a very persuasive bookseller promised me I'd like them based on other romance titles I mentioned. I'm glad she was right, but I'm not sure I'm going to run out and get a bunch more of Bailey's books just because these two worked for me.
Judging a book by its cover: I like how the cover artist manages to give Fox really awkward body language, while Hannah, who initially is very timid and reluctant to speak up, looks happy and confident.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read