Upon inheriting their sassy grandmother's home and family bait shop, cousins Lanie, Jodi, and Becky Cornell return to Catfish, Texas, looking for a fresh start. Turns out living as roommates in Granny Lizzie's tiny two-bedroom house and running the Catfish Fisherman's Hut isn't at all like the idyllic summers they spent as children on the banks of the Red River. The days are long and hot, the tourists demanding and rude. And then there's Chris Adams, a local river guide who seems to have eyes only for Becky.
But Lizzie's death has set in motion a chain of events that will cause a new generation of Cornell women to come together. And thanks to this chance inheritance, the Cornell cousins discover that sometimes an ending is really a new beginning .
Carolyn Brown is a very reliable read if you are in the market for sweet, romantic, and small town, and the stories featured here definitely fit her trademark storytelling. When I originally read the back blurb for this book, I thought the entire book was about Lanie, Jodi, and Becki–and admittedly I was quite invested in the trio when I started–but I soon realized (yes, I’m one of those who occasionally skips ahead to see what might be happening), this was actually a novella. And this book was a series of three novellas. A little more research had me realizing this book is a reprint, and while I, a book hoarding dragon, enjoy my books, I do get a little put out when I end up buying a duplicate book I didn’t mean to, especially for an author I was anticipating as a new read. I think Sourcebooks should have made it a bit clearer in the blurb and such that this was a reprint anthology.
The first novella, in the complicated nature novellas are, is short and only lightly conflicted. When you only have a hundred pages, there aren’t massive dark secrets and dark moments. I enjoyed the story, especially the cousins, and the romance between the eldest cousin and a childhood crush was very cute, though perhaps I did have to suspend belief a little for myself because as a romance hero–his career is a professional fishing guide?–he isn’t exactly Mr. Darcy. I fully admit this probably says much more about me who does not find fishing particularly alluring in reality or fantasy, especially since catfish seems to be the main target, and have you ever smelled the bait for that? You never forget it. I think my real disappointment is that I wanted to know more about the other two cousins, or even have romances for them, and maybe I’ll go in search to see if Ms. Brown wrote novellas featuring them.
The second novella is another of Ms. Brown, written in first person, and featuring entirely different characters. The story is much more complex and dark, full of secrets and problems and an absent father. The heroine is plucky and has a sister who is hilarious and just the kind of older sister you imagine: bossy and “I know best.” The hero–while not a fishing guide (plus)--is an assclown. Now Mr. Darcy is definitely an assclown, so this should not have bothered me, but this guy did. And again, since this is a novella, his evolution from asshole to Prince Charming left me a bit disbelieving, though as a Pisces, I do like to hold a grudge so again, this may just be me.
The third novella is Sharon Sala’s…and I believe in Ms. Sala’s fashion, it does not lack in drama, conflict, or black moments. In fact, it starts with a jilted bride (heroine) and then turns into a school shooter situation and ends with an optimistic new start in a new school system. (I only share the main beats here because if you’re like me, I was rather triggered by a short story of a school shooting as part of an anthology of sweet contemporary Western romances.)
In summary, my recommendation for the stories is a bit mixed. If you’re in the mood for very lightly conflicted romance and you don’t want to commit to a 300 page book, this book may be much more your preferred read. The first two stories were definitely quick reads and enjoyable. The third one feels a bit odd man out compared to the other two, but Ms. Sala is a very good writer and if you enjoy her stories, I imagine you will enjoy this too. If, like me, you’d rather not go fishing on a romantic date and you prefer the gentleman status of Mr. Darcy to the self-employed fishing guide as a hero, this might not be your book.