Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.
“The Catch,” a novel by internationally bestselling author Amy Lea, follows fashion influencer Melanie Karlsen, who gets an opportunity to escape Boston and spend a week at a resort in Nova Scotia, Canada, in exchange for social media content. After the resort mixes up the dates she’s supposed to stay, Mel finds herself in Cora’s Cove, a small fishing town on Canada’s east coast. It’s the kind of small town that thrives off tourism and has exactly one bar. When Mel arrives at the Airbnb she booked at the last minute, the first person she meets is the burly and not-so-friendly owner Evan Whaler.
After only a few days of knowing each other — which included an unfortunate boating accident that left Evan unconscious and concussed in the hospital with only Mel by his side — Mel declares herself Evan’s fiancee. Evan agrees to go along with the fake engagement to ease the tensions between his feuding family members. His mother and his aunt haven’t spoken in years because they can’t decide whether to sell the bed and breakfast that has been in the family for generations but desperately needs repair. For the next week, Evan and Mel pretend to be engaged and end up actually falling for each other.
“The Catch” is the third and final book in Lea’s “The Influencer” series. Social media is a major part of the series, and all of the main characters are influencers — Crystal from “Set on You” is a fitness influencer, Tara from “Exes and O’s” is a book influencer and Mel from the upcoming “The Catch” is a fashion influencer.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Lea shared that before she became an author, she had a “Bookstagram” account. While Lea said that writing Tara’s story came naturally to her, she had to do a bit of “fun research” for the other two books, which meant following a lot of influencers and studying their profiles and the language of their posts.
“A lot of people sometimes don’t like the reality of social media or pop culture references in books,” Lea said. “I totally understand where they are coming from, but at the same time, I think it is just a fact of life nowadays. We socialize via the internet. If you were to ask couples, so many of them met online. That’s just how it is. So I figured it was important to highlight that aspect of life.”
In Lea’s “The Influencer” series, each main character has a different relationship with social media. She said she struggled to figure out how to portray Mel in “The Catch” because in the first two books in the series, Mel is only a side character, a friend to Crystal and Tara. Mel’s persona entails her dressing fabulously and looking amazing, showing off her seemingly perfect life making money from influencing. But in reality, because social media algorithms and trends change, Mel is losing money.
Influencing can be a fleeting profession. Lea said she wanted to show this change over time. At the beginning of her career, Mel loved putting together outfits and talking about fashion, but as negative comments accumulated and companies began dropping her, fashion influencing failed to remain her passion. It just became a job, which, Lea admitted, happens to a lot of creative people in real life, specifically writers.
“When you overshare yourself online, it can lead to burnout,” Lea said. “You’re constantly subjecting yourself to criticism where people feel that they know you and can say whatever they want, as long as they’re anonymous and behind a screen.”
As the books in the “The Influencer” series came out over the past couple of years, Lea said that her own relationship with social media changed. When she started out as a Bookstagrammer, her relationship with books was purely one of a consumer. Now, she’s other authors’ peer — and because of this, she’s more mindful of the books she shares on her account.
There are a variety of tropes at play in “The Catch.” Evan is a rugged, grumpy lobster fisherman while Mel is a sunshine heroine who definitely doesn’t spend as much time outdoors as Evan does — playing into the classic grumpy/sunshine, city girl/small town boy and opposite attracts dynamics.
Lea said she’s a fan of reading enemies-to-lovers stories for their built-in tension and the banter between characters, but the tropes she likes to read most change. When it comes to incorporating tropes into her own writing, she explained that she likes friends-to-lovers stories, though they are more challenging. She said that these plots require writing about the characters’ already established relationship and familiarity with each other.
At the beginning of the novel, Mel and Evan don’t exactly get off on the right foot, hinting at an enemies-to-lovers storyline, but the two eventually start fake dating as well, manifesting two extremely popular tropes in contemporary rom-coms. The story, as Lea once said, is a mashup of the rom-coms “While You Were Sleeping” and “The Proposal.”
One theme Lea said she wanted to tackle in “The Catch” was loneliness in adulthood. She wanted to give voice to the increased difficulty of finding friends in as an adult — you truly have to make an effort to maintain those relationships — which few people talk about. In the novel, Mel doesn’t admit to herself that she’s lonely. Though Crystal and Tara are her friends, she doesn’t rely on them and doesn’t like to burden them with her problems. Mel doesn’t fully trust anyone and rarely opens up to her friends and romantic partners. Even within her career, Mel experiences the solitary aspects of being an influencer.
When developing couples, Lea said she likes to make them compatible in that one person has something that the other person needs, and vice versa. While Evan has a big, loud and involved family, Mel only has her younger brother Julian in her life. Throughout the novel, Mel and Evan work to support each other despite their different personalities.
As a character, Mel is extra. She likes girly things, she’s a tad materialistic and she admits to getting work done on her body, an act Lea said is often villainized in society. She commented that people often take beauty as a moral issue and assume it’s a bad thing to put a lot into appearance. In contrast to Mel, Evan doesn’t have social media and often wears the same flannel in different colors. Lea said she wanted to write a dynamic where the man doesn’t try to change the woman, and she accomplished just that. Evan isn’t one of those guys who say women look better without makeup; he likes how Mel outwardly expresses herself.
“Women don’t wear makeup for men,” Lea said. “We’re wearing it for us, or we’re wearing it for confidence, generally speaking. I think I see a lot (in books) where a city girl goes to a small town and becomes really simple. And that’s totally fine, but I also wanted (Mel) to not change and for her to still be herself and for (Evan) to accept that and love her for it.”
Knowing this inspiration, I hope readers love Mel and Evan’s story as much as I did. With many different tropes that appeal to a variety of romance readers, and themes of found family and accepting oneself, “The Catch” should be one of your most anticipated reads of 2024.
Amy Lea’s “The Catch” will be released on Feb. 13, 2024.
Books Beat Editor Ava Seaman can be reached at email@example.com.