Cat is a free spirit, spending her free time on a giant playground at the beach and creating graffiti art when the mood strikes. She comes from money, but she's happier on the fringe, and the last thing on her mind is a serious relationship. She's more than content with her roommate Jay and the occasional one-night stand with someone she'll never call back.
Huck came to California to regroup, reestablish himself, and get over a heartbreaking betrayal back home. He's intrigued by the beautiful girl who wears too much black and pulls out trick moves at the local skatepark, and while he's curious, he accepts her rules of conversation — nothing personal, serious, or past. But their one night becomes a string of nights, and when they find they are connected in more ways than they thought, everything is on the line.
The Verdict: I cracked this one open after reading a rather atypical romance novel, and I was a bit apprehensive that Hooked just wouldn't be able to pull me in the way my previous read had. Oh, how wrong I was.
Cat is a fascinating character. She shirks the high-society life her mother wants for her, but they maintain a strong and loving relationship. By day she's a talented and edgy graphic designer, one of the few acceptable careers for her talents, though it's not the fine art and gallery life her mother had hoped she would choose. And by night and weekend and off-day, she's fun-loving and carefree, straightforward and unapologetic. Her attraction to Huck is certainly understandable, but aside from his good looks, he doesn't seem on the surface to be anything close to her type. He's the Saks Fifth Avenue to her Goodwill, but when they talk, those superficial traits fade away.
Outside the office, Huck isn't the stodgy businessman he normally plays. He's up for whatever, last minute parties and take-out, spontaneous skinny-dipping and spray-painted art. He and Cat have incredible chemistry, punctuated by plenty of hot bedroom (and pool and beach and barn) scenes, but they also have fun simply talking and challenging each other.
Of course, there has to be a conflict, and their story had a nice little collection of them. First, there's the fact that Cat's terrified of getting too close to Huck in anything but a physical way, and her emotional distance is trying. Then there's the surprise connection they have, which I won't spoil here. Top that with a personal tragedy for Cat, and things get a bit more dicey. And then there's the misunderstanding and Cat's questioning what they have just when it seems they might overcome everything else, and while that scenario was a romance novel standard, it was done well, forcing Cat to admit to herself her feelings and giving Huck the perfect opportunity to prove himself.
Another stand-out piece of the story was the way Cat observed her mother and all they were going through together. The anger and confusion and feeling like the ground beneath her was crumbling was so perfectly written that I wonder if the author has worn those shoes herself. It seems to be the only way someone could so perfectly capture that tumble of emotion, that feeling that no one else can see that the world around them has been annihilated.
The only issue I had at all with the story was a small one — the build-up to their discovering they already know of each other. That one scene leading up to the big reveal, mapped out in such detail was so obvious. Granted, that's a fault shared with 99% of the romance novels I read, so it's not really so much a failing here as it is a disappointing standard, but I would have shared in Cat's shock and mortification if the coffee run hadn't been so thoroughly described. That insistent oversharing of every step and thought and detail is always so far removed from the normal flow of a story that it plays out like the rising volume of dramatic music just before the monster jumps out in a movie.
All in all, though, Hooked was an incredibly enjoyable read. Cat and Huck could easily have been cliches, but they were written with so much fun and depth that I couldn't help but love them both — not to mention all the hot alone time they got. Their story is told in alternating points of view, providing good insight into each of them, but Cat's insistence that they not share personal information added a different dimension to things. Whereas normally two people who won't speak their feelings can be frustrating, I was right there with Cat and Huck, just trying to figure it out and eagerly waiting to see what would happen next. In some ways, the story is a classic case of opposites attracting, but at the heart of it, the characters are more alike on the inside than anyone would ever know by looking at them.
***FicCentral received this book from Wordsmith Publicity for free in exchange for an honest review.