Title: Mermaid Inn
Series: Matchmaker Bay #1
Author: Jenny Holiday
Format: Paperback/eBook, 480 pages
Publication: Jan. 28, 2020 by Forever
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Eve Abbott has a problem-actually, make that a lot of problems. And they're all going to get worse the moment her toes hit the sand in Matchmaker Bay. Once a blissful summer escape, now the tiny town just reminds Eve of loss. Inheriting her aunt's beloved Mermaid Inn is the only reason Eve is coming back. She's definitely not ready to handle nosy neighbors, extensive renovations, or the discovery that a certain heartbreaker still lives down the street...
Police Chief Sawyer Collins always does the right thing, even when it costs him everything. Like Evie. He's spent the past ten years trying to forget her--to forget how right she felt in his arms, to forget the pain in her eyes the day she left. The last thing he expects is to see her back in town or to find that the spark between them is as strong as ever. Sawyer knows this is his only chance to prove that his feelings have always been real... before Eve turns tail and leaves for good.
“The inn is yours… but you can’t sell it for a year.”
The Matchmaker Bay series starts off with a second chance romance between visiting her great-aunt in the summer Evie and local boy Sawyer. They meet very young, grow up as friends, and when puberty hits, so does their love. Their last summer before high school graduation, Evie starts talking about skipping college to come waitress and stay in Moonflower Bay but Sawyer doesn't want her to give up her dreams for him. Sawyer decides to publicly make-out with a girl on a float during the big town parade, therefore making Evie want to leave and go chase her dreams. Ten years later, Evie's great-aunt has passed away and left her Mermaid Inn to Evie. Evie is finally forced to return to Moonflower Bay, where she gets stuck on the Inn roof and has to be rescued by the town's police chief, who just so happens to be Sawyer.
It was just that she had loved him so much. And now, she reminded herself, she was angry at him so much.
The first 30% of Mermaid Inn felt like one big set-up for the series as a whole, instead of narrowing the focus to Evie and Sawyer. It seemed to want to veer into women's fiction but there are povs from Sawyer, so I would make up a new sub-genre and call it town's fiction (this does fit strongly in the romance genre). There's the meddling elders, the themed town festival, the slightly wack woman, Maya, who becomes friends with Evie and has a “hate” you relationship with one of Sawyer's two handsome friends, and our childhood sweethearts who the whole town knows should still be together. These are extremely well tread tropes and characters and for the first half I struggled a lot; the ground work for the whole series and read before characters didn't feel fresh or excite. There was also the intense anger from Evie towards Sawyer over, yes, a huge heartbreak of hers but it happened ten years ago and was one moment in an apparent ocean of love and good memories with Sawyer. I thought Evie and Sawyer came off a bit immature, they felt very early twenties more than late twenties at times with their thoughts.
“Kiss the girl.”
It was around the 40% mark that Evie starts to thaw towards Sawyer and I thought the flow and story improved a lot from there, the story moves from setting up the series and focuses more on Sawyer and Evie. Sawyer's background had him growing up with an abusive father, his mother died in childbirth. At eighteen, he moves out with his seven year old sister, gets full legal custody, and with the help of the town he raises her. There were some good moments between him and his sister but I craved even more because of how deep the emotions between this relationship could have gotten. Evie comes from a loving home but we get very few glimpses with her and her parents and because the impetuous to get her back to Moonflower Bay is the death of her great-aunt, we don't get any great scenes between the two. There were at times I felt depth and meat to the characters was missing.
He kissed the girl. And the girl kissed him back.
The beginning was too much series set-up that frankly made it boring, the middle had better interactions between Evie and Sawyer that started to draw me into their second chance romance, but the ending fell somewhat flat because so much of the emotions from characters felt surface. The story takes place over a year but there are time jumps and it didn't feel like I had necessarily struggled and triumphed with Evie and Sawyer in their romance because of lack of depth. I'm in my late thirties and there were at times I felt like some of the characters and the tone had a manic pixie, bubbly, and Instagram (I don't know how to really describe this but if you're on Instgram you'll know what I'm talking about) vibe that just didn't always connect with me, younger readers could easily feel different. With the town set-up out of the way, the next in the series should have the freedom to focus more on the main couple and luckily, Sawyer has two hunky friends that should fill the hero spot nicely.
Suggested Reading Order:
Mermaid Inn (Matchmaker Bay Book 1)
Paradise Cove (Matchmaker Bay Book 2)