Author: Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 10 minutes
Sometimes a yacht, a bold bucket list, and a kiss with a handsome stranger are all a person needs to dive into the deep end of life.
For the last year, yacht stewardess Jo Walker has blogged her attempt to complete a bucket list of 30 things before her 30th birthday. She has almost everything she’s ever wanted: a condo on the beach (though she’s the youngest resident by thirty years), an exciting job (catering to the whims of wealthy strangers), and a loyal best friend (who forced her into creating the list after a bad break-up).
But after Jo’s nephew is killed in a tragic accident, her list and blog fall to the wayside as she struggles to keep her grief in check. When her two teenage nieces show up on her doorstep unannounced and with plans to stay for the summer, they discover her list and insist on helping. Though the remaining eight items (which include running a marathon, visiting ten countries, and sleeping in a castle) seem impossible to complete in less than three months, Jo takes on the challenge, hoping to distract the girls (and herself) from their collective grief.
As the list shrinks, so does Jo’s confidence in what she wants from the next chapter of her life. When she completes item #5 – kiss a stranger – she meets Alex Hayes, the hot single dad who ends up being less of a stranger than she’d hoped. As her feelings for Alex intensify and her nieces’ grief threatens to unleash her own, Jo must learn to quit playing it safe with her heart before she loses the people who matter most.
Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships is the first novel of the same name that follows characters who work on superyachts. As a fan of Below Deck and a person who worked briefly as a deckhand, this novel stood out to me. While actual yacht works vary from ship to ship and crew to crew, this was a very fun take on it and does reflect some behind the scenes antics for those that work for wealthy clients. While this seemingly is marketed as a romance, I would place it more under women’s fiction. There is still a romance element, but, for me, it was not the focus, so readers may want to be aware to set up their own expectations.
Jo Walker is a yacht stewardess who has come up with a list of thirty things she would like to complete before she turns thirty. I loved the list that the author created for this character as it was a nice mix of activities and goals, which added some nice realism to the story. While not all of them would make my own to-do list, a fair amount of them would. After her nephew, Samson, dies unexpectedly, Jo is more determined than ever to complete her list. Throughout the novel, she deals with the grief of this tragic loss along with other family events.
While attempting to check out one item from her list, Jo meets Alex Hayes. He ends up also being a yacht chef and Jo’s co-worker on her next ship along with her neighbor, which means the two of them end up spending a lot of time together. The forced proximity plus co-worker aspect of their story was cute as it created some more believable circumstances for them to get to know the other. Alex is also a father to teen, Grayson, which adds a level of complexity to Alex and Jo getting to know the other. In addition to Grayson, Jo also ends up watching over her nieces Kitty and Mia, which added to the nice family dynamic aspect of the story.
Overall, this was not quite the romcom I was expecting, however, it was still an enjoyable story. I am not sure if it was done on purpose or not, but there were many replicated moments straight out of Below Deck. For example, when the main character is discussing a primary guest telling her to smile more and she contemplated making more offensive towel art. Moments like these were some nice touches as they gave some relatable yachting moments. The romance itself was a slow-burn and while it was sweet, I wished a little more time was dedicated to it as a lot of the pages were focused on Jo’s grief. Though this was a well-done part of the story, it was difficult for me to connect to both sides equally. This was an interesting story and it seems the next one will be about Nina, Jo’s friend and co-worker, so I am looking forward to continuing the series!