I have no idea how I missed writing and posting a review of “Staying for Good” by Catherine Bybee, but I did. Miss it that is. So this review may be shorter and with fewer specifics than my usual, simply because my aging brain can’t hold all the info it’s trying to retain. Proof positive of why I’m a Goodreads user. I started using it because I can’t remember book titles and would frequently return from the library or bookstore with books I’d already read. But it only works if you enter the important details, such as book titles.
Anyway, “Staying for Good” is the second book in the Most Likely To series and features super celebrity chef Zoe Brown and her high school sweetheart Luke Miller who has never left their hometown of River Bend and is content working for his dad as an auto mechanic. Sound like a match made in heaven? Nah, I didn’t think so either.
Zoe grew up in a ratty old double-wide with parents that spent their marriage fighting. Let me rephrase that. When he wasn’t behind bars, her father spent his time drinking and beating on Zoe’s mother while Zoe and her brothers cringed in fear for her and themselves. So Zoe escaped that life right after HS graduation, leaving behind Luke and her two BFFs. Her return as a super celebrity chef negated the “prediction” that Zoe was Most Likely to Never Leave River Bend Oregon.
When she and Luke reconnected, the spark hadn’t faded. If anything, the fire burned higher and hotter than ever. Although Luke was as much a refuge for Zoe as ever, she still had to decide what was more important to her. Should she choose her career or a life with Luke in River Bend? Tough decisions.
Zoe and Luke are a perfect pair with their lives almost mirror images of each other. Luke’s family was the perfect portrayal of American family life whereas Zoe’s was the opposite. Her abusive father, Ziggy was paroled early for “good behavior” from a ten-year prison term for armed robbery. The parole board must not have known what an abusive husband and father he’d been, not to mention his alcohol addiction. This recipe for disaster had a definite negative effect on Zoe’s decision making process.
Bybee so aptly portrays the gut-gnawing fear experienced by Zoe and all the repercussions induced by the psychotic ex-con Ziggy. With an equally adept hand, she captures the magic of young love (and lust) in Zoe and Luke as teenagers and the deeper and more mature love that burns even hotter after ten long years apart. Her character portrayals are one of the things that sets Bybee apart from the average romance writer. Their authenticity breathes life into them so they seem as real as your friends, co-workers, relatives and neighbors and after the last page is turned, that connection is even stronger.
That emotional connection with the characters is Bybee’s strong suit. That and knowing what her readers like and want and delivering it in crisp, clear prose without added fluff just to fill pages. Every word is there as a conveyance to tell the story and pull the readers into the narrative so they are invested in the outcome. Catherine Bybee is a master craftsman in her field because that’s what she does. Her stories pull you in and keep you immersed way past your bedtime.
When the reader finishes the last page and wishes there was more, the writer has done her job and done it well. Catherine Bybee does her job very well. Four stars.
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