Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on February 13, 2024
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.
The only way I am going camping is in a Katie Ruggle novel. I swear I couldn’t feel my toes during the blizzard scene.
Dahlia Weathersby (yes, one of THE Weathersby’s) has come to the Town of Howling Falls to find her sister. She called the local police to let them know she received an emergency text from her sister but they don’t seem to understand how dire things are when a text says “Say Hi to Mom.” Dahlia and Rose are the only normal ones in the family and each would happily forego any inheritance to just be left alone. Losing the only member of her family that means anything to her is what drives Dahlia to break into the impenetrable fortress of the local grumpy hermit, Winston Dane, to beg his help finding her lost sister.
Hiking in November in the Colorado Mountains involves a lot more cold and snow than L.A. resident Dahlia could have imagined and could have dealt with on her own. She doesn’t know why Winston agreed to accompany her–even she knows her attempt at blackmail was pretty flimsy– but she is ever so grateful to have Winston at her back during this trek into the mountain.
Winston might not have anyone in his life that he would risk his life to find but Dahlia’s plight gets through his “weird hermit” shell and he agrees to help her trek to Howling Falls Falls where her sister is last known to be headed.
Once they make it to the Howling Falls Falls, Winston and Dahlia find something they never expected or could have ever guessed and now the question isn’t will they find Rose but will any of them make it out of there alive.
Sometimes you are looking for a fantasy with dragons, wizards and intense world building, and sometimes you just want a fun, sweet no-stress romance to help pass the afternoon. There is no question if you are looking for a light-hearted, summer beach read, Fish Out of Water fits that definition perfectly. Yes, I said Beach Read! I am done with winter and am already making my beach book list. It’s never too early to plan that out.
My two favorite Katie Ruggle stories are Gone Too Far (Search & Rescue #3) and Risk It All (Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters #2). I have read them both more than once. Both of these stories involve grumpy/sunshine couples and hiking in the mountains, which I personally would never do, but I do enjoy reading someone else’s story of hiking and camping in harsh conditions. I was even reading it on a chilly day which put me in a perfect mindset to drag me right into this story.
Dahlia calls Winston a weird hermit to his face and he doesn’t even flinch since he realizes that he would appear to be a weird hermit to someone as sunny as Dahlia. I liked that she would grab Winston‘s hand like this was something they did all the time while everyone else in town was kind of scared of the big, grumpy-faced Winston.
What I love most about my eReaders is highlighting sections that I enjoyed or which make me laugh, something I couldn’t do with an actual book. In Fish Out of Water, most of the Winston/Dahlia interactions were simply adorable and there is a lot of highlighting going on in my book.
Grab a copy of Fish Out of Water and save it for your next trip to the beach or the next time you just need a story that is going to keep you laughing and lift your spirits.
“Would you consider yourself an intermediate or advanced hiker? How about tracking? Can you do that thing where you look for bent twigs and partial footprints so you can follow someone’s trail?”
She cocked her head, studying him closely. “No to which question?”
“All of them.” He shoved to his feet and started pacing.
Dahlia pressed her lips together to hold back a smile. Apparently, his need to flee was getting the better of him. Perfect. “Hmmm…somehow I don’t believe you. Someone who builds hidden spike pits in his driveway would tend toward the survival-y type skills, wouldn’t they?”
He sent her an irritated glare, but his heavy frowns and sharp looks seemed to be losing their power to scare her. “It’s not a spike pit.”
“It’s not?” She wiggled a little closer to the front of her chair, excited to finally learn what was under that hidden trapdoor. “Piranhas, then?”
“No,” he huffed. “Not an underground tank filled with piranhas–or alligators,” he quickly added before she could take another guess. “Or sharks with laser beams attached to their heads.”
She laughed at the movie reference, and he lost another few dozen stone-cold killer points. “Ah…venomous snakes then.”
“Of course not venomous snakes.” He shot her an incredulous look. “Who jumps right to the venomous snakes?”
Slightly offended, she huffed, “I didn’t jump right to venomous snakes. I went to spikes, then piranhas, then alligators, and then venomous snakes. It was a circuitous path.”
“You forgot sharks.”
“Sharks was your idea,” she reminded him. “A ridiculous one.”
He stared at her. “Nothing.”
“There’s nothing in the pit,” he said slowly, as if making sure she understood every word. It was a little condescending of him, honestly. “It’s barely a pit. Its purpose is to disable a vehicle or tap an intruder on foot until I can make it out there to question them. I don’t want to actually hurt anyone.”
“How would it trap someone if it’s barely a pit?” she asked.
“For someone on foot, the door springs back and latches. And it’s deep enough to hang up a vehicle if one or two tires drop into it. Not ideal, since the driver and any passengers are still mobile, but at least they can’t use the vehicle to ram the gate.” To her surprise, he actually explained. “When the door’s latched, it can only be opened from the outside. When it opens, a sensor is tripped, and a message is sent to me.” He tapped his smartwatch. “Same with the net.”
“The net’s awesome–very old-school cartoon villain. Do you really get that many unauthorized visitors that you have to have booby traps, plural?” she asked, fascinated enough by him that she allowed herself to get sidetracked.
“Everyone else is smart enough to stay away,” he said with a meaningful glare.
“Since you have all the motion-sensors and cameras,” Dahlia asked, “aren’t the pits and nets just overkill…and a bit weird?”
“No.” He looked the tiniest bit sulky. “They’re not weird. They’re…fun.”
“For you, maybe.” She didn’t admit that it had been kind of fun outsmarting the cartoony traps. “Don’t you just have to go out all the time to free angry squirrels and raccoons and the like?”
“No. Most of the time the deterrent devices aren’t active,” he said impatiently. “You triggered a motion-sensor alarm at the exterior gate. Since it took you an hour to pick the lock, I had plenty of time to remotely activate the traps.”
“Since I managed to evade all of your very tricky booby traps,” she said, bringing the conversation back around to where she need it to be, “do I get a prize? Maybe you offer one favor of my choice?”
He snorted, pausing his pacing to prop his ham-like fists on his hips and glare at her more directly. “No. This isn’t a fairy tale, and you’re not Hercules.”
“You’re muddling your fairy tales and Roman mythology,” she informed him kindly. “Although I’m very impressed with the twelve labors reference.”
His only response was to glower.
“Okay, how about this.” She hadn’t wanted to go in this direction, but he was leaving her no other choice. “You help me find Rose, and I won’t reveal your location to your rabid fans.”
That shocked him. She could tell because his expression went blank and he blinked once before responding. “I don’t have fans.”
A little disappointed that he hadn’t even asked about her inventive scheme, she decided to explain it to him anyway. “Sure you don’t, Mr. Winston Dane, secret mystery writer and star of the docuseries City Survival.”
Instead of a blink that time, she got a complete arm crossing, which was a little distracting, since no one’s arms should be that thick. “That was years ago. No one cares about me anymore. And I wasn’t the star. I was only interviewed a couple of times.”
“People most certainly do still care about you. A lot.” She smiled at Winston. “You should search your own name online sometime. Do you know that one clip of you glaring at the camera and growling ‘I’m always watching’ became a meme?”
From his grimace, he was well aware. “I was talking about being aware of my surroundings.”
“I know. I watched the whole interview.” She’d been mesmerized, unable to look away, but she didn’t mention that part. “People were obsessed with you–still are. You’re the reason a boring docuseries about urban safety became a cult classic. When you dropped out of sight a few years ago, your fans didn’t forget. In fact, people became more obsessed with you. They started reporting every possible Winston Dane sighting, like a real-life Where’s Hot Waldo. If they get any hint of where you live or, you know, your exact geographic coordinates, your stans will descend upon this compound by the thousands, treating your front gate and fence and booby traps like a fun challenge, knowing that the prize at the end is…”
“Yesss.” She drew out the word, feeling like a super-fashionable super-villain. “It’ll be like The Bachelor meets geocaching. Calling all Winston Dane fans! See those muscles? That sexy glower? That lumberjack beard? He’s all yours–plus the fun of mastering an obstacle course! Haven’t you always wanted to learn how to pick a lock?”
“Nah, not really.” Dahlia gave him an impish grin. “I just really love my sister. So what time tomorrow morning do you want to start our hike, adventure buddy?”