Monday, February 24, 2014

(Review) Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Title: Once in a Lifetime
Author: Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor, #9
Published: February 18, 2013 (Grand Central Publishing)
Rating: Staying in Tonight
Format: Digital galley received from publisher in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)
Summary: After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniels tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he’s back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she’s not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben …even though he has absolutely no idea what she’s done…
Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?
I'm always, always excited to return to Lucky Harbor, Washington. Whether it's a brand new book, a re-read, or I'm just thinking about how much I love the characters, it's just a happy place for me. Needless to say, I was pumped to read the newest one, Once in a Lifetime, especially because of the two characters it featured.

We had met both Ben and Aubrey in previous books. I've been desperate for Ben's book ever since he was first mentioned. He had all the earmarks of a hero I would love: a guy with a military background, amble brains and brawn, who might be a little bit emotionally broken and had spent the past few years doing awesome things with war-torn and post-disaster locations. As a bonus, he was beloved by the town, which is always a good sign. Then, as if that wasn't enough, we saw in Once in a Lifetime that even if he was a little awkward around them, Ben had a heart for kids and was good with them. Excuse me while I reach for the smelling salts. I was also very intrigued by Aubrey! The main reason being that we weren't supposed to like Aubrey back when she was first introduced as a character. But then once you got a little peek beyond her fa├žade, you saw that she wasn't as terrible as she appeared. She was a complicated character, and I appreciated that Shalvis gave her her own book. I really wanted to get to know her after seeing a little of her before, and I definitely got to in Once in a Lifetime.

Aubrey was not always a nice person. In fact, she spent a lot the story making amends for past hurts she had caused, an idea that occurred to her when she accidentally attended an AA meeting ('cause, you know, it happens). I particularly enjoyed the storyline with Aubrey and her sister, Carla. When their parents divorced while the girls were still pretty young, Carla - The Brains - and Aubrey - The Beauty - were split up, too: Carla lived with their father who was a successful doctor, and Aubrey went with their mother, a beauty-obsessed woman who pushed Aubrey into beauty pageants and wanted her to go into modeling. Forced into these roles by their parents, the sisters did not interact much, and they were both secretly jealous of each other. Aubrey's attempts to make amends with Carla brought the two sisters a little closer together and gave me hope that they would have a much stronger relationship in the future. I'm also crossing my fingers that Carla gets a book later on, because I really liked her!

Now, onto the romance. Aubrey and Ben's interactions began when Aubrey accidentally tossed her drink all over Ben at the bar (um...whoops?). I felt the tingles immediately as he looked her, all strong and silent. While Aubrey had had a crush on Ben since high school, he was a pretty intimidating presence, and there was always a sort of unexplained animosity between them. When Ben was hired by Aubrey's uncle to make the renovations she needed for the grand opening of her bookstore (!), though, the tension and sparring turned to sparks of chemistry they could no longer deny. There was a bit of a hindrance to their romance, though: Aubrey had a Big Secret in the fact that Ben was on her list of people to whom she needed to apologize. And he didn't even know it.

Unfortunately, there were a couple things that made me go a little frowny-face. For instance, at one point, Ben stole the something-or-other-part from Aubrey's car so it wouldn't work so she would let him drive her around. Just so he could know what she was up to. Yes, he was nosy and curious and maybe even protective, and it was played out in a humorous way. But that crossed the line for me into things that are less romantic and more stalkerish. Thankfully, this type of behavior did not continue, and Ben owned up to it later.

All in all, Once in a Lifetime was definitely another winner of a Lucky Harbor book! The town continued to charm, and I wanted to visit Aubrey's bookstore! It sounded so lovely. Plus, since she was unofficially open before her Grand Opening, we got to see some interactions between Aubrey and her customers which were both hilarious and fairly apt (such as the people who ask for historical fiction but actually mean historical romance). We also got a preview of the next Lucky Harbor book, It's in His Kiss, featuring Ben's running partner and friend who was mysterious, enigmatic, and silent enough to make Ben look like a regular Chatty Cathy. I definitely can't wait to see what's going on there!

Until next time, Lucky Harbor. Until next time.
There was one universal truth in Lucky Harbor, Washington – you could hide a pot of gold in broad daylight and no one would steal it, but you couldn't hide a secret.

“I mean it, Ben,” she said. “This is my business.”
“Whatever you say, Sunshine.” He pulled out his phone, presumably accessing whatever shoot ‘em up, kill ‘em game he was playing with Jack.
It was as close to a promise as she was going to get, and she knew it. She blew out a breath and then caught sight of his screen. Not a shoot ‘em up, kill ‘em game at all. “Words with Friends?” she asked. “That's the killer game you play?”
“It can be killer,” he said lightly, his manhood apparently not threatened in the slightest. “Hey, do you know a seven-letter word that’s got the letter X in it? I've got a triple-word opportunity here.”
“Extinct,” she said,” which is what I’m going to make you if you follow me.”

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