I think that the fictional town of Lucky Harbor needs to market their real estate differently. Imagine how many people would move there if they had any idea that this is the town where true love is bound to hit you, whether you want it to or not?
Jill Shalvis, who deserves a contemporary romance Energizer Bunny award for her ability to release one great novel after another, won my heart long ago with the Lucky Harbor series. Nine stories (seven full-length novels and two terrific novellas) has proven she has the ability in every damn one of them to make me fall in love with the hero and heroine, laugh at the antics of the eccentric residents of the town, and choke on emotion during the more painful scenes where someone invariably tries to resist the love right in front of them.
Her latest installment, It Had To Be You, satisfied my Shalvis-craving for a hot, heart-warming romance. Neither character has been introduced prior to this book in the series and there aren’t too many references to previous characters, so the book is a great introduction to the series for someone wanting to see if they want to take the Lucky Harbor plunge (and the water is lovely in this Pacific Northwest town – trust me!).
Ali Winters has just had a seriously crap day. She caught her handsome and altruistic boyfriend cheating on her in his office while she was attending his fundraiser for the local community center. She was so disgusted that she didn’t barge in to confront him, a decision she’s regretting when he breaks up with her via text message the next morning before she’s even had breakfast. While she’s leaving him a pretty explicit message about what a creep he is (clothed only in her underwear), a severely hunky intruder asks her what she’s doing in her own house, the house she shared with Teddy although all his stuff is missing now. Sexy Man informs her she’s standing in his house and that her cheater boyfriend let the lease run out. Oh, and she finds out her boss at the flower shop is probably going to close the doors since his heart isn’t in it and he wants to go live with his boyfriend in Vegas. Ouch.
Luke Hanover is a cop and one taking a semi-forced vacation after a young woman turned up dead, a death he thinks he should have prevented. The case involved some pretty important people and only the media storm has driven him back to Lucky Harbor and the house his grandmother left him. His estranged grandfather lives next door but he just wants time alone with his board and the waves. Naturally, the gorgeous hottie in her underwear is a little distracting and his gut is telling him that involving himself in her business would be counterproductive. Ali has trouble with a capital “T” written all over her, but he can’t seem to do anything but help her, while hopefully keeping her at arm’s length when he really wants to take her to bed. When she’s accused of stealing the $50,000 raised by her ex-boyfriend, his cop senses tell him she’s innocent while the rest of him finds her courage and desperate brand of independence even more alluring than her body. But he’s only back in town for two weeks, so nothing can come of the attraction. Right?
I love how Shalvis is never formulaic in her writing, but she can be counted on for a few key elements.
- Her heroes are usually hardened tough guys with some seriously hard knocks in their past who find themselves giving up the control they’ve exercised all their lives when faced with the woman meant for them.
- On the flip side, Shalvis heroines are usually delightfully quirky (even the more buttoned up, slightly stuffy ones) who have also been dealt the hard cards but have managed to retain a sense of wonder and gained the knowledge of who they are.
- Both parties rarely see love coming, so it hits with the subtlety of a freight train, with at least one of the couple so petrified they are ready to turn tail and flee or just pretend it didn’t happen.
- Sex scenes are always fiery with an element of sweet caring between the couple so I’m never disappointed on that front.
- Friends (or hilarious small town perma-characters) offer necessary perspective and help the couple realize that you can’t turn away from love when you are lucky enough to find it, often giving the hero/heroine the frame of reference they need to dig deep and find the courage to accept the gift they’ve been given.
And just in case you were doubting my analysis of this wonderful writer, keep in mind that my Goodreads account informs me that I’ve read 33 of her books!
Take a listen as this great writer discusses her books and approach to writing before accepting the Career Achievement Award in Contemporary Romance from RT Book Review magazine:
While I’m planning on enjoying my summer, after reading the description for her next Lucky Harbor book – the friends to lovers story between Jack the firefighter and his best friend Leah who runs the bakery – September can’t come soon enough with the late month release of Always on My Mind. Just a couple months later and we will finally get the next book in the Animal Magnetism series, Rumor Has It, which has the heroine I can’t want to see get an HEA, Kate Evans. Kate is the quirky schoolteacher who has had a crush on Holly’s brother Griff for a while and the teaser chapter in the last book, Rescue My Heart, had my pre-ordering Rumor Has It the minute it went on sale on Amazon.
Jill Shalvis is an astonishingly talented author who never disappoints her audience with each excellent release. That Career Achievement award couldn’t have been bestowed on a more worthy individual.