Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor)

OnceInALifetimeOnce in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor)
by Jill Shalvis
Published by Grand Central Publishing
352 pages
Genre: contemporary romance; chick lit 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

This is the tenth book in Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor series … and the first of her novels that I have read.

Yeah, I know. I am late to the party.

I know I started another one of the Lucky Harbor books, but I never finished it. This one, though. I liked. I like a LOT.

When it comes to loss, Ben McDaniel has suffered his share. His parents exited his life when he was a kid, wife died five years ago in an auto accident, and he nearly lost his own while working in the Middle East. That close call scared him enough that he has returned home to Lucky Harbor to be near his friends. While peacefully enjoying an adult beverage at a local bar, he becomes the unintended victim of a drink being thrown.

The intended victim was the ex-boyfriend of the gorgeous – but troubled and troubling – Aubrey Wellington. She mumbles an apology and skedaddles out. While Ben’s losses may have been more severe, Aubrey has suffered her share as well. Her parents’ divorce included dividing Aubrey and her sister between them, and Aubrey’s relationship with her father has never recovered. Nor, for that matter, has her relationship with her sister.

Of course these two are attracted to each other, as all good “doesn’t work so well on paper” couples do.

Aubrey’s uncle hires Ben to renovate the bookstore she inherited, which means the two begin spending time together. As Ben realizes that there is more to Aubrey than the high school troublemaker so many continue to think of her as being, Aubrey realizes that her reputation was, for the most part, well earned. She embarks on an attempt to right her personal wrongs, something that fascinates Ben. What he doesn’t know is that he’s on her list too.

With no one supporting their burgeoning relationship, it’s left to Aubrey and Ben to determine on their own what they feel for each other. Yes, Aubrey’s neighboring business owners (two women whose stores previously featured in the Lucky Harbor series) give it a thumbs up, but otherwise, the town thinks Ben is insane for showing an interest in Aubrey.

This is one of those fun, romantic stories that you just need to enjoy reading every now and then. I loved Aubrey and Ben, two complicated, complex people who have to figure out who they are as individuals before they figure out who they are as a couple.

Aubrey seems to be a victim of town-fulfilled prophecy, thanks largely to her occasionally irascible temperament. She has grown up, though, maturing into a woman who takes responsibility for the mistakes she made. She also realizes that the only validation that matters is the one she bestows on herself.

Ben, on the other hand, is the town’s favorite son. He married a hometown girl, was a devoted husband, helped the impoverished get water, and now is helping (gasp!) Aubrey. The problem with all of this adoration is that when Ben decides to follow his heart and not Lucky Harbor’s, he risks alienating those who adore him.

There are some plot weaknesses, for all of the adorable-ness of the story. Aubrey and Hannah, Ben’s wife, have a history that is somewhat abandoned in terms of the Ben connection. We understand what Aubrey did, but we never quite know how Ben would react if he knew the whole, true story. All he receives are bits and parts. Another dangling thread is that with Aubrey’s father. Okay, I admit that I openly wept when she had her say with him, but we don’t know how it affects him.

Still, though, it’s a good story to read. And the sexy times? HOT. If I were Aubrey, I would tie myself to Ben’s bed and plead for no mercy. Theirs is an adult, sensual relationship between two people who know the vagaries of life. If Ben seems determined to enjoy the physical aspect and forego the emotional, we know enough about Aubrey to realize what he doesn’t: she will not patiently wait around for him to get out of his own way. That lesson does not come easily learned to him, just as there are lessons Aubrey must learn through pain and heartache. These nuances are what give the novel its emotional poignancy, its sense of being grown up.

Well, that and the sex. The sex is very grown up.

It might be time for me to revisit Ms. Shalvis. Clearly I need to discover more of Lucky Harbor because if the other nine books are as fun as this one, I’ve been missing out.

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Filed under chick lit, cute romance, romance

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