ONCE IN A LIFETIME by Jill Shalvis
(February 18, 2014; Grand Central Publishing Mass Market; $6.00)
After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel 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.
So I think I am seriously addicted to the Lucky Harbor series by Jill Shalvis. It just sparks something inside and I love the characters and the struggles but more importantly, I adore how much they love one another in their small community. I think that may be one reason I am drawn to this series. I am from a very small town and truly everyone knows everyone, the sheriff is someone you know on a first name basis and you know where all of your teachers and friends live and if you ever need a support system, you don’t have to look beyond that small town.
Aubrey has struggled emotionally all of her life. Her parents divorced when she was young and everything was split evenly down the board, including her and her sister. She was raised by her mom and she always felt as if she was never good enough for her dad or her classmates or any of the guys in town. She is a tough cookie with a hard shell to crack. She did a lot of things in her past that she is not proud of but she is doing everything she can to make the best of her place in her small town and her situation. But one thing has always been just out of reach, love.
Ben grew up in the same small town and he had a rough go of things too, not knowing his parents and being left with his aunt to raise him alongside her own children. He dated the same girl for two years in high school and though he loved her tremendously, she called it off before they went away to college. Two years later, they reunited and married. But their marriage didn’t last long when she was tragically taken from his life. He escaped Lucky Harbor and went out into the big world in front of him. But five years later, he has returned to the town that accepts him back with open arms.
When fate, friends and family push Ben into a job that he is not sure he wants to accept, he is face to face with Aubrey. Aubrey’s uncle has hired him to help Aubrey with the remodel of her bookstore. Although these two fight like cats and dogs, there is an undeniable attraction between the two.
But when Aubrey decides for her own wellbeing to make amends for wrongs she has done in the past, everything they have learned to love about each other may come crashing down around her. One moment of honesty about something that happened years before and everything changes.
This book just pulled at my heart. I wanted Ben to find it within him to be willing to open his heart to love and I wanted for Aubrey to allow herself to finally be loved. Emotions were high in this book and I was lost in the pages of this story. It is a beautifully told tale that fits so perfectly in this quiet little town of Lucky Harbor. There is wit and humor and a battle of wills, but the journey for this couple is nothing more than awe inspiring.
Jill Shalvis just makes her characters come to life with each word she writes. The town and its people just captured my heart and I couldn’t get enough of this book. From beginning to end, it was never enough. The undeniable attraction between the characters just makes me smile. You feel right along with them. And instead of being angry at the hot alpha male through the entire book, you just appreciate his disposition and outlook on life. At the same time, you just want to reach out and encourage the girl who never felt completely loved.
I just adored the characters so much. With that said, I would kick myself if I didn’t mention the adorable 5-year-old twins in the book and what Ben did for them. Pure emotion just flowed through my heart for these two little girls and it made me fall that much more in love with Ben. He didn’t have to do the things he did for these little ones, but he wanted so much more for them than he had. It just completely melted my heart!
This book and this series are simply amazing and I just want more and more of Lucky Harbor and the people that live there!
Aubrey got a look at the man she’d inadvertently drenched and stopped breathing. Oh, God. Had she really thought her day couldn’t get any worse? Why would she tempt fate by even thinking that? Because of course things had gotten worse. They always did.
Ben McDaniel slowly stood up from his barstool, dripping vodka from his hair, eyelashes, nose… He was six feet plus of hard muscles and brute strength on a body that didn’t carry a single extra ounce of fat on him. For the past five years, he’d been in and out of a variety of Third World countries designing and building water systems with the Army Corp of Engineers. His last venture had been for the Department of Defense in Iraq, which Aubrey only knew because Lucky Harbor’s Facebook page was good as gospel.
He swiped his face with his arm, deceptively chill and laid-back.
In truth, he was about as badass as they came.
Aubrey should know, she’d seen him in action. But she managed to meet his gaze. Cool, casual even. One had to be with Ben, the man could spot a weakness a mile away. “I’m sorry,” she said.
She felt herself flush. He’d always seemed to see right through her. And she was pretty sure he’d never cared for her. He had good reason for that, she reminded herself. He just didn’t know the half of it. “Yes, I am sorry,” she said. Her heart was pounding so loudly she was surprised she could hear herself speak. “Are you okay?”
He ran his fingers through a sexy disorder of sun-streaked brown hair. His eyes were the same color, light milk chocolate marbled with gold caramel. It was hard to make such a warm-colored gaze seem hard, but Ben managed it with no effort at all. “Need to work on your aim,” he said.