Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor #9) by Jill Shalvis – Review

Once in a Lifetime

SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT

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?

MY REVIEW:

I’m so excited to be back in the world of Lucky Harbor with Jill Shalvis’s latest in this wonderful series, ONCE IN A LIFETIME. I had barely finished the first two chapters and realized I had been grinning like an idiot pretty much the whole time. Goodness, I love the humor and banter Jill so deftly writes between her characters. The way lifetime friends, Ben, Jack and Luke, and even Jack’s mom Dee, talk to and tease each other is so real. It’s how I joke around with my friends and family. How I hear my kids joke around with each other. It’s funny and never fails to give me a heartwarming feeling of being at home in her books.

In Once in a Lifetime you also see this same banter between longtime friends, Ali and Leah. You see them trying to draw our heroine, Aubrey Wellington, into their easy bi-play and her not quite getting it. Not quite sure if they are joking or not, not feeling like she will ever fit in. Because this is the cool, perfect, unapproachable, always together without a hair out of place, “bitchy” Aubrey’s secret. She’s never felt like she fit in, she doesn’t really know how to have friends, she’s insecure, and a little socially awkward from keeping her distance to protect her big, caring, battered, lonely heart. She has serious abandonment and rejection issues thanks to dear old dad, but she’s covered it up all these years with her icy façade. She’s no doormat. In fact, in many ways she really is one tough cookie with courage in spades. Courage she learned from realizing she had only herself to rely upon in this world. And she tells herself she is fine with that. Fine with the wall she built to keep everyone else out. But then she stumbles into a church one night, is mistakenly led into an AA meeting where she hears about making atonement, righting wrongs you have done to others as the way to put your life back on the right track. This strikes an accord with her so she makes her list and sets out to make reparation to those people in town she feels she’s wronged. The timing meshes with her new project, remodeling and bring life back to the bookstore she inherited from her aunt. The only place from her childhood she felt at peace. She wants to offer this same peace to others.

Then there’s Ben McDaniel. One of Lucky Harbor’s favorite sons. An engineer who once had a wonderful life married to his high school sweetheart, but five years ago she was killed by a drunk driver and Ben left town. After five years of putting his life on the line working in dangerous locales the tall, sexy, smooth-talking, hunk of a man has finally come home. Not ready for a new relationship, but ready to seek the comfort of the town and the people he loves. Aside from his engineering skills he also has a reputation for being good with his hammer so Aubrey’s uncle hires him to complete the remodeling Aubrey needs to prepare for her Grand Reopening of the Book & Bean. He hesitates, because he and Aubrey have always sparked off one another. Never gotten along despite how beautiful he finds her. Reluctantly, after pressure from Jack and Luke, he agrees.

These two were so perfect together. Witty, intelligent, protective with hard outer coatings kept up to hide their soft gooey middles. They get each other and their attraction is electric. After several bouts of arguments and clashes, they give into the underlying current that’s always between them. The alpha side of Ben really comes out as a lover and there are definitely some very hot, sexy, scenes. Despite their agreement it’s only sex and it will only be once, it happens again. And again. Oh, and again. And somewhere in the middle of all this time they spend together they get under one another’s skin and fall in love. Against their will, of course, but it is sweet to watch (or read, I suppose) and in true Lucky Harbor fashion clear to everyone else in town way before it’s clear to either Ben or Aubrey.

Their HEA will come, it is Jill Shalvis after all, but not after a few bumps. Aside from the abandonment issues they both have, the big problem is Ben is on Aubrey’s list. Listed as The Hard One. She has a secret that she knows will hurt Ben and is fearful will tear their vulnerable new relationship apart when she tells him. And she has to tell him. The guilt of this is harder and harder for her the closer they get. All I will say at this point is the ending was wonderful, tons of happy tears flowing down my face!

One of my favorite parts to this brilliant story was the way a couple of adorable little five year red-headed twins in foster care wrap big tough badass Ben around their little fingers and steal his heart even easier than Aubrey does. After nearly running them over in the street he can’t seem to help himself from becoming their friend, protector, and strongest advocate. He makes sure they will not be alone and abandoned in the system. Personally that, more than anything, made me fall a little in love with him and believe he could be trusted to take good care of Aubrey’s broken heart.

Another facet of Once in a Lifetime that bears mentioning was Aubrey’s efforts to restore her relationship with her sister Carla. Also on her list. It doesn’t happen quickly or easily, but it was perfectly written and worth the wait.

This latest in JS’s Lucky Harbor series delves into some serious issues, but as usual it is done with style, with plenty of humor worked in, with a very human touch, and with a backbone of sincere and honest love. It brought tears to my eyes in a several places (all happy ones), but it mostly kept a smile on my face. I rate this book with five stars and can’t wait for the next installment!

~I received an ARC of this book free from author in exchange for an honest review.

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