The BookLikes companion to The Romance Evangelist (mharvey816.mh2.org).
Reviewer for Seductive Musings, Night Owl Reviews, and Romancing Rakes For the Love of Romance.
I live for the HEA/HFN and am decidedly pro-epilogue.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.
It’s fair to say that the Lucky Harbor series is near the top of my comfort read list and books like Once In A Lifetime are the reason why. In it, we finally get to see two of the more intriguing members of the Lucky Harbor community finally find a forever love with the one person everyone there would have picked as their least likely partner.
Back in high school, Ben only had eyes for Hannah, the “good girl” he’d eventually marry and ultimately lose to a drunk driver, while Aubrey was the “hot mean girl” that everyone loved to hate. Ben had never known just how much Aubrey had wished he was hers instead of Hannah’s, nor had he known about the terrible thing she’d done in anger and regretted ever since. After Hannah’s death, Ben lost himself overseas by working in places too dangerous for people without a death wish. Now that he’s back home, it’s Aubrey who will pose the greatest danger if he can’t manage to keep his distance.
Aubrey didn’t have the shelter of a stable loving home that most of her high school classmates took for granted. All she had was her good looks and a mother who wanted her to make the most of them. This helped cement her reputation in town as the unlikeable hot girl, and all she could do was roll with the punches while getting in a few of her own where she could. Just because everyone’s all grown up now doesn’t mean Lucky Harbor has changed its opinion of Aubrey. The recent mess with the town clerk who lied to her about being married while stealing from the town coffers has only sealed her fate as a seemingly shallow woman who can’t be trusted. She has her small tight-knit circle of friends, but she needs more customers if her new bookstore is going to be any kind of real success. When an accidental confrontation with Ben propels Aubrey into an AA meeting, what she hears there helps her embrace that the idea of taking a fearless moral inventory of the wrongs she needs to right, in the hopes of fixing her karmic future. But when the person she hurt the worst is the man she wants the most, Aubrey wonders if she can be happy in a future that doesn’t include him.
Although none of the Lucky Harbor stories can be really described as light and fluffy, it does seem to me that as we get farther into the series, each succeeding book shows more of the darker side of life there. We now meet characters that didn’t always have the warm feelings for a town that on the surface appears nearly perfect, and we see how their Lucky Harbor childhoods are something to be gotten past, not treasured.. For me, this recent change makes these newer Lucky Harbor books even more enjoyable, and Once In A Lifetime is no exception.
Readers have gotten to know both Ben and Aubrey as supporting characters in the previous two books, and been able to form an opinion based on what was shown there. In the eyes of most people in Lucky Harbor. Ben is the martyred widower so tortured by the untimely death of his wife that he nearly died himself in the world’s political hotspots while trying to help those less fortunate. And Aubrey is the snooty hot girl who never ever deserved the benefit of the doubt in high school, nor years later when she was just as taken in by that rotten Ted Marshall as everyone else in town. So naturally when these two finally act on the sizzling chemistry between them, only Aubrey’s best girlfriends worry for her heart, while everyone else assumes she’s nothing but bad news for the beloved Ben.
But in Once In A Lifetime, we discover that neither of these assumptions is true, as Jill Shalvis slowly reveals what shaped this couple into the adults they are now, and how they are actually perfect for each other now in a way they could have never been before. She doesn’t sugarcoat Aubrey’s past behavior, nor does she give short shrift to Ben’s feelings for his late wife and the rawness of his grief at his loss. But she also shows how they can each move toward a shared happy future while learning lessons from their shared past, and the revelations about each of them are what made their ultimate Happy Ever After even more satisfying for me.
It takes a special talent to create a series about a seemingly perfect town, and then show how even that place isn’t always the most welcoming to everyone without ruining the warm feelings readers have for it from the previous books. In Once In A Lifetime, Jill Shalvis continues her winning streak of consistently enjoyable and moving romances between genuinely portrayed human beings, and I can only hope for more of the same in the Lucky Harbor books still to come.