Always On My Mind (Lucky Harbor #8)
by Jill Shalvis
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING
After dropping out of pastry school and messing up her big break on a reality cooking show, Leah Sullivan needs to accomplish something in her life. But when she returns home to Lucky Harbor, she finds herself distracted by her best friend, Jack Harper. In an effort to cheer up Jack's ailing mother, Dee, Leah tells a little fib - that she and Jack are more than just friends. Soon pretending to be hot-and-heavy with this hunky firefighter feels too real to handle ...
No-strings attachments suit Jack just fine - perfect for keeping the risk of heartbreak away. But as Jack and Leah break every one of their "just friends" rules, he longs to turn their pretend relationship into something permanent. Do best friends know too much about each other to risk falling in love? Or will Jack and Leah discover something new about each other in a little town called Lucky Harbor?
Ever since I happened upon this series in the library over a year ago I have been hooked on the wonderful world of Lucky Harbor and lifelike characters that call the city home. The continuing antics of Lucky Harbor have become a bit more complicated of late, as former residents return to town and newcomers find their homes with these crazy townies. Shalvis keeps you laughing through the entire story, as well as making you fall in love with the characters and become emotionally invested in seeing them reach their HEA. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, I guarantee you are missing out.
Our return to Lucky Harbor has us following the lives of a sexy fireman and the pastry chef that captured his heart when he was a boy and never really gave it back. Leah has returned to her home town, broken and reverting to her safety net of running away from her troubles, to help keep her grandma’s bakery running while she recovers from surgery. But being back brings with it all the fears, hang-ups, and vulnerabilities that she ran from years ago. Not to mention it brings her back into the sphere of the only man she ever let into her heart—the man she ran from after a youthful night of idiocy. When she makes another monumentally dumb mistake, dragging Jack into a fictional relationship, the magnetic pull between them and the unresolved feelings lead to some pretty explosive arguing—and even more fiery lovemaking. But the passion and love between them begins to overwhelm them both and soon they are both returning to their usual escapes. Leah tries to run from her emotions and Jack works to push her away.
Jack and Leah are complicated and so is their past. They once shared the deepest connection two people can have, but when Leah ran from the chance of having a relationship with Jack, he gave up on ever having a real relationship with a woman. Jack feels his past and his lifestyle have made him a bad bet for marriage and family. Though he’s a wonderful man—strong, sexy, Alpha and as close to a hero as humanly possible—he certainly has his flaws. Though he has legitimate concerns, he is letting the past color his perceptions of his present and future, while accusing Leah of doing the exact same thing. Leah spent her childhood with a tyrant who spent every moment of her life demeaning her and dragging her down. Jack was the only one she could turn to, the one that helped her cope with her father’s degradation, but when her attempt to seduce him forces their relationship into a different direction, she can’t handle the fears of inadequacy and runs from him. And she has never really stops running. Her father’s voice has always been in the back of her mind, keeping her from accepting the good things in life and sabotaging herself at every turn. Thankfully she finally pulls up her big girl panties and decides that there is something worth fighting that inner voice for—Jack and the chance to be with him forever.
From the beginning of our story both Jack and Leah are intensely attracted to one another, but they are both vehemently denying (to themselves and others) that they feel anything. When they are finally forced to deal with one another, the heat between them become volatile, and even though the intensity seems to both surprise and disturb them, neither of them can accept just what that intensity might mean. Finally coming together in a single moment of irresistible sexual need they amaze themselves and each other with the emotion that accompanies the hot “no-strings attached” sex they both promised. Sadly their own reservations and fears keep driving them to deny their love, even as they burn up with sexual tension radiating from them. In the end that emotional connection and the understanding of each other’s neuroses are the only things that allow them to overcome the obstacles they’ve placed between them so they can be together.
All-in-all the return to Lucky harbor was another success. Getting to know more about Jack and Leah and watching as they finally admit their attraction and fall in love proved one of the most enjoyable stories I’ve seen unfold in a while. Though they each certainly had their issues to work through and outside influences pushed and pulled at their relationship, seeing them find happiness together gives me hope for a brighter world full of love. I should probably take a moment away from the relationship aspect to mention there was a dangerous undercurrent with this story as an arsonist wreaked havoc on LH and its inhabitants, which had a surprising conclusion in and of itself. But the most important part of this book for me was the romance, so back to that. :) When they are finally faced with the choice of going all in or folding on their chance at a future together, both Leah and Jack finally step up and admit their love and that being together to face their issues and the problems the world throws their way will always be better than going it alone. Their love definitely conquers all. Great work, Jill, and I can’t wait to see what antics you get up to with the story between Ben and Aubrey, since you’ve given us a teasing glimpse of their future. I so wish I could travel to Lucky Harbor because this little town seems to have an overabundance of hot, alpha males that I could grab for myself. Keep up the great writing and you’ll always have a fan in me.