Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor #9)
by Jill Shalvis
SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT
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.
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?
Rating: 4.75 stars
Understanding the past, exploring the present, and discovering the possibilities for the future, Shalvis takes us on a journey to find love and forgiveness in her newest trip to Lucky Harbor. Returning to Lucky Harbor for me is like going to visit your favorite crazy aunt for the summer and getting to enjoy the antics of her small town crazy neighbors. There is never a shortage of the hilarious, ridiculous, and outlandish, and even though there is never an intention too, someone always gets hurt by the gossip. If you haven’t followed the Lucky Harbor series to this point you will still enjoy the book, I guarantee, though you will not be as invested as us loyal followers. I have been looking forward to Aubrey’s story for a while now as her friends and cohorts found love in the last two books. I also wanted to get to know Ben more and finally find out all his secrets. This story, aptly named Once in a Lifetime, is a book that you should read at least once and a tale of love that only comes around once, one that is meant to be and not to be missed,
Ben has returned to his hometown in Lucky Harbor with only one goal, finding his place in life now, without his late wife and without the entanglements of relationships. But the ever present Aubrey is impossible to ignore, even though she spells trouble in huge capital letters. When he finds himself working side-by-side to bring her dreams of a successful business to life, he learns more about the sexy blonde who has haunted his nights since he returned. Aubrey is trying to earn herself some good karma, trying to make up for her bad decisions in the past, but things aren't going quite as she imagined. When Ben pushes himself into her life—and her bed—she finds him irresistible and decides she can have a bit of fun with him without feelings or entanglements getting in the way. The more time they spend together, however, the deeper her emotions become for Ben, something neither of them wants. So how does a woman that has never depended on anyone find her balance with a man who not only doesn’t need her, but doesn’t seem to want anything she has to offer? Only Ben can show her her true value and give her the one thing she’s always wanted—a partner in life.
Oh man where to start with these two… Aubrey is a prickly, sarcastic, guarded and vulnerable young woman who has never had anyone in her life appreciate her for anything beyond her looks. She’s been in trouble numerous times in her life, but has always found a way to pull herself back up after each hit. I respected her for the way she never let anyone’s barbs outwardly affect her, but it is obvious that the hurt she feels is felt deeply and has made her fearful of having a happy life. She is a hard worker and clearly intelligent, though most disregard that aspect of her personality and when she sees something she wants, she goes after it with all she has inside her. Enter Ben. The shortsighted, grumpy, withdrawn man that is allowing his grief and anger at his past to affect not only his present, but any chance at the future. He initially sees only the sexy blonde that is Aubrey, but as he begins to dig deeper into her personality, her wit, charm, and sensuality become more than obvious too him, not to mention her fears and vulnerabilities. Though he is unwilling to open himself up to her, he pushes and pushes for her to open to him, falling deeper in the process himself. Sadly when it comes time to forgive and move on, so that he and Aubrey can be together, he balks and uses the opportunity to pull away, back into his shell. I was so angry at him for doing that to her, but I can say I was thrilled when he finally pulled his head out of his butt and decided to step back into the land of the living and give them a chance at a future.
Lucky Harbor is the kind of place everyone should experience at least once for themselves. The characters that support—or sometimes tear down—the main characters in each story are well-written, side-splitting, and provide perfect counterpoints to the deep emotional storms that always brew in a Shalvis romance. Ben and Aubrey have a rocky relationship, one they both deny they are in until the very end, and they both have enormous amounts of issues to contend with. It is obvious from the beginning they are a good fit though; Ben’s quiet and solemn nature perfectly tempers Aubrey’s impulsiveness and bossy assertiveness. Seeing them interacting reminds us that sometimes not only do opposites attract, but they can make the most colorful and grandiose explosions. When acceptance finally allows them to embrace one another, Ben and Aubrey find that life together is way better than anything they can build apart. That type of love really does come only Once in a Lifetime (pun intended) and knowing that they were able to overcome all the problems that could have kept them apart, gives me hope that a love like this can be found for us all. Another hit out of the park for Jill Shalvis, a best-selling author that never lets me down and keeps her fans coming back for more of the small town antics of Lucky Harbor, WA. I’m dying for the next in the series already, because just the hints we've gotten of Sam make me think he’ll make an awesome Hero. Keep up the great work, Jill.
p.s. Let it not be forgotten that Aubrey, like many of us romance lovers, is a bit of a bibliophile and a good bit of the story is set inside her beautifully renovated, newly reopened family bookstore! :) Just saying.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review. No compensation was provided.