Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #9
on February 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble
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?
ICYMI is a post from my early days of blogging at Yummy Men & KickAss Chicks. You can see the original review here. This is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors in one of my favorite romance series of all time.
Yummy Man – Ben McDaniels
Kick Ass Chick – Aubrey Wellington
Julie: Once in a Lifetime is the ninth book in Jill Shalvis’ hugely popular Lucky Harbor contemporary romance series. The series is pretty much divided into three sets of three. This latest trio focuses on three “best” girlfriends and how they each fall in love with one of three guy best friends. I place the word best in ” ” for the girls because the gals in this trio didn’t really start being close until later in the seventh book, if that.
This latest book is about Aubrey and Ben. Ben is a mysterious character that comes back to town in the last book and Aubrey…well, she’s the bitch. When you meet her in It Had to be You, she is cranky and has an overall bad attitude but you could tell, there was something about her attitude that didn’t quite click. It’s almost like when someone’s smile doesn’t quite reach their eyes. Aubrey is being bitchy but is that really who she is or is it just a façade that she has built up over the years?…
I can’t say I was a fan of Aubrey after reading books seven and eight but I knew that if someone could make me like a rather unlikable character, it was Jill Shalvis. And I was right. Aubrey ended up being endearing and awkward and completely charming. And by the end of Once in a Lifetime, I actually considered her one of my favorite heroines in this series to date.
Anne: I always felt Aubrey was hiding. And with everything life threw at her, she just sucked it up and did the best she could. That’s why she’s my hero. She isn’t any better or worse than anyone else. She’s made mistakes like everyone does. Her mistakes have just been highlighted, all the time, in the worst possible ways. She doesn’t just curl up and die; she works to find ways to make things better. I can totally relate to her, especially on the holding in true feelings. She is also much harder on herself than she is on others.
Julie: She totally is. She has trouble understanding why people enjoy her company. She really is stronger than she gives herself credit for. And Ben was such a good match for Aubrey because he could see through her bullsh*t. He was also very good at helping her see she is not really the horrible person she thinks she is.
Ben has a sad story but not as much of a sob story as I was expecting – which was good. I find too many heroes now a days have a story that is almost over the top. Jill does a great job with her heroes. They have just enough baggage to give them room to grow or mature. Ben’s back in Lucky Harbor to face his past and to start a future. He is honestly curious about Aubrey and you can tell immediately that he cares for her even though she’s not the easiest person to like. And day-um is he sexy! He’s sexy in that understated strong and smouldery way.
Anne: I fell in love with Ben in the last book because he was so funny. I adore funny. Oddly, it took longer for me to warm up to him in this book. I mean, really, I don’t want a relationship. I don’t really want you unless someone else does or someone hurts you. *Eyeroll* I came around as he did. He got me with his interest and support for Aubrey, also his stepping up in the community plus his heart-melting way with Pink and Kendra. He went out of his way to help them. I enjoy the well rounded parts of the story, where there is more than just a romance here.
Julie: Ben’s scenes with Pink and Kendra were so sweet! I love how Jill writes. Like you say, it’s a whole story and not just a romance.
As for Ben, you make a good point. I guess I knew he’d come around so I was not as bothered by his reluctance. But his being more cautious did suit his character. It showed his loss affected him deeply and if it hadn’t, then he’d be an asshat in my book and I would not be drooling over him as I am now. *wipes drool* But if he’d been in denial longer than he was, I would have not enjoyed the book as much.
However you feel about Ben, you can’t deny he is sexy and that his chemistry with Aubrey is really well written. The two of them just being in the same room together, doing nothing but talking, smolders up the pages!
Anne: oh yes, Ben may not want a relationship but he certainly wants Aubrey. And more than that, he treats her better than many relationships would, spending his time with her, supporting and encouraging her, as well as making her feel beautiful. That’s sexy! His messy hair may be having an effect on me as well.
Julie: Oh that messy hair… Speaking of messy hair, let’s chat about the animals in this series. Jill often chooses to add dogs to her stories – I’m not even a dog person but I love how she writes them into her stories – but this time around, we have a cat. A cranky cat that has sort of adopted Aubrey and the bookstore she is fixing up as his home. This cat had such a personality! All of the animals have great personalities in this series. They manage to really add to the story without overwhelming it.
Anne: Well, I’m more a dog person, since I’m deathly allergic to cats. It is funny how the cat chooses Ben over Aubrey, but as in everything, Aubrey keeps trying. But my favorite is still Kevin! – as long as he lives with Jack. My favorite giggle worthy quote includes him. Something about this quote just cracks me up every time.
Jack rose and snapped his fingers at Kevin.
Kevin squeezed his eyes tight and pretended to be asleep.
Ben found a laugh after all. “Leave him.”
“He ate chili at the firehouse tonight.”
“Take him.” Ben said.
I have to mention Aubrey working so hard in an “My Name is Earl” way to try to improve her karma. It’s not easy to say you made mistakes and try to improve things with people who mostly don’t like you. It’s even harder when it is someone you like, who HAS been good to you.
Julie: Just another reason why I loved Aubrey so much in this book!
Let’s talk a bit about Lucille. She has been in each and every book in this series. She is the ‘nose in everybody’s business little old lady’ of Lucky Harbor. I liked her a lot in the first books but then I found she was becoming a bit too much of a ‘nosy-betty’. In this book, I liked her role. She went back to being the hilarious old lady with tons of very insightful things to say.
Anne: Lucille was wonderful in this book. She really made a difference in putting things right. I also loved the support Ali and Leah gave to Aubrey, as well as the support for Ben from Jack and Luke. That is one of the best things about stories set in small towns. One gets to know the people and their friends. The “town” continues to play a role in every story.
Julie: You are right about the support. Aubrey had not always been the friendliest to Ali and Leah but to see them understand and want to help Aubrey in making things right was very nice.
And the town of Lucky Harbor really does play a role in these books. It’s a place I would definitely want to visit.
All in all, I really liked Once in a Lifetime. Aubrey blew me away, Ben was yummy and there were plenty of scenes that either warmed the heart or made you giggle out loud. I am thinking especially the scenes with Ben and the kids at the center and Aubrey with, well, herself. Jill always does a wonderful job bringing her characters to life and making them feel as though they could be your next door neighbor. I was really pleased with this latest installment.
Anne: I more than really liked this book; I loved it! It is one of my favorites in the series. Are we going to agree on the rating?
5 stars for me!
Julie: Absolutely! 5 stars for me too 🙂