All I Want by Jill Shalvis
Series: Animal Magnetism #7
Also in this series: Rumor Has It, Then Came You, Still the One, All I Want, All I Want
Published by Berkley, Penguin
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
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Pilot-for-hire Zoe Stone is happy to call Sunshine, Idaho, her home base. But her quiet life is thrown for a loop when her brother’s friend Parker comes to stay with her for a week. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent is a handsome flirt with a gift for getting under her skin. And the situation only escalates when Parker hires her to fly him around the area while he collects evidence on a suspected smuggler.
Now she has to live and work with the guy. But when they’re in the air, she sees another side of him. He’s driven, focused, and sharp. And while he enjoys giving commentary on her blind dates, she quickly realizes with a shock that it’s Parker who gets her engines going…
Have I ever mentioned how much I luuuuuurrrrvvvee book 2 in this series, Animal Attraction? Because I do love it, so very, very much. Dell and Jade are up there in my top 10 favorite romance couples ever. I love Dell’s smart aleck attitude that covers a giant soft heart, and I love Jade’s quiet strength. I love how they get close and build trust and end up laying it all bare for the other, and I love that they are both made better with the support of the other. (If you haven’t read that book, go read it right now. Go! I’ll wait.) The problem is I tend to measure the other books in the series against that one, and the later books especially haven’t quite been measuring up. Happily, I really enjoyed All I Want and felt it hit many of the same notes for me that Animal Attraction did.
This time we finally get to learn more about Wyatt (book 5) and Darcy’s (book 6) sister Zoe. She’s a commercial pilot flying out of the small airport in Sunshine, and she’s always been the caretaker for her younger brother and sister thanks to her not-very-parental parents. Now that her siblings have moved out, she’s facing up to the fact that she’s lonely and has no life, and she’s trying to get back into the social scene. Parker is Wyatt’s old college friend, and he needs a place to stay in Sunshine for a few weeks. Zoe could use some extra income, so she agrees to let him rent a room in her house. Though he doesn’t tell Zoe immediately, Parker is in town to unofficially investigate a man who deals in illegal animal products, and Parker wants to stop the man’s activities as well as avenge the death of his former partner. He and Zoe immediately have some sizzling chemistry, and eventually they get involved despite Parker being clear that he’s leaving town soon. When Zoe inadvertently gets involved in Parker’s mission, he has to make some tough choices.
Zoe is an awesome, smart, self-sufficient heroine. She’s never had anyone to take care of her before, and when Parker starts to do little things to help her out she doesn’t even know how to handle it. It turns out she’s even stronger than anyone realizes, though, when she confesses to Parker how an ex majorly betrayed her trust. Suddenly her prickliness and drive to do everything herself make even more sense, and I loved the way she could stay strong but still admit her vulnerabilities to Parker. I also love that Parker doesn’t take anything away from Zoe by offering her support. He knows she’s capable and strong, and he doesn’t see her as weak just because she needs help sometimes. Zoe brings out a new side in Parker, too, because while he’s always taken care of his sister, he always saw himself as an island and one who doesn’t get attached. Zoe makes him want to connect with someone else and gets him considering that maybe there’s more to life than work. In other words, being together makes each one a better person, which is something I loved about Dell and Jade, too.
One reason I love Shalvis’s books is she rarely relies on a Big Misunderstanding, a trope that gets on my nerves. It’s true that Parker doesn’t tell Zoe the entire truth about why he’s in Idaho at first, but that was completely understandable given that he was investigating unofficially and against his boss’s directives. But Shalvis doesn’t let that lie go on, thankfully. When Zoe confesses her ex’s betrayal and how he misrepresented himself, Parker immediately (and I mean literally as soon as she finishes her story) tells her the truth about his job and gets it all out there on the table. He didn’t want to make Zoe feel betrayed or make her ever question his intentions. I loved that, and I loved him for it.
It did bother me that Parker did so much waffling at the end. There is a sort of tense, romantic suspense-y scene near the end, where Parker is forced to make a choice. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say he makes the right choice, which is a pretty big sign to everyone but him where his true path lies. So I couldn’t understand why he continued to act like he wasn’t the right guy for Zoe or why he couldn’t acknowledge what he wanted. Zoe is clear about what she wants, which is yet another thing I loved about her, but Parker kind of jerks her around for a while before he makes up his mind. I didn’t love that, but thankfully he pulls his head out of his butt eventually and makes things right.
Add in the wacky, funny banter and smoking hot sexual tension Shalvis is so good at, and this book was a real winner for me.
Grade: 4.25 out of 5