Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #9
Also in this series: Simply Irresistible, Under the Mistletoe (Lucky Harbor, #6.5), Forever and a Day, It's In His Kiss, He's So Fine, One in a Million, Merry Christmas, Baby, At Last (Lucky Harbor, #5)
Publisher: Forever, Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 18th 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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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?
For those of you who haven’t read a Lucky Harbor book before, they’re split into trilogies. Though this is listed as the 9th book, it’s actually the third in a series about friends Jack, Luke and Ben (It Had to Be You, Always on My Mind, Once in a Lifetime). So don’t let the number of books intimidate you.
Aubrey was a troubled teen and one of the mean-girls in high school. She’s spent a lot of years making mistakes, but when she comes home to Lucky Harbor to re-open her late-aunt’s bookstore, she determines to right past wrongs and make amends for her behavior. In a small-town with a long memory, this isn’t easy. Especially when it comes to one Ben McDaniel, the man she wronged more than any others – even if he doesn’t realize it.
Ben has spent the past five years working in dangerous places, looking to escape the loss of his beloved wife. He’s back home now, trying to decide what he wants to do with his life. When Aubrey’s uncle asks him to help her renovate her bookstore, he agrees just to have something to do.
The two are extremely attracted to each other, but neither is willing to put their hearts on the line. They agree to act on their attraction as long as neither looks for any kind of relationship. Too bad for Aubrey, since Ben’s overprotective nature and ability to read her like no one else really tugs at her heart. She knows better to get attached, even without his warnings. Since she knows as soon as she works up the courage to tell him how she wronged him, he’ll walk away and never look back.
I often feel like a broken record when talking about Shalvis. Her books are comfort reads for me. They’re easy to fall into and blend the perfect amount of humor, romance and emotion. Once in a Lifetime is another classic Shalvis read. Aubrey’s struggle to make amends for her past sins and her father’s neglect, while trying to earn the trust of the town, mend her broken relationship with her sister and create a friendship with some of the women in town really tugged at my heartstrings. I teared-up several times at the way her family and the town treated her. Her insecurities really made my heart ache.
Ben was really good for Aubrey’s self-esteem. He recognized her hurt and did his best to take her out of her head. His anger at her struggle was sweet. He was fighting demons of his own and trying to rebuild his life in town, but he made time for her. As with all Shalvis heroes, he was brooding and alpha, but sweet and caring. I don’t know how she always manages to write the perfect alpha-man for the heroine, but she pulled it off again.
I love the town of Lucky Harbor, but the constant making-out by past characters bugged me. I don’t like all the matchmaking, either. I get that all the happily married/together couples want everyone else to be the same, but it was kind of ridiculous. On the other hand, I loved the friendships between the men and women. They were really there for each other, and not just while pushing the relationship angle.
Overall this is a a well-rounded story. Fun characters and an emotionally compelling story made this hard to put down.
4.25 out of 5
This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.