Once in a Lifetime – Jill Shalvis

Date read: 4th January 2014
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: 18th February 2014
Length: 368 pages
Format: E-book
Source: I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review

Once in a Lifetime cover

Goodreads description

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis continues with the ninth installment in her beloved Lucky Harbor series.


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?

My review:

This book is the ninth in Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor series. I’ve read the first (Simply Irresistible) and the fifth (At Last), but you don’t need to have read the series in order to enjoy the books. There are a few mentions as to previous characters in the first book (and by extension, the second and third, given that they revolve around the same characters – I didn’t spot any references to the fourth, fifth and sixth but may well have missed them.

There was one universal truth in Lucky Harbor, Washington – you could hide a pot of gold in broad daylight and no one would steal it, but you couldn’t hide a secret

The first thing I’d like to emphasise is that I love the world of Lucky Harbor. I pine for living in a town like it, even with its propensity to gossip first, think later. The combination of beach and mountains sounds just about perfect to me, and with its newly revamped bookstore and seemingly unending parade of gorgeous men, what more could a girl need?

It was so easy to sympathise with our main characters, Aubrey and Ben. Shalvis does a clever job of building their relationship, from antagonism, to wary friendship, to a hell of a lot more. I did think that Aubrey beat herself up a lot about her past, but the idea of making a list and making amends with everyone whom she’d wronged was the centrepiece of this story, along with her refurbishment of her aunt’s bookstore, and the road was certainly rocky along the way. And Ben was such a well-rounded character, still in the process of getting over his wife’s death, and learning to accept falling for someone else – put like that it sounds like a bad cliché, but somehow it never felt like that – all his deliberations and hard-headedness never felt unnatural, as the below quote hopefully displays:

He hadn’t always been like that. In school, he’d been the first to land himself in trouble, but he’d been fun-seekind, not tough as nails and impenetrable. Even through college. Afterward, he’d been an engineer for the city and had led a nice normal life. Then his wife had died, and he’d taken off like a bat out of hell, living a life of adrenaline and danger as if survivor’s guilt had driven his every move.

And do not even get me started on the wondrousness that is the minor characters – although I hate to call them that, as they feel like so much more than that. Pink and Kendra, two five-year-old twins that Ben takes under his wing. Lucille, the town busy-body. Carla, Aubrey’s sister (I definitely think she may be a candidate for a further book…). Dee, Ben’s aunt, and her unasked for hugs and breakfast. Sue, the cranky judge who was the victim of Aubrey’s…Aubrey-ness during high school. Yes, Lucky Harbor is a splendid world indeed, and I just may have reserved the other books in the series from the library… *innocent face*