Review: Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis


Title: Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor #9)
Author: Jill Shalvis
Date of publication: 18 February 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Small town

Author's links:
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My rating: 3 stars



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 is book 9 in the Lucky Harbour series and it completes the latest set of three connected stories. So far, I have read only the first three books and enjoyed them. I am a fan of Ms Shalvis' work and I have read some of her other series. as well, so I had some high expectations of this book.

Though I generally liked the story of Ben and Aubrey, it did not end up my favourites list. It's a nice small-town romance, written in the engaging style of Ms Shalvis, but there were too many small things that bothered me and prevented me from rating it higher than 3 stars.

I will start with the good things I liked in this story. I loved the heroine, Aubrey. She was  a strong and kind and determined character. I usually fall for the hero in the romances I read and did like Ben but not as much I as hoped.

Aubrey was a troubled teen, she has a bad reputation but she actually is a good person and tries hard to make amends for her mistakes. She has grown up and sees thing in perspective. I admired her determination to change, to be a better person. What I found particularly remarkable was that she wanted to change for her own sake, she didn't need a guy to help her or show her path to being a better, kinder, happier person. She had figured her mistakes on her own and was working on fixing them just for the her own sake of being and not to impress anyone.

Then, Ben came along. He was on her list of people she had wronged but he was also her high-school crush. Ben was a complex character. I liked a lot of things about him - his concern and care of the 5-year old twin sisters from the foster home, his loyalty to hi friends, Jack and Luke, his affection for his aunt Dee. My problem was his attitude towards Aubrey. He grew to care about her, saw her for who she trully was, yet he kept running away from her and from his feelings for her. He was alpha man in bed but when it came to facing her feelings for him, he acted like a coward. He couldn't forgive her mistake towards him and used this to break things between them.

Aubrey was strong enough to open herself to him and admit her true feelings, admit her mistake and ask for forgiveness and he turned her away. This made me really angry and rather disappointed with him. It was only through the outside intervention that he saw his mistake in letting Aubrey go.

A major drawback of the story for me was the way the issue with Ben's dead wife was presented. Initially, Hannah was presented as completely opposite to Aubrey - kind, pure, almost perfect. As the story progressed, though, her reputation got tarnished and some unpleasant secrets were revealed. I felt it was done only in order to justify Ben's moving on and his acceptance of his feelings for Aubrey. In my opinion, it was not necessary to make Hannah look bad. It is OK for Ben to move on after her death and to fall for someone completely different from her. People grow and change...

My other major complaint was the rushed ending - from "I don't want a relationship" to "Marry me" - it was too abrupt. Ben and Aubrey getting together would have been enough.

Next book will be about Sam, a friend of Ben's and we saw very little of him in this, so he is very much an enigma and I am looking forward to reading his story. It's in His Kiss will be released in August 2014.

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