THERE’S NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING
After dropping out of pastry school and messing up her big break on a reality cooking show, Leah Sullivan needs to accomplish something in her life. But when she returns home to Lucky Harbor, she finds herself distracted by her best friend, Jack Harper. In an effort to cheer up Jack’s ailing mother, Dee, Leah tells a little fib – that she and Jack are more than just friends. Soon pretending to be hot-and-heavy with this hunky firefighter feels too real to handle . . .
No-strings attachments suit Jack just fine – perfect for keeping the risk of heartbreak away. But as Jack and Leah break every one of their “just friends” rules, he longs to turn their pretend relationship into something permanent. Do best friends know too much about each other to risk falling in love? Or will Jack and Leah discover something new about each other in a little town called Lucky Harbor?
*Blurb from Goodreads*
Ever since I read the first Lucky Harbor book, I’ve been a hardcore Shalvis fan. This 8th installment in the series is a friends-to-lovers story, one of my favorite tropes in romance!
Leah is back in Lucky Harbor, helping her grandmother run the family bakery. She is enjoying being home with friends, making changes at the bakery, and hiding out while her time on the reality cooking show is ticking down. Everyone wants to know what happened, but Leah is keeping secrets, even from her best friend Jack. But when Leah ropes Jack into another secret: that they are dating, the whole town will find out the truth in no time at all.
Jack has always loved Leah, not just as a friend, but as the one that got away. When she tells his sick mother that they are together, the joy it brings his mom is enough to have him playing along. But it doesn’t take anytime at all before feelings begin morphing into something real, and Jack worries that this time around Leah will hurt him even worse than the first time she left.
While I adore this series, and thought this was a good book, it wasn’t even close to being in the top five of my favorites in the series. It was fun and sexy and had the humor I expect from Shalvis, but it also felt as if there was a little something missing. That extra little spark that makes me fall head over heels with the Lucky Harbor residents.
One aspect I really enjoyed in this story was the mini suspense sub-plot that came along with Jack’s job. I liked that he was not only a firefighter, but also training to become an investigator. It added another dimension to his character that I loved. Watching him try and work out how the fires were all connected and trying to figure out who set them was a great way to break up the romance a bit, and give us a little something extra we haven’t had in this series yet.
While I’m usually a huge fan of friends-to-lovers stories, this one didn’t seem to resonate with me as much as other books have. I’m not sure why as all the elements I love were there. I love watching as couples try and decide if risking their friendship is worth it, and then watch as their feelings morph and change from a deep friendship love to a more intimate love. But with Jack and Leah, it didn’t seem to work out that way. Not only did they have a bit of a forced relationship thing going on, but they also had to deal with the history of their almost relationship, and the pain of it not working out the first time around.
I think for me, I connected with Jack a bit more than Leah. She was definitely a fun heroine, but she was quick to run and escape her life, instead of standing her ground and fighting for what she wanted. I found it a little difficult to really understand her motivations, and it wasn’t until the end when she expressed her desire to actually see something through to the end that I started caring more about her. I wish we could have seen more of that build up on the pages of the book.
All in all I thought Shalvis did a good job with the 8th book in the Lucky Harbor series, but it definitely wasn’t up to my expectations. While I wanted a little more from Leah, I was pleased with Jack’s character. However, I thought they both could have given a lot more when it came to their romance.
I give Always on my Mind a C+