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?
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this story! Ben has been built up as such a heart broken hero, that I couldn’t wait to see how Shalvis was going to give him a second happily ever after.
Ever since Ben’s wife died, he has been living on the edge. Coming home to Lucky Harbor puts him back in the fold with his friends, and back in the presence of the sexy Aubrey. Aubrey doesn’t have the best reputation around town, but there is something about her that Ben can’t seem to resist. The more time he spends with her, the more he realizes that Aubrey is just the thing he needs to go on with his life. But Aubrey has a secret that could possibly destroy him.
Aubrey has done a lot in life she isn’t proud of so she decides it’s time to make amends. With a list in hand of everyone she’s wrong, Aubrey sets out to make up for lost time. When Ben finds her list, Aubrey can’t seem to shake him, he wants to help drive her places and be there to support her when her apologies go wrong. But Ben is on her list, and the thing she has to atone for is something Aubrey fears will break them up, for good.
This book started really slow for me. I’m not sure why, but as excited as I was to read about Ben, I really had a hard time connecting with the book. I’m not sure if part of the problem was Aubrey, a character that I found difficult to connect to or what. Either way, the book didn’t pick up for me until probably three or four chapters in.
One of the things I love about Shalvis and the Lucky Harbor series is just how fun and playful the books are. The town has become such a strong character all on it’s own, and the secondary characters that continue to pop up all over the place are so much fun. I adore Lucille and think she is such a riot every time she makes an appearance. I was a little bummed that this book didn’t have a strong friendship connection that previous books have had, both with the male and female set of characters. I would have liked to see the friendships between Ben and the other guys, as well as Aubrey and the other ladies explored further.
The romance was, for me, probably one of the best that Shalvis has written. The slow burning friendship and romance between Ben and Aubrey was so well done. I loved that Ben still held his wife in such high standards, and that Aubrey (despite her feelings for Ben’s wife) was supportive of his keeping the memory alive. I’ve found — more often than not — that the death of a spouse is not handled well, and I liked the way it was done here.
Ben was a fabulous hero. A little wounded, a little gunshy, but he was also so enamored with Aubrey. Even when his family and friends warned Ben off from her, he still couldn’t ignore the pull he felt towards her, and he supported her and stood up for her. It was so great to see that, and it made me love Ben all the more.
Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with Aubrey as well. While I loved the way she tried to make up for her troublesome teenaged years, and thought she got a bad rap overall from the town, there was just something about her that had to grow on me. While I did eventually find myself cheering for her, it took a lot longer for me to warm up to her, and her relationship with Ben. I do have to admit that poor Aubrey did not have it easy. Between the BS with her parents, family, and the rest of the town, it’s amazing that she chose to stick it out when it was obvious that everyone in Lucky Harbor wasn’t really willing to give her a chance to change.
All in all, I did enjoy the ninth installment of the Lucky Harbor series. While this book wasn’t my favorite in the series so far, the slow building romance was probably the best that I’ve seen from Shalvis to date. I wish that I would have been able to connect with Aubrey sooner though, as I think it would have raised my liking of the story so much more.
I give Once in a Lifetime a B-