by Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #8
Published by Hachette Audio on September 24, 2013
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Firefighters
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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?
Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor books are comfort reads for me and Always On My Mind did not disappoint. This one takes on the friends-to-lovers trope with pastry chef Leah and firefighter Jack.
Leah is back in Lucky Harbor after a stint on Sweet Wars, a reality competition for baking. She’s contractually prevented from telling anyone until after the show airs, but she lost the show and feels like a failure. Leah is a character with whom I sympathized quite a bit because of her rough upbringing. Her father was abusive and even as an adult, Leah still struggles with issues of self-worth. Even though she’s an amazingly talented pastry chef, she still feels that she’s not good enough and that she’ll never amount to anything. As a result of these feelings, it’s Leah’s instinct to run whenever things get tough.
Local firefighter Jack is best friends with Leah. He’s known around Lucky Harbor as a ladies’ man. He’s also infamous for avoiding commitment, due to what happened to his parents. His dad was a firefighter who died in the line of duty. Jack’s mom, Dee, never remarried. Jack is scared to commit because he doesn’t want to end up alone like his mom—which is ironic because he’s basically alone, aside from the flings and casual sex that are the norm for him. In addition, Dee is undergoing cancer treatments and the stress of her illness is taking a toll on both her and Jack.
When Leah comes back to town and catches up with Dee, Dee shares her fear that Jack won’t ever find love and will end up alone. Leah (ever the do-gooder) decides to tell Dee a fib and blurts out that she and Jack are a couple. Both Dee and especially Jack are surprised at this revelation. When Leah explains to Jack that she’s just trying to comfort his mom during her illness, he agrees to go along with the charade and pretend to be a couple.
It’s not long before all of Lucky Harbor hears the news, thanks to town gossip Lucille (who I really love as a recurring character—she’s a hoot). It’s also not long before Leah and Jack find the lines between make-believe and reality blurred as their emotions get involved and they find themselves truly falling for each other. Ultimately, Leah and Jack have to decide whether they want to continue the charade or take a chance on something real.
The only thing that I didn’t love is Jack’s behavior after word about his and Leah’s “relationship” spreads around town. His flings and booty calls come out of the woodwork to express their disappointment and Jack seems a little too disappointed in his own right that he can no longer pursue those other girls. I wanted him to have eyes only for Leah, even during the beginning of their pretend romance.
Shalvis is really great at writing a cast of supporting characters with memorable personalities. As I mentioned, Lucille is always a favorite, as are the characters and couples from the previous books in the series. Even Jack’s goofy dog, Kevin, is a hilarious addition to the world of Lucky Harbor.
I really liked Leah and Jack as a couple. They have an easy camaraderie that doesn’t feel forced. Additionally, this book has some of the hottest scenes in the entire series. Shalvis definitely turned it up a few notches with this one. It also helps that Leah and Jack have known each other for a long time, so they have an established friendship before the pretend romance begins. As their relationship evolves, it feels natural.
The next book is about Leah’s friend Aubrey and Jack’s cousin Ben. I’m really excited to read their story and highly recommend Always On My Mind.
Rating: 4 stars