Advanced Reading Copy
Published: September 24th, 2013, Grand Central Publishing
My rating: 4 of 5 ⭐
Back in Lucky Harbor after being a favorite on a reality cooking show currently showing on TV, Leah Sullivan is having a hard time sticking to her contract and not answering the constant curious question whether she was the winner or not. She came back after all these years to help keep her grandmother's bakery going while she is recuperating from knee surgery. It feels good to be back, without her parent's pressure, but just being around her grandmother and her friends. Especially her best friend Jack, who has always had a special place in her heart.
Jack Harper set out to follow in his father's footsteps years ago, working as a firefighter. As of late, he has had his doubts as to whether that is truly his calling, especially since his knee doesn't seem too eager to cooperate anymore. He also worries about his mom, who really hasn't been the same since his father died on the job and now has to deal with treatment for her cancer. The one thing that has cheered him up is the return of Leah, she helps him out with his mom when she can, and always has had the ability to make his day brighter.
When Leah inadvertently allows Jack's mom to believe she and Jack are romantically involved, because it seemed to make her feel happy, she makes life in Lucky Harbor complicated for herself and Jack. The town gossip takes no time at all using Facebook to spread the word around town that the pretty baker and the hot firefighter are both off the market. Jack, who doesn't believe in long-term or permanent relationships, dates often and frequent and finds himself immediately cut off from all his regular go-to dates. He is not a happy camper.
Feelings that had been buried for years, spark to life, and before you know it Jack and Leah have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves . Both weary of losing their friendship, they agree to sustain a pretend relationship for the sake of Jack's mother, with sexual benefits, but also a whole list of rules and regulations that are supposed to ensure that there will be no feelings and no expectations.
Rules are meant to be broken, and both of them keep doing that, or at least changing them. Pretending is difficult and things are starting to feel too real. Leah is always afraid to show too much of herself and disappoint, but she can't stop herself from feeling. And Jack keeps telling himself that he doesn't want the strings, because having his heart broken once was enough. But in the end Leah was never able to hide anything from Jack anyway and Jack already had something permanent with the person who held his heart.
Another fantastic Lucky Harbor novel by Jill Shalvis!!
Leah has no faith in herself whatsoever. She grew up being told she could never amount to anything, so every time she is about to finish something, or do something positive, she finds a way to sabotage herself, just to give credence to the low expectations put on her in childhood and adolescence. She has never yet broken that cycle, but is very good at hiding the pattern. Only perhaps her grandmother and for sure Jack, can see the corners she paints herself into. The importance here is for Leah to break through the pattern herself, which she ultimately does, by making choices based on her own needs and not on someone else's expectations.
Jack has spent his life trying to fill his father's shoes. By dying a hero's death in the line of duty, his father set a bar that is virtually impossible to meet. His mother's devastation and subsequent decline after his father's death, sealed Jack's conviction that a long term relationship would not be a healthy choice for him. He also based his life on the experiences of others and not on his own needs or wants. When his body starts letting him down, and he is forced into the pretend relationship with Leah, he starts looking at other options. And when an arsonist makes the rounds in Lucky Harbor and Jack involves himself in the investigation, he finally finds where his heart truly lies.
Loved the storyline and the dynamic between Leah and Jack. Their sexual chemistry creates some heat! Perhaps because there is something a tad illicit about best friends crossing that invisible line, but whatever it is, it works extremely well for these two!! Muy caliente!
✨Stand back from the fireworks, when friends become lovers!✨
**ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing in return for an honest review.**