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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ARC Review : It's In His Kiss by Jill Shalvis

I want to be Jill Shalvis and live and Lucky Harbour when I grow up. Jill is the grande dame of small-town contemporary romance, able to perfectly meld serious topics with her trademark lighthearted writing style to create stories that tug at your heartstrings and make you laugh out loud in equal measure… even when it’s the tenth time around this particular block. IT’S IN HIS KISS is the first in the final set of mini-trilogies that make up the twelve-book Lucky Harbour series and is quintessential Shalvis (albeit perhaps not her best work): down-on-her-luck heroine with more strength of character than she realises at a crossroads in her life; brooding-but-loveable alpha-lite hero with a big heart but reluctant to fall in love; sizzling chemistry and delightfully fun sexytimes; hilariously accurate bromance between the hero and his BFFs that will star in the next (and last) two novels; and plenty of witty banter that will have you smiling the whole way. Longtime fans of the series will enjoy this latest entry—though the enjoyment is bittersweet, since it marks the beginning of the end—and new readers will be able to easily dive into the awesomeness of Lucky Harbour (and Jill’s work), and have 9 other books to satiate their appetite.

In true contemporary romance fashion, there isn’t much of a plot and the focus is strictly on the hero and heroine and their budding relationship—perhaps even more so than in previous Lucky Harbour books—so it’s a good thing Jill does characters and relationships so well. Heroine Becca Thorpe has finally had enough of living her life for others (chiefly her spineless musical prodigy of a younger brother) and has fled New Orleans and a difficult situation there to find herself and learn to stand on her own. Peaceful, quirky Lucky Harbour is initially nothing but a pit stop in her new life journey but quickly turns into much more as she finds herself belonging, the town ingraining itself in the fibre of her being, and falling for Sexy Grumpy Surfer and boat builder with family issues Sam Brody. Both Becca and Sam have a host of issues that are relatable and make them flawed, realistic characters. Becca’s dysfunctional family has made her life revolve around supporting her drug-addicted concert pianist brother on stage despite suffering from crippling stage fright. No one takes her seriously when she tells them she can’t do it anymore, instead continuing to pressure her and guilt her into coming back because her brother “needs her”. But Becca can’t fathom ever playing in front of an audience again; the mere thought of it puts her in a panic, and her struggle with something she’s clearly so passionate about—with music being such a big part of her life, even now with her job writing jingles for commercials and teaching the kids in Lucky Harbour music—is something anyone can relate to. Watching her stand up for herself with her family and having them recognise how unfair they’ve been with her is heartwarming and vintage tug-at-your-heartstrings Shalvis, as is the sweet way Sam goes about helping her deal with her performance anxiety. There’s also a big issue from Becca’s past that makes her skittish and that she strictly refuses to discuss [potential trigger warning] that Jill deftly deals with, keeping the overall lighthearted, feel-good tone of the novel without downplaying its importance.

Sam has his own set of issues that keep him from being too perfect but aren’t over-angsted to tortured-hero proportions. Having grown up bouncing between home and foster care due to his father’s inability to get his act together, Sam has had to be the responsible, dependable one all his life and has difficulty trusting anyone. Thanks to his father’s constant, careless “love ya, son”’s whilst spectacularly failing to do anything a father should, those three little words have always been devoid of meaning and ones he’ll never say… until Becca. To him, actions speak louder than words and—in typical man fashion—he thinks he’s speaking plenty, but Becca needs more and he’s not sure he can lower his walls enough to go there. I have a weakness for quiet and slightly-brooding-with-a-heart-of-gold heroes and Sam fits that to a tee, with Jill’s trademark knicker-melting hotness and Lucky Harbour-wide fan club layered on top. I really enjoyed watching him learn to trust and let Becca in, and his sweet side and willingness to recognise and apologise for his mistakes make him even more swoon-worthy. The ending and epilogue are incredibly adorable and make me want to keep Sam for myself.

I probably sound like a broken record every time I review one of Jill’s books, but I never get tired of reading her work, and even an average story from her is better than a lot of romance out there. With IT’S IN HIS KISS, Jill delivers more of what makes her tops in the genre and makes the town of Lucky Harbour feel so vibrant and real. Reading this series feels like coming home, and I’m already looking forward to Cole and Olivia’s story this autumn!

**ARC provided by Publisher**

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