ONCE IN A LIFETIME – Jill Shalvis
A Perfect 10
A Lucky Harbor Novel
Lucky Harbor, Washington – Present Day
Aubrey Wellington grew up in Lucky Harbor and has been depicted as the beautiful but brainless female who always seems to get in trouble. It doesn't help that she was recently involved in a scandal that her now ex-boyfriend is touting in his self-published tome. But despite it all, Aubrey is determined to put the past behind and fulfill her lifelong dream of opening a bookstore/café in an old building that needs lots of work. Her grandfather secretly hires Ben McDaniel to remodel the building to help her out; unaware that Aubrey has a secret that she's been keeping from Ben. Part of it is that she's attracted to Ben, but feels like he's off limits to her, especially since she played a part in something that affected him years ago.
Ben has been in a tailspin since his wife, Hannah, died, but after spending time away, he still comes back to Lucky Harbor to settle down. He's an engineer by trade, and has done work on the side to help people out, but he's decided not to return to this occupation. Ben and Aubrey have known each other since they were kids, but he always thought she was a bit of a stuck up beauty queen. He knows she's been through a lot lately but wonders how serious she is about changing her image. Ben spots a list of names on a piece of paper Aubrey has—one of which appears to be his—and wonders why he is on that list.
After accidentally stumbling into an AA meeting, Aubrey has a revelation that leads her to try to make amends to many of the people she's hurt throughout the years in ONCE IN A LIFETIME. She is especially ashamed of what she did to Ben, since it caused him to break up with his high school sweetheart, Hannah, for two years, though they did get back together. Aubrey is seen by many as a troublemaker who won't succeed, but she wants to change this with her new venture. My guess is that readers of ONCE IN A LIFETIME will swing back and forth as to how they feel about Aubrey at first, since she has a rich history of hurting people, but slowly they'll see that she is as much a victim as she is an instigator.
Ben has been pushing away family and friends who want him to get back into the swing of life by dating, and they mean well, but he still carries the memories of Hannah close to his heart. He has literally buried himself behind a wall of grief. Ben is a bit amused by Aubrey at first, mainly because she is trying to show she's turned over a new leaf and tries to not rely on people. The sexual chemistry sizzles between them, and for a man who is in mourning, the stirrings of desire for someone so different from Hannah puzzles Ben. Aubrey tries to fight the attraction, because she knows soon—very soon—she's going to have to come clean with him about the past.
ONCE IN A LIFETIME is part of the Lucky Harbor series, but this can work as a standalone if you're not caught up in the series. Her best friends, Leah (ALWAYS ON MY MIND) and Ali (IT HAD TO BE YOU), do make appearances, as do the two heroes from those book. Lucille is also back—as rascally as ever, but we get introduced to two little girls in foster care who are looking for a father. Is Ben father material?
Having read every book in the Lucky Harbor series, I can honestly say that ONCE IN A LIFETIME is now one of my favorites. From the first page all the way to the end, I couldn't put it down and is one of the reasons I am giving it one of RRT's Perfect 10's. Aubrey and Ben have their issues in the past that made it difficult for them to get together, but their connection just runs too deep to be ignored. Their tale is sensual and intensely emotional at times, but once they have found their way to each other in the end, it's a journey not soon to be forgotten. See for yourself and snatch up a copy of ONCE IN A LIFETIME.