It Had to Be You
by Jill Shalvis
Book 7 of Lucky Harbor
I'm pretty sure that I called it quite accurately in my BLopoly update post, when I said that I would probably end up finishing this whole book within the day. Jill Shalvis is an author I'm constantly returning to for a multitude of reasons, one being that sometimes, when I love her books and her characters, I really DO love her books and her characters.
I had started reading It Had to Be You with every intention of stopping after the first handful of chapters, then either switching back to another read I'd started right before, or just going to sleep. It didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't putting this book down.
Except maybe for bacon (which did happen, and I regret nothing).
Ali Winters had arrived in Lucky Harbor to try to start a whole new life for herself. Having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks, with a childhood of rotating homes each time her mother found a new boyfriend, she had wanted to prove to herself that she could make something of herself. With a talent for floral design and ceramics, she's been working at a local florist shop, with hopes that one day she'd be able to really let her talents shine.
All within the time span of one day, however, she finds her boyfriend cheating on her, and then learns that she's just been kicked out of her home without prior notice. Then, to make matters worse, fifty thousand dollars worth of fundraiser money that was supposed to be used to build a new community center disappears, and somehow, Ali is the main suspect when her cheating ex-boyfriend leads the police straight for her.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Detective Luke Hanover had returned to Lucky Harbor for a quiet, solo vacation away from the stress of a failed investigation that had resulted in what he feels was a tragic, preventable death, if only he'd been able to put away a crazy killer. But he never expected to find a madwoman in his grandmother's home, cursing into her cell phone to her ex about his failure to inform her she would soon be homeless, while stalking around in nothing but a set of panties and bra.
Needless to say, Luke's plans of quiet, isolationism gets blown to pieces when he finds he cannot keep from involving himself investigating the missing charity money, fully believing Ali to be innocent of any crime. In fact, he just keeps telling himself that he won't get involved, but somehow, he can't help but become sucked into Ali's world, while at the same time letting her into his, for the better.
There was just something about Ali's character that I really, really loved. Despite the fact that she's constantly swishing back and forth from doormat, to fiery independent, she's just got one of those personalities, so laden in down-to-earth realism, that you can't help but admire her ability to keep bouncing back. And admire, I do, because for all the crap that happens to her throughout the book, you'd think she'd eventually find a point of no return and simply stop feeling so optimistic.
Except that even her optimism is lined with a realistic sense of acceptance. Kind of alike a "I'm going to keep looking on the bright side, but if everything drops to hell... well, not much I can do about that but keep moving forward." Her personality is hard to grasp, but I suspect that that's her appeal.
In contrast, Luke's personality is steeped in fatalism for himself, and hopeful optimism for others. Even as he's doing what he can to help other people, especially Ali, he seems to come to the conclusion that his life is fated to be miserable, and anyone who is with him will also be miserable. That eventually, he'll start to fail all the people around him, and his life will be crowded with disappointment.
It's depressing... except that his outlook doesn't stop him from continuing to help others in need.
On a side note, I also found Luke to be one of the more endearing, broody alpha males in fiction. Even though his plans for a quiet, isolated vacation got dashed to pieces with Ali's presence, he'll still eat her omelets and other baked goods that come his way, even while continually pouting about his ruined vacation time. And why do I find it especially cute that it's so easy to bribe him with food, specifically baked goods?
The number of times that scenes involving Luke and food were the few times I actually chuckled out loud while reading this book.
Ali had had a crappy day. Leah had tried to get her to go out tonight but she wasn't in the mood. Instead, she was in the kitchen licking brownie batter from a wooden spoon like her life depended on it when Luke wandered into the kitchen.
"I smell chocolate," he said, looking hopeful.
And in spite of the weather, the mountain chickadees were still out singing in force, "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger," sounding like The Chipmunks on crack.
It made him hungry.
Do chickadees really sound like that?
Anyway, between Ali and Luke, I found that I really enjoyed reading It Had to Be You. There were even a few moments loaded with feels. The development of their relationship was subtle, but sweet, and while it was strange that they continued to live together even as perfect strangers, in a way, it worked.
But that is one of the reasons that I like a lot of Jill Shalvis's work, is because of the quick friendships, and the strong bonds presented. Character interactions are warm and fluffy, even if sometimes the characters are strange and hard to comprehend.
We meet a lot of new people in this installment of the series, probably as a set up for the next few books to come. And while I like seeing character interaction and love the strongly bonded friendships, some of the introductions were honestly, maybe a little awkward, or forced. But if you gloss over those, the rest of the book is pretty great.
I love that Ali has a great relationship with her mother and sister. I love that Ali's mother is protective and loving of her girls--that, as opposed to some other, darker books with characters of similar background, Ali's mother is one who will beat up the men who even dare look at her daughters the wrong way, rather than turn a blind eye in order to keep a man.
And you don't see a whole lot of it, but I also like seeing the camaraderie between Luke and his friends, and even some of the townsfolk of Lucky Harbor. I appreciate that Luke and Zach learn to work together, both for Ali's sake, even in spite of the pissing contest they have going on.
I like that the townspeople don't immediately condemn Ali, even though they believe that she DID steal the charity money; wanting to find a peaceful, happy solution and help her stay out of jail. I mean, it's still a bit insulting that they would believe her a criminal despite how well they know her. Although I'm sure their hearts were in the right places.
There were a few loose ends I would have liked to see tied up, however, most especially the one involving Ali's ex-boyfriend, the shameless, rat-fink bastard, Ted Marshall. Even at the conclusion, his character just kind of fades away into the background, but it didn't escape my notice that really nothing happens to him, nor is anything addressed concerning him, even though all of the conflict was mainly all because of him.
Free Friday #2:
Page Count: 327
Cash Award: +$6.00
Updated Bank Balance: $97.00