Why I read it: I've been a Jill Shalvis fan for many years. I first read a story of hers in an anthology and after I glommed on her Blaze's from my local UBS until I had some money to buy her later works. I got this one from NetGalley.
What it's about: This is Chloe's book. Maddie (Simply Irresistible), Tara (The Sweetest Thing) and Chloe are sisters who share the same mother but all have different fathers. They didn't grow up together and barely know each other. When their mother dies, they meet up at Lucky Harbor to find out they have inherited an inn. I'd recommend reading the series from the start (apart from anything else, they're all good) to understand the full story arc but the romance can certainly be read as a stand alone.
Chloe is a "wild child" who is a trouble magnet. Sheriff Sawyer Thompson had a wild youth but sticks firmly to the straight and narrow. There are buckets of chemistry between the two but both wonder if it could really go anywhere - they are too different and a fling could cause problems as Sawyer is best friends with Jax (Maddie's fiance) and Ford (Tara's SO).
What I thought (aka What worked for me and what didn't): This is a light, sexy, fun read with a hot Sheriff hero and a ballsy but vulnerable heroine. If I were to equate this book with food I would equate it to popcorn (if I liked popcorn) - I dive into it and then I can't stop reading. It's easy to read - while it's not without depth it doesn't tax the brain. Before you know it, I've devoured the whole book. Except, I don't feel sick or regretful afterward (which I may do if it was popcorn - if I liked popcorn). It would be like if popcorn was healthy or something and after devouring a whole bowl of it, I felt happy and satisfied. So, not really like popcorn at all.... :P
There is some depth to the story - one of the secondary characters (Lance) has Cystic Fibrosis. As Chloe's best friend, he has a fair share of page time and even a little bit of a secondary romance himself. Chloe has asthma which is quite serious. She can't run or do anything too strenuous - having sex means using the inhaler at the least and a trip to the emergency room at best. Emotional stress bring on asthma attacks too. I liked that the asthma didn't magically go away - Chloe and Sawyer had to deal with it. Sawyer does research and he takes things slooow *sigh* so Chloe doesn't get too worked up.
The conflict between the two was largely about how Chloe was too wild for Sawyer and Sawyer was too uptight for Chloe and if they got together it would be destined to end badly and therefore cause grief in the family given the relationships between the sisters and Sawyer's best friends. As conflicts go, it was fairly light but it was nevertheless believable. Both Chloe and Sawyer are reluctant to get involved but too attracted to stop. I liked that there wasn't anything huge stopping them from getting together but at the same time, it wasn't non existent either. I would have liked to have seen how Sawyer got from "she's no good for me" to "I love her and we're great together". I felt the shift was a bit abrupt and there was a lack of exposition there.
Chloe isn't as wild as everyone thinks. I think the book does a great job of showing that Chloe, due to her unusual upbringing, is suspicious of "I love you" and the "stickability" of people. Her experience is that people don't stick and her expectations are very low. At the same time, she wants to have a home and a family, she's just scared to trust it when it appears. I've read reviews around the place which have criticised the book for Chloe's acceptance being linked to conformity. Certainly, there did seem to be a bit of that on the part of her sisters - they were disapproving of her "flightiness" and wanted her to settle down. But (and this was the most important for me), that wasn't the case with Sawyer. He did not require or want Chloe to change at all. He loved her as is. And, he understood her. In the end, I felt that if Chloe settled, she mainly did so for her own reasons. As she began to trust in her relationship with her sisters and feel at home in Lucky Harbor, she felt comfortable putting down roots. It felt very organic to me. I don't think Chloe's going to stop rescuing dogs from abusive owners or hang-gliding or other dangerous activities, but she'll do it from a home base and won't take off at the drop of a hat.
There was substance cleverly hidden amongst the light and fun and it was a delight for me to read - like when I eat something which happens to be healthy but also unexpectedly tastes really good and which I happen to find I want at exactly that time.
Best of all for me in a Jill Shalvis book, is the humour. I think Jill Shalvis writes guys and their interactions very believably and she usually makes me laugh - like here:
Chloe was giving him a go-on gesture with her hand.
"All I have left is my pants,, " he said.
"It's cold, Chloe."
She tilted her head. "Are you worried about shrinkage?"
Well, he was now.
Sawyer reached up and manually turned off the TV because a new episode was starting and if The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song got stuck in his head, he was going to have to kill himself.
What else? It occurs to me that I have given the same grade to Head Over Heels as I did for The Black Hawk. When I thought about it it seemed somehow wrong. They are such different books even though they are both romance. But, if Head Over Heels is popcorn (except good for you), The Black Hawk is a rich dense dessert. They both absolutely have their place on the menu and, at the right time, the enjoyment of consuming both can be equally wonderful. I read Head Over Heels at exactly the right time I think.
A (very) slightly cut down version (for space reasons) of this review appeared in the December ARRA newsletter.