Reviewed: January 3, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Lucky Harbor, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 336 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Maddie Moore is through being a mouse and is determined to finally find her roar. When the breakup of an abusive relationship resulted in the loss of her job and a major kick to her self esteem, Maddie pulled up stakes and headed to Lucky Harbor. There she finds the inn left to her and her two half-sisters by the mother she never knew, a flighty woman who had never been a presence in her life. If she can convince her rigid elder sister and her wild-child younger sister to not sell the inn before she can renovate it and turn it into a business, Maddie may just secure the significant change her life so desperately needs.
From the moment Maddie accidentally ran Jax Cullen off the road on her way into town, he was intrigued by her. Then she showed up at the bar he co-owns with a childhood friend and almost killed his bike - again. Despite her having it in for his poor motorcycle, there's something about her that tugs at him. Utterly charmed and a bit out of his element, he's floored when he finds out about her tragic past, and deeply admires the moxie she's showing to triumph over it.
Maddie quickly worms her way into Jax's head and heart, but the better he knows her, the more he dreads her finding out more about him. Jackson Cullen III has a few secrets that could threaten their budding relationship and the risk of telling them all compromises more than just his personal privacy. Some secrets just aren't his to tell. But for the sweet Maddie, struggling valiantly against her problems with intimacy and trust, those secrets just might be the death knell for any sort of lasting romance. And Jax knows that, too.
Simply Irresistible is a charming, robust romance with thoroughly likable characters. Maddie is particularly sympathetic as the middle child and the glue that holds her reluctant-to-be-held sisters together. Despite the wounds from her past relationship, which were, sadly, all too realistic, she perseveres and with a fierce will intends to get back the pieces of herself lost to cruelty. Jax has his own baggage, and his relationship with his father is lamentable. He's a genuine good guy on a grand scale, though, and his own quest to regain pieces of his soul lost to his past is well written and believable. He could have easily slipped over into too-good-to-be-true territory, but Shalvis allows for some peccadilloes in his character that keeps him from treading too far over that line. Their chemistry burns up the pages and their personalities seal the deal.
Shalvis didn't skimp on other aspects of a fantastic read, either. Secondary and ancillary characters were unique and well defined, the town of Lucky Harbor had a lot of quirky personality, and the plot had enough layers to really sink into. The aspects of the plot surrounding the three sisters and their relationships, along with their work with the bequeathed inn, reminded me of Nora Roberts in a lot of ways. Some of my favorite Nora Roberts books are the similarly-themed trilogies, so it's a favorable comparison. There was also a genuine humor and a touching poignancy in this book that enhanced the storyline and added a surprising amount of depth to the plot.
There were some small oddities in the track of the relationship between Maddie and Jax that I didn't quite follow, and the path to their HEA got a little muddled towards the end for reasons I'm not wholly certain I believed. The development had been feeling very natural and organic to the characters until some admittedly expected conflicts arose, and I'm just not completely certain those conflicts were as realistic as the rest of the storyline seemed to me. There was also one scene in particular with Maddie and a Ferris wheel that was entirely too cliched for my tastes, and the big reveal about her elder sister's secret was neither big nor particularly revealing, as that plot twist was easily observed on its approach from early on in the story.
Truly, though, those were minor issues and didn't take much away from a very enjoyable and at turns funny and heartwarming story of two people who really are much better together than apart. I'm quite pleased that the next book in this series, The Sweetest Thing (A Lucky Harbor Novel), will be available April 1st, and have already pre-ordered it. I enjoyed the light, fun, and touching combination of style and substance that Shalvis has offered here and look forward to more.
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