How is it I can love an author this much? I generally don't like books like this - romantic stories with a lot of humour. The characters almost always come off as juvenile and embarrassing. Jill Shalvis has a special talent - she knows how to give her humour depth, and her characters depth. I feel like I've been waiting for this new series forever - and it's going to be quite a wait before book two comes out. But don't worry about it fitting into a series; Jill Shalvis always makes sure her stories can hold up on their own.
In almost anybody else's hands, this book would not have been remotely fun. The heroine - Maddie - has run away to rescue an inn on the Washington coast - an inn the mother she barely knew left to her and the two sisters she barely knows upon her death. Not only that, but the poor woman has been fired from her fancy Hollywood job for dumping her abusive boyfriend - even though she still literally has the wounds to show the abuse was real. She's known as `The Mouse'. She's in a really bad place, and when she first kisses the hero - Jax - he lifts his hand and she's so convinced he's going to hit her she flinches away from him. It really doesn't sound like there can be any fun in this story, but it's the humour that makes this so special. That's not to say Maddie's problems aren't handled well; there were many times where I felt really sad for Maddie, and fell a bit in love with Jax for `getting' her straight away and knowing what he had to do to get through to her.
"She's drunk dialling contractors," Chloe said to Tara. "Someone should stop her."
She shifted against him, then sucked in a breath when his hammer jabbed into her hip.
"Sorry," he said. "Let me drop the belt-"
"No." She held on when he would have pulled away. "Don't. I like it."
Again, he lifted her face, and he smiled. "The tool belt turns you on."
"No." She closed her eyes and thunked her forehead to his chest. "Little bit."
Where there was only one bed.
At least it was a queen-sized, and it'd been cold enough that they hadn't minded being packed in like a litter of kittens. Well, they minded Chloe talking in her sleep, because it was usually things like "harder, Zach, harder," which both Tara and Maddie could do without hearing.
Shalvis knows how to hook her readers and reel them in by releasing information on a `need to know' basis. She never has information dumps; we learn about people's appearances when we need to know about them, and we get the characters' backgrounds as the story unfolds. I really liked that we didn't learn everything about the motivations for Maddie's move until forty or fifty pages in. We'd had time to get to know her before jumping into her emotional issues.
"If I looked like him," Tara said. "I'd want to have sex with myself. All the time."
Jill Shalvis understands people. All of her characters are real people. That's exactly why I like her writing. They all have stupid little quirks - Jax needs reading glasses, but he's too embarrassed to get them; Maddie makes a GIGANTIC fool of herself the first few times she encounters the hero.
Take for example, how they meet. Maddie nearly hits him with her car, and then nearly destroys his motorbike a few hours later. But Jax recognises there's a lot more going on with her, and his response is to drag her into the pub for a drink, where's he's very badly embarrassed by his best friend.
Maddie starts knitting compulsively to deal with the stress of her sisters' constant fighting, and Jax is nice enough to wear his ugly, crooked scarf all around town.
With a sigh, she picked up her knitting instead of inhaling any more food and continued where she'd left off last night. "In, wrap around," she said to herself. "Pull out."
"You know." Chloe said, licking some batter off her thumb. "The way you knit always sounds a little dirty. I bet if you knitted in earshot of a guy, you'd get laid for sure."
If a book can make you sit there grinning while you read it, you know it's good. You also know it's good if you're someone who never cries, and yet you're just about doing that while you read. I'm still yet to find a Jill Shalvis story I didn't love, and I can't wait for the next book.