Lucky Harbor, Washington is the quintessential small town. When the local innkeeper, a free spirited woman, dies, her daughters are drawn back to the town to renovate the business—and possibly find a family with one another.
Christmas in Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis contains two Lucky Harbor novels, as well as two bonus short stories. Since the books could stand alone (though they are very much related), I will review them separately.
The first novel, Simply Irresistible, is about Maddie. She was raised by her father and barely has a relationship with her two sisters. When Maddie loses her job as a production assistant and decides to end her relationship with jerk of a boyfriend, she has time to consider her options. Her best option seems to be travelling to Lucky Harbor to check out the inheritance that she received from her recently departed mother. When she arrives in Lucky Harbor, she realizes quickly that the inn needs more than just minor repairs. It needs a major renovation, and the local contractor, Jax, is just the man to get the job done. Deceptively laid back, Jax is really a dynamo, and in no time at all, he is at work on getting the inn whipped into shape—and trying to get Maddie to take another chance on love.
The interaction between the sisters (Tara (“The Steel Magnolia”), Maddie (“The Mouse”), and Chloe (“The Wild Child”) is what makes this first book a lot of fun. The sisters do not agree on much, and they are unsure whether or not the inn is a worthwhile investment. As they get to know each other, the sisters grow closer together and are able to support one another.
The romance between Jax and Maddie starts quickly and stays hot and heavy. It seemed that they were all over each other on every couple of pages. It got a bit repetitive, and I got a little tired of the “reasons” they could not be together. Maddie’s reason (basically, that she needs to learn to stand on her own) seemed really flimsy when Jax was presented as a paragon of the male species. I found the back and forth tedious. They do get their happy ending, however, and all is well.
The second novel, The Sweetest Thing, worked better for me. Tara and Ford had been teenage sweethearts. Though they loved each other and wanted to be together, the timing was all wrong for them to pledge each other forever. To complicate matters, Tara became pregnant and the baby was put up for adoption. After that, Tara left and their relationship fell apart.
When Tara comes back to Lucky Harbor to help with the inn, it is not at all clear whether or not she is going to stay. Her interactions with Ford are awkward at best. But the longer Tara is in town, the more she decides to meet her past head on. This means both moving forward with her relationship with Ford, as well as looking back and trying to heal the wounds that were caused by their teenage selves. When their daughter, Mia, makes an appearance, the entire matter becomes even more complicated.
I think I liked the second novel better because it felt as though the couple had a more realistic problem (as compared to the first novel where the problem seemed to be all in Maddie’s head). I enjoyed reading how the characters came together to create a real family.
As far as the two short stories at the end were concerned, the first one dealt with one of the ex-husbands of the sisters. I don’t think it was a great idea to put this short story in with this novel collection. Even though it was clear that time had passed, I was still in the frame of mind that he was pining over his ex-wife, Tara (which he did in nearly the entire book in The Sweetest Thing. To have him fall in love with the town clerk was just weird.
The second one, “Under the Mistletoe”, was about the adoptive daughter, Mia, who when she appears in The Sweetest Thing is just seventeen. She has a teenage love, Carlos, who decided to let her go in that novel. In Under the Mistletoe, it is five years later, and she has moved on to another love, but returns to Lucky Harbor for her aunt Chloe’s wedding (you KNEW who she was going to marry based on hints in the second book, but her book is not included in this collection). I found it really hard to have her go from 17 to 20-something in a few short pages, and her problem with romance was nearly the same as Tara’s—minus the unexpected baby.
In short, these were fun books, but the two novels could be read at any time of year since they were not set solely in winter (the two short storied are very Christmas related). I found the romantic scenes quite repetitive (basically when the male lead and female lead were breathing the same air, they had to get it on), and I would have liked to know more about the other residents of the town. The best part of the book was the interaction between the sisters and how they came to know each other. For a fun, fast read, Christmas in Lucky Harbor might be the book for you.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina