Back to Lucky Harbor

Always On My Mind - Jill Shalvis
The set up
Leah Sullivan returns to Lucky Harbor to help out her grandmother Elsie with her bakery as she recuperates from knee surgery. Leah dropped out of pastry school and participated in a reality TV show that's now airing. Everyone thinks she's the winner but Leah's bound by contract to keep the outcome secret and she plans to bail before the final show. Jack Harper, firefighter and her best friend since the 8th grade, gets caught up in her fib to his mother when Leah tells her they're now a couple. See, he's never lost his feelings for her but isn't willing to risk his heart only to have her run away again. 

The issues
Jack's mother is recovering from her battle with cancer but has been pretty depressed. Leah told the lie to lift her spirits (it did, in a big way). Jack's got some history that's made him commitment shy but both he and Leah have another pretense...their "pretend" relationship is actually what they each secretly want with each other. 

What I enjoyed about this story
I like this town and it's quirky residents and they don't disappoint in this story. In addition to Facebook being the source for the latest gossip, Twitter has finally found its way there, too. Leah's friend Aubrey and Jack's friend Ben were funny and perfectly set up for their story. The real scene stealer, though, was Jack's Great Dane Kevin who I'm convinced is just masquerading as a dog (who names a dog Kevin???).

Leah and Jack are two very complicated people and I liked them individually and what they were to the people in their lives. Her baking was an expression of her soul and she instinctively knew what her customers needed. Sometimes I felt like I could smell her concoctions. Jack is pretty honorable and conscientious and is surrounded by all the people he's touched. He's followed in his father's footsteps as a firefighter and is committed to his mother's well being, which was heartwarming. He had his family take in his best friend when he needed it and was Leah's solace when life with her father was unbearable. 

What was missing
I wish I could better define it but something was missing in Leah and Jack's romance and they both were responsible. Friends to lovers stories are on my list of favorites but the spark just wasn't there. It may be because both of them had commitment issues and weren't even truthful to themselves when we got their private points of view. Their interactions were just too breezy and too much emphasis was placed on Jack's dating history. I liked them together but I kept thinking their own hearts weren't in it until the last scene (which was really very good). 

The bottom line
I enjoyed the story and my return to this charming town. Jack and Leah are well defined characters with interesting lives and friends who kept things lively. There are lots of funny and steamy moments, especially whenever Kevin was in a scene. I actually was more intrigued with Aubrey and Ben and can't wait for the next book. There was a lot to like about this book even if the romance didn't captivate me.

(I received an ARC from NetGalley)