Lana and Eli have been best friends for ten years. The absolute best of friends, having only stepped over the friendship line once in college. That night they gave into temptation and slept together, however, Lana is so terrified to lose Eli, the next night she pretends to seduce someone else to scare Eli away. Their friendship survives that night, however and since then, Lana has gone through many boyfriends, most recently Ron, who accidently gets her pregnant. Ron is the type of boyfriend who stops by on a whim when he is in town, and he doesn't show up again. Lana confides in Eli, terrified to tell her sister who is desperate herself to have a baby. Lana herself is terrified to have a baby and doesn't think she will make a good mother. Eli is in love with Lana and has been for a long time but now that she is pregnant, he doesn't know if this is the time to tell her.
I rarely read straight-up contemporaries but I have to say It Happened One Night was a nice change of pace. Lana had a rough childhood - her mother died when she was young and Lana and her sister, Karin, move into the boarding house her father owned. Karin ends up raising her, since her father bascially makes sure they were fed and clothed and that is it. Except for her sister, who is extremly overbearing, Lana has been left by everyone she thought loved her. Now as an adult, deep down she still has that fear. She has stayed at her sister's farm more out of feeling she owes her sister something while all Lana wants to do is explore the world and go on an adventure. Ironically, she pushed Eli away in college and now Eli travels the world.
Let's talk about Eli for a moment. I love my alpha men, but I have a special place in my heart for betas. I made Marcus Worth from Kate Noble's Revealed, and Harry Valentine from Julia Quinn's What Happens In London scoot over to make room for Eli. He is such a cute beta hero and I totally fell in love with him. He is the sweetest person - so in love with Lana but never finding the courage to tell her. His internal emotional turmoil when he finds out Lana is pregnant by another man is so raw, but he holds it all in to make Lana's life easier. He is there as a shoulder for Lana to cry on, when all he wants to do is give her a happily ever after. When he does admit his feelings- when the romance between them has a chance to grow, it is some of the sweetest pages I have read. His love for her was so intense, you just want to push Lana towards him knowing he will make her happy for the rest of his life.
There were a few times Lana overplayed the "friend" card and I wish she would have given in to her feelings for Eli sooner. However, her not giving in gave the book a build up of tension and I found myself sneaking peeks ahead to see when they would finally be together. Yes, I peek, and I'm not ashamed! Not only do Eli and Lana have to sort out their friends vs. lovers feelings, but they also have to deal with the fact that Lana is pregnant with another man's baby. My favorite moment from the book is when Eli confesses his love to Lana, and she realizes it is not just her and Eli in this equation, but the baby inside of her too:
She stepped away from him, got her bearings. As she looked down-to make some distance between them if only for a moment-the curve of her belly was there, round as the curve of the overhead sky. It came as a surprise to remember reality. She put a hand on the crest of the half-sphere, felt the warmth coming from her own skin.
She looked up at him, the question on her lips far too complicated to speak.
"I know," he said.
The secondary story of Lana sister, Karin also added to the emotions in this book. You could feel the panic coming off of Karin to get pregnant. I thought her desperation to have a baby, which leads to thoughts of adopting Lana's baby for herself was a little much though. Her character is a wonderfully written flawed character- controlling with bursts of rage and I felt that was enough to bring to the story. I loved that Karin stays consistent throughout the story, almost a character you don't want to like, but works it works really well in this setting.
The addition of Lana and Karin's father who comes back to town didn't do a lot of me either. At first he acts very creepy and I wasn't sure as a reader where his path was going. He turns out to be just a lonely father, but I didn't ever feel a connection with him and his daughters. He wronged them in the past, and I think he would have been better staying there.
Lisa Dale is a new author to me, but I am definitely sticking with her. It Happened One Night is a delightful, romantic story that I highly recommend.