on 30 May 2013
It Had to Be You is the seventh book in Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor series, and though the last book I read in the series was Head Over Heels (Book #3), I didn't feel lost, so don't worry if you didn't keep up with the series as in spite of some events and characters/couples of the previous books being mentioned you won't feel left in the dark as the books can be very well read as standalones.
It Had to Be You features Ali, a young and optimistic florist and ceramist who recently moved to Lucky Harbor and wants to make it her home since she loves the ambiance of the small town and most of all its people. Ali was a heroine the reader could not not love. She was like a soft kitten but that didn't mean she was a doormat without a backbone:
"I know I might look like a ball of fluff," she said, "but I'm not. Not even close. And the fact that I get up each morning and put a damn smile on my face is the same as...Batman putting on his cape."
"I'm not done. It's...protection. It's my shield. It's me waving my middle finger to the world, because I choose to be happy."
She was all smiles and sunshine, and she was cheerful and adorable despite the s***ty things that life dealt to her, most recently discovering that her boyfriend, with whom she shared a house not only cheated on her with a handful of women, terminated the lease on the house (and moved out of their home) without her knowledge, but also accused her of stealing several thousand dollars of county money. So yep, he was a prize winning douchebag and he didn't stop there he wanted to mess with her self-confidence as well. Grrr.
"Do not listen to him," [Luke] said, maybe a little harshly, but he wanted her to hear him. Really hear him. "You're not a nobody. And you are a florist, a great one. You also teach ceramics. HeL, Ali, half of your students are in love with you. You care enough to be nice to nosy, old men. You helped a stranger avoid the rest of the world, even when he was a total ass. You'd give that stranger the last of your paycheck simply because you thought it was the right thing to do."
"It was the right thing to do," she said. "And you weren't a total ass."
"You'd probably give away your heart and soul if it was needed," he said. "But that would be a shame, because you're one-hundred-percent heart and soul. You're the real deal, Ali, the way the rest of us have forgotten how to be."
The hero is Luke, who returns for a short but much needed vacation to Lucky Harbor, the hometown he left after graduation and hasn't looked back since (due to some personal loss, grief and of course guilt). He plans on spending his 2-3 weeks of leave resting in solitude, so you can imagine his surprise when he finds a lingerie-clad stranger traipsing in his kitchen. Yep, that is Ali who takes Luke for an intruder as thanks to her jerk of a boyfriend she wasn't aware she had to move out of the house. Seriously that first meeting between Ali and Luke was one of my alltime favourites!
Luke is a badass strong homicide detective but he has such a softie heart inside, he couldn't resist leaving Ali in a ditch and had to help her clear her name, even though he was off duty and wanted to avoid people to recuperate. I also loved his dry and acerbic humour:
His cell vibrated. He looked at the screen. His commander. With a long, slow inhale, he connected. "Hanover."
"Got a death threat this morning." Commander Craig O'Neil's voice was gruff and as commanding as his title. "Aimed at all of us. Just wanted you to know."
"Great," Luke said. "I'll start working my way down my bucket list."
"You need to think about this, Ali. Loving me isn't a day in the park. I'm stubborn and like to be right. I rarely make my bed. I can never find my keys. And last but not least, I love you so hard it hurts. I might die of it, actually, which makes me a short-term bet at best."
Ali and Luke were a wonderful pair, Ali's sunshine personality eased and alleviated Luke's guilt and the nagging of his inner demons, and Luke's protectiveness was a welcome change to finally have a man who recognized what a gem of a woman Ali was. He was fully conscious of the fact that she was a sweet and caring woman who deserved happiness and to be loved and cherished, and he felt that she deserved more and better than him. Thankfully Ali soon disabused him of that I loved how their romance was both sweet and sexy (and Jill Shalvis even got some extra brownie points from me for not forcing a rushed proposal into the ending).
Verdict: It Had to Be You was a nice addition to the Lucky Harbor series. Jill Shalvis once again delivered a highly entertaining and lovable story, wonderfully mixing mystery, humour and small town romance to give the reader a story that will make them smile and feel happy. Both Ali and Luke were great characters I fell in love with, and it was nice to catch a glimpse of the previous characters and Lucky Harbor residents. Jill Shalvis' writing is witty, sexy with a big dose of chuckle-out-loud funny humour and if you haven't read the Lucky Harbor series yet I urge you to do so, and if you are a fan of the series I'm sure you'll love It Had to Be You just as much as I did.