It's in His Kiss
by Jill Shalvis
Book 10 of Lucky Harbor
'Sexy Grumpy Surfer' are three words combined together that aren't as smoothly read as you would think. I tried it a few times, so if we must, we shall refer to Sam as the 'SGS'... if I feel like lending him an endearing nickname or something. Sam's nickname for Becca is just slightly cuter, as he calls her 'Peeper' since he's caught her staring at him from her apartment window many times.
At some point, I almost forgot that these characters had real names anyway.
As for the actual story, itself... well, let's just say that Jill Shalvis, while excellent at creating character interaction and lovely humor, definitely isn't all that great at addressing issues that are a bit more serious in nature. She will use them to help create a backstory for her characters... but by conclusion, those issues seem glossed over in favor of simply solving all the problems with the "One True Love" formula.
And while it's not entirely a deal-breaker for me continuing to read a Jill Shalvis book, I can certainly understand why this would be a reason for many others to be upset or frustrated.
Becca Thorpe arrived in Lucky Harbor to get away from the stress of recent events involving her family, specifically her little brother. To Becca, Lucky Harbor was only supposed to be a pit-stop until she could figure out what to do with herself, how to move on and get her life back together. But as she continues to explore and get to know Lucky Harbor, she finds herself drawn to the small town of eccentric residents, and slowly creating a home for herself, even if she doesn't realize it yet.
Add onto that the Sexy Grumpy Surfer guy, Sam Brody, and Becca has every reason to continue hanging around... even if this is just a pit-stop.
Meanwhile, while trying to avoid his own complications, Sam can't help but be drawn to Becca when he notices that she has secrets that have hurt her in the past. He's intent on finding out what her mystery is, even as he has some unresolved issues of his own that need addressing.
Sometimes I wonder if some authors just like to create characters with tragic or crappy backgrounds just so that they can become soul mates in their love story.
Sam and Becca both suffer from disappointing, pretty terrible, childhoods. Sam's father had always been unreliable, which had always ended with Sam in the foster care system. In present day, Sam does nothing but give his father anything the old man asks for, even if it's unreasonable and only manages to further cause a rift between father and son. Becca's parents had always left her younger brother to Becca's care, expecting her to do whatever it takes for her brother, even at the expense and detriment of Becca's well-being and mental health. In present day, this expectation is still floating in the air, and recent events are what caused Becca to uproot and move away from her family, hoping to find comfort and solace for herself.
Once again, to be honest, Jill Shalvis writes lovely characters and stories, with a lot of cute dialogue and tangential side stories. These are all fine and dandy, but then she brings in some serious issues, such as Sam's relationship with his father, or Becca's relationship with her parents and her brother, or Becca's stage fright, or even the alluded to tragic event that had brought Becca all the way across the country to Lucky Harbor, Washington.
There is always so much potential for these issues to be addressed in a thoughtful way. In the meantime, there's no reason why we can't have a sweet romance at the same time.
But the book is slightly imbalanced in that the romance overshadows every other issue brought to surface, and then in the end, apparently it's back to "love conquers all," and then Happily Ever After.
The resolution of both Becca's and Sam's conflicts with their respective parents felt abrupt and too easily managed. The resolution with Becca and her brother might have been a little more believable. But the issue about Becca's recent tragic event... I'm not sure I really like how that one was handled.
Meanwhile, the romance had it's moments, but the fact that our couple lives in a perpetual state of keeping secrets from each other, but also expecting the other to answer all questions posed to the other was a bit frustrating. I loved how Sam tried to take care of Becca; I love how Becca got under Sam's skin and makes a place for herself in his life.
What I don't like is how Sam will push for personal, private information that Becca wants to keep to herself, but then shut down the minute she turns around and starts asking him about his own problems. Then vice versa.
On the other hand, Becca and Olivia actually make a better starting out friendship--neither pushes the other to reveal secrets that she doesn't want to tell. It's called respect, and the girls seem to be able to keep to those boundaries. I mean, maybe over time when they get to know each other better, they can start sharing family histories... but for right now, they had just met barely a handful of days ago. So I find this a refreshing friendship.
Meanwhile Sam and Becca just kept getting irritated when the other wouldn't talk or share stories with the class.
Anyway, enough of my issues.
It's In His Kiss wasn't exactly a Jill Shalvis book that was completely terrible. I'd say it was in the mediocre 'meh' level, if only because it had it's moments, and it didn't really frustrate me too much. I will say, however, that I DO miss the close camaraderie of each trio of friends found in each sub-trilogy of the Lucky Harbor series. Sam, Cole, and Tanner were fun, but they were also kind of boring. Becca had Olivia... but where's the third point of the trio? Not to say that Becca and Olivia's new friendship wasn't great--the drunken by two bottles of wine scene was pretty cute.
The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season
I'd been meaning to read the rest of Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor books anyway, and it just so happens that this book can fit a couple squares for the 16 Festive Tasks. And so I've marked it for Square 14 -- Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Read a book that has a beach or seaside setting. Sam and his two best friends are surfers as well as run a charter company, and Becca rents a warehouse turned apartment near where they work and live; so the majority of this book DOES indeed take place with the beach as a main part of the setting.
Other Possible Squares:
- Square 2 | Bon Om Touk: Water on the cover.
- Square 3 | St. Martin's Day: Becca spends the first part of the book looking for a job--her one night waitressing stint was hilarious.
- Square 10 | Pancha Ganapati: Book cover has blue, green, orange, and yellow.