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At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)


At Last by Jill Shalvis At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)

Uh oh, Linda Lael Miller, youre in trouble. Because Ive just spent my weekend working my way through'At Last'and'Forever and a Day (review tomorrow) by Jill Shalvis with all the delight that I usually save for your laconic cowboys, pink-fringed, bedazzled cowboy boots and the wedding dresses you describe, quite deliciously if not entirely sartorially appealingly, as confections.

Although Shalvis is lacking a little on the cowboy side of things, and theres not as much here fashion-wise to cackle about, never fear: theres plenty else to enjoy, including endless references to chocolate, and a trio of muscular men swanning about in a way thats not at all as neanderthalic as one might expect. Bonus points for the distinct lack of knuckle dragging, Ms Shalvis.

Anyway, At Last is the second in a trilogy of romances (and the second set of trilogies in the overall series, if youll let me get a bit recursive) set in Lucky Harbor, a sunny, beachy, outdoorsy place that attracts the lovelorn and heartbroken and sets things to rights with lots of love and chocolate brownies. This mini-series follows the spin-off approach so common in romance, where we come across a group of friends or siblings (friends in this case, cowboys in the aforementioned Linda Lael Millers case), and watch each member of the group fall in love (only one per book, mind: love has to be rationed).'Its an approach I quite enjoy in that it results in generally well-fleshed out minor characters across a series, and also tends to encourage the creation of fairly likeable characters at that. (Aside: Charles de Lint does this in his Newford books, although it wasnt until I started reading romance that I realised what he was up to. Clever man, that Mr de Lint.)

In'At Last we follow Amy Michaels, a recent big city blow-in whos looking to start anew after a difficult childhood, and Matt Bowers, the local forest ranger (hey, hes'almost a cowboy), whos moved to Lucky Harbor after seeing his marriage fall apart over the stress of his previous police officer role. The two negotiate their attraction through plenty of banter, awkward outdoors moments, and some soul-searching courtesy of a teen runaway Amy decides to take under her wing.

Ill admit that I was a touch wary going into this one, and largely because of the characters backgrounds.'I dislike the use of abusive/disadvantaged childhoods as a way to justify a characters lack of trust and difficulty in being able to develop healthy relationships: I feel its not only overused, but largely unnecessary. The former law enforcement officer (marine, airforce officer, etc) can also be a problematic trope in that it can so easily be used as a shortcut to create emotional tension. There were some moments throughout the book where I felt that Shalvis walked a fine line with regard to thisthe black moment in particularbut despite my misgivings I came away relatively grumble free.

Because, honestly, Shalviss books are so very charming, and I think thats utterly key for these sorts of beachy romance reads. When I read a romance I want to feel as though Im taking a holiday thats somewhere more pleasant than my gloomy ol native Melbourne, and I want to turn the last page and suddenly feel a rush of love and appreciation for my husband. Yes, thats probably the sappiest thing Ive ever written on here, but thats how my romance-ometer works. (One quick gripe about the cover, though: its lovely and cheery, but whats with the floral dress? Amys meant to be a tough gal who gets around in stompy boots and all black.)

I did raise an eyebrow at the fact that Matt and his buddies Josh and Ty, the heroes of the other two books in the trilogy, all have solid careers, while Amy and her friends seem to be either in between jobs or working in traditionally less valued roles. This is something that I kept in mind throughout both this and'Forever and a Day, keeping a rough mental tally of the different professions and roles of the townsfolk. But Shalvis comes through with the goods, and there are plenty of female professionals and generally strong and independent women living it up in Lucky Harbor. Good stuff.

On a similar note, I wanted to comment on the fact that Shalvis also makes a point of her female characters actively saying yes when initiating a sex scene, which is way more appealing for me as a reader than just watching a bloke forging ahead on tacit approval. In addition, Shalvis underscores that her heroes value the strength of the word no. For example, in a scene where Matt needs to take Amy to hospital despite her insistance that shes fine, he says, No would normally work on me, but not this time.

So, we have a nice feminist undercurrent going on, some pretty scenery, a good lookin forest ranger, and a recipe for brownies in the back of the book. Whats not to like?

Rating: star At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)star At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)star At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)halfstar At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)blankstar At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart) (very good)

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Other books by Jill Shalvis:

Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)Head Over Hills by Jill Shalvis At Last by Jill Shalvis (and why Im a sap at heart)

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  1. Jill Shalvis is now one of my go to contemporary romance authors! They are perfect Friday night reads!

    • Stephanie /

      Shes greatIm glad to have come across her! I enjoyed the next one in this series, too.

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