I think I've mentioned my love of all things Jill Shalvis and Lucky Harbor, but just in case I haven't--I LOVE JILL SHALVIS AND LUCKY HARBOR!!!
Phew. Now that that's out of my system, let's get down to business. Christmas in Lucky Harbor is a compilation of the first two books in the series (Simply Irresistible and The Sweetest Thing) plus two Christmas themed novellas (Kissing Santa Claus and Under the Mistletoe). If I were being honest, and for the most part, I try to always be honest, I would have preferred to have the third book in the series (Head Over Heels) instead of the novellas.
Maddie Moore is done with men. Her last boyfriend was a loser with a capital L. He was an abusive jerk, who made Maddie feel small. Unfortunately, he held an important role in her company and after doing something really stupid, Maddie was out of a job and inexplicably without a home. After her mother dies, Maddie and her sisters, Tara and Chloe, head to Lucky Harbor to check out the inn they inherited. What she didn't expect was meeting and nearly killing the gorgeous town mayor immediately after getting there.
Jax Cullen left his high-powered life in Seattle behind for a simpler existence in Lucky Harbor, the small town in Washington state, where he'd grown up and the only place he'd ever been truly happy. Now, he only takes on the type of jobs that he wants. Upon meeting Maddie, he's instantly intrigued by her. She's gorgeous and smart, but is obviously coming back from a bad break up that colors everything in her world.
This is our introduction to Lucky Harbor, Washington, and again with the honesty, I think that this isn't a perfect introduction as it lacks some of the things that make the Lucky Harbor series what it is. For instance, Lucille, the white-haired, tracksuit wearing, social media fiend, who plays a big role in all of the books, is almost non-existent in this first book. While she is there, she doesn't have the bigger than life quality that she has in all of the other books, starting with The Sweetest Thing. Also, there isn't quite as much of the town here. Yes, we meet Ford and Sawyer, the two heroes of the next books in the series, but I didn't feel like we got a representative picture of what Lucky Harbor was from this first book.
I also had a couple of issues with Jax. He was absolutely the perfect match for Maddie. He didn't push her and gave her the space she needed to be able to trust him, but he never really gave the whole of himself to her. Up until he had to, he didn't tell her the most important things about himself. From her point of view, he was totally open with her, but he wasn't. Not about the things that were important. I do believe that he would have eventually opened up, but the fact is, he didn't have a choice. His hand was forced.
That said, I did like the book. I just don't think that it was enough to get a reader into the series if it was the first book they picked up--mine was a much later book.
The Sweetest Thing
Tara Daniels owns 1/3 of an inn with her sisters, Chloe and Maddie, and as the oldest of the sisters, she feels a responsibility towards them. She feels like she needs to be the perfect sibling, but her life is total chaos. She's been divorced for two years, hates her job, and has a big secret. When she was a teenager, she got pregnant and gave her daughter up for adoption. Back in Lucky Harbor for the first time since she was 17, the guilt of what she did weighs heavily on her mind, especially since she sees her ex on an almost daily basis. If only he'd gotten fat and bald...
Ford Walker is not known for his commitment skills. He likes his life nice and simple, but Tara is far from simple. She's also the only woman he's ever loved. Neither of them are the same people they were 17 years earlier, but can they make it work this time?
The Sweetest Thing is my favorite Lucky Harbor book. Everything that was missing in the first book was in this one. Plus, Ford and Tara have outstanding chemistry. Even when she doesn't want to have anything to do with him, they just sizzle. They're not perfect people (where's the fun in that???), but they're perfect for each other. They just didn't know it.
This book had all the feels. All of them. This is one of the things that Ms. Shalvis excels at and this book was no exception. One minute you're laughing at the banter between the leads, the next you're white knuckle-ing tin fear for the characters' lives and love, and then you're heart aches over the possibility that they're not going to make it. Then, she throws in the daughter they gave up and the guilt and hope just jumps right off the page.
Kissing Santa Claus
Sandy works for the town of Lucky Harbor, but she wants to travel the world, especially if she got to do it was sexy NASCAR driver, Logan. Unfortunately, she hasn't seen Logan since their weeklong fling five months earlier.
Logan hasn't been able to get Sandy off of his mind. She was gorgeous and fun. Everything he wanted in his groupies. It wasn't until he left Lucky Harbor that he realized that she was more than just another groupie.
I don't get the purpose of this novella. Logan was not my favorite character in The Sweetest Thing. He came off as narcissistic and someone who didn't know what he really wanted. He was also very one dimensional, present in that story only as a complication for Tara and Ford's relationship (he was Tara's ex-husband). Sandy was only in a total of two or three scenes in The Sweetest Thing and based on what we saw of her in that it is hard to take her as anything more than a groupie. Nothing I saw in this novella made me change my mind about either of them. I definitely didn't see them as being a couple in love. Just like Tara before her, she seemed to be a prize to be won and not a person that Logan could actually love.
Under the Mistletoe
Mia is heading to Lucky Harbor to attend her aunt's wedding and wants her boyfriend to go with her. Unfortunately, he wasn't as enthused as she'd have liked.
Nick freaked out when Mia presented him with a plane ticket. Families were not his strong suit. Sure, he loved Mia, but he wasn't comfortable meeting her entire biological family.
This was slightly better than Kissing Santa Claus, but nowhere near the level of the full length books that preceded it. Nick came off as not knowing what he wanted. All Mia wanted was for someone to "pick" her because she apparently has some abandonment issues from being given up for adoption by Tara and Ford. I get that, but I don't think it was dealt with properly because this was such a short book.
While I love this series and The Sweetest Thing in particular, the extras actually bring this book down. I had high hopes for Under the Mistletoe because I really liked Mia in her parents' book, but I was woefully disappointed in it.