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Sweet Little Lies: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2016
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“It’s always such a pleasure to read Shalvis’s contemporary romances, and this one—the exciting first in a series—is no exception. [...] The whole package—the glamorous big city locale, the appealing secondary characters, and that Shalvis magic with snappy dialogue—portends a dynamite series.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A colorful San Francisco setting, a welcoming Irish pub, a group of quirky better-’n-family friends, and a capricious wishing well provide the backdrop for a romance that is both heartrending and hilarious. Shalvis’s new series is a stunner.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Fall in love with Jill Shalvis! She’s my go-to read for humor and heart.” (--Susan Mallery, New York Times bestselling author)
“Hot, sweet, fun, and romantic! Pure pleasure!” (– Robyn Carr, New York Times bestselling author)
“Engaging writing, characters that walk straight into your heart, touching, hilarious…” (Library Journal)
“Healthy doses of humor, lust, and love work their magic as Shalvis tells a story . . . Wit, smoking-hot passion, and endearing tenderness . . . a big winner.” (Publishers Weekly on Head Over Heels)
“Witty, fun, and the characters are fabulous.” (Fresh Fiction)
“Ms. Shalvis characters leap off the page.” (Romantic Times BOOKclub)
“Shalvis has created a love story romance fans can’t help but root for and grounds it in an affable community they’ll adore.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Shalvis launches the first in her Heartbreaker Bay series on a high note with a truly unforgettable romance that will delight longtime fans and new readers alike with its irresistible mix of sassy wit, snappy dialogue, and surfeit of smoking hot sensuality.” (Booklist)
From the Back Cover
Choose the one guy you can’t have . . .
As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.
Fall for him—hard . . .
Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.
And then tell him the truth.
Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . . .
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This is the most wildly subjective issue of the lot, but I just don't like Jill Shalvis's writing style. I'm all for short, simple sentences, but her writing is so basic, often so lacking in flair and color and with so many conspicuously missing punctuation marks (nerdy pet peeve, I realize!), that it reads almost as if a pre-teen wrote it. And it's not just the prose that I find lacking----it's the dialogue as well. These are alleged adults who spend most of their time fixating on "who's gettin' some" and having the kind of conversations about sex that my 12-year-old godson would find juvenile.
I'm all for humor and silliness, and obviously I do expect contemporary romance novels to make a lot of jokes and references to lust and love. It's a matter of type and degree, though: the humor doesn't feel remotely clever, just childish and not remotely resembling the thoughts and conversations of any adults I know. (And I do know plenty of adults who talk about love and sex---just not 99% of the time they open their mounths, and they tend to it with a LITTLE more wit, insight, etc.!) Also, I hope you like curse words...the ones this site won't permit me to type :) Shalvis uses them a lot, and while I'm not puritanical about these things, it just feels gratuitous and adds to the impression that giggling pre-adolescents wrote large sections of the book, trying to exploit this golden opportunity to curse constantly without being grounded :)
A very related criticism is that the characters and their relationships with one another, both the romantic and platonic ones, are about as shallow as a puddle. And here's the thing: I LOVE fluffy, light and even silly romances to the point where I won't even read the overly self-serious ones. Unfortunately, the characters in this and so many of Shalvis's other books feel so disappointingly flat and one-dimensional, and other than repeatedly exchanging the sort of unfunny comments about sex and various "hotties" that, again, would have even most junior high students rolling their eyes, there's little indication of who any of these people are and how they connect with each other. That's true of both the friendships AND the romances, unfortunately. Speaking of which...
I think it says something that I've gotten this far in critiquing a romance novel without really mentioning the central romance. As so often happens when I've tried Jill Shalvis's books, the dynamic between the H and h feels a whole lot more like lust than anything even resembling love. And that's not just because of the usual drawn out foreplay/sex scenes, but because of what ISN'T found in between those scenes: emotional and/or intellectual connections that feel authentic. As others have noted, Pru is defined almost solely by her guilt over a past incident that isn't even her own fault. Believe me, I get being guilt-ridden, so this should have made her relatable and sympathetic to me, but instead I found myself agreeing with the reviewers who just wanted her to get the heck over it already. As for the other elements of Pru's personality...well, there really aren't any, other than the usual 'likes food and sex and has a cute pet' thing we get from literally almost every Shalvis heroine. (Not to miminize said pet, of course---I'm not kidding when I say that the animals in Jill Shalvis's books are often by far the most lovable and enjoyable characters!) If you asked me to describe her personality, I think I'd just have to stare at you blankly, at a loss to come up with even one defining trait.
Similarly, Finn is indistinguishable from almost every single Shalvis hero I've ever encountered: the stock 'alpha.' She really is OBSESSED with alphas, and even has characters frequently remind us in stilted dialogue that said guys are 'such alphas,' which I guess readers are supposed to find so enthralling that they won't care when said alpha has no personality, quirks, layers, etc. The problem is that they're all alphas in the exact same generic, surprisingly dull ways: repressing their softer emotions, commitment phobic for most of the novel, super protective, tough, hardworking, like cursing and sex and beer like 'manly men' do...I mean, that's nice and all, but it doesn't make for an especially nuanced or memorable character, especially when she's written more or less the EXACT same hero so very, very, very many times!
And then we have the fact that this novel is almost 400 pages with maybe 25-30 pages worth of actual plot. As other reviewers have pointed out, these two rather lackluster characters just keep encountering each other and thinking the same exact lustful thoughts (which they then act on in rather rote foreplay/sex scenes, of course!) and have the same exhausting miscommunications. That's literally the "plot." The story technically hinges on when Pru will finally, finally, FINALLY reveal a not-nearly-as-interesting-as-the-author-thinks-it-is secret to Finn. The reader knows what this secret is so there's not even a shred of suspense there, and we're just impatiently waiting a gazillion or so pages for her to clue in Finn and the inevitable argument that arises from it. It makes for a tedious, frustrating reading experience.
My standards are comfortably low when it comes to plotting in romances---I read this genre for the characters, the dialogue, joy, humor, hope, and the feeling of being alive that the best ones provide. But this one somehow has even less actual story/plot than most, and the aforementioned dialogue, characters and overall tone and style aren't nearly good enough to compensate for it. I mostly enjoyed the sample, but that turned out to be the default highlight of a very dull and at times outright irritating book.
Anyway, I think I finally learned my lesson: I just don't like Jill Shalvis's writing. In case anyone else out there is in this tiny minority with me, just know that you're not alone! And even for readers who do like some of her books and her general writing style, characterizations, dialogue, etc., this really isn't one of the better ones she's done. And that's putting it politely :)
The story takes place in San Francisco where Pru Harris is a tour boat captain for Pier 39 SF Tours. Finn O'Reilly enters her life in a very unorthodox way. Finn and his brother Sean own and operate O'Reilly's Pub, which is located near Pru's apartment. As you read the book, it will become apparent why Pru lives so close to O'Reilly's Pub.
Pru is a kindhearted person, who wishes to make amends to people impacted by a tragedy that her parents were responsible for. While she has lost her parents at a young age, she cashes in their life insurance policy and sells the home she grew up in to spend the money, not on herself, but helping those people.
Below Pru's apartment is a courtyard with a wishing well where people throw coins to find happiness and love. Pru makes a wish, not for herself, but for Finn that he would find love. Litttle does she realize that true love would also find her. But will it last? Enter Jake, who is Pru's boss and also her protector, and will make sure that Pru's heart is not broken.
Without giving too much away, two of the most humorous parts of the book involve a dart game and a dumbwaiter. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens.
I have never read a book by Jill that I didn't love and if this is your first read by her, I'm sure it won't be your last. If you are a long time fan of Jill's books, I'm sure you will enjoy this first book of her new series.
Finn is just an all around good guy. Life dealt him a raw deal where he had to raise his younger brother after an accident and he did the best he could. He’s not a bitter guy at all but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t wish things were a little different from time to time. I liked his personality, his loyalty to those closest to him, and his determination to make sure he and his brother did well. Finn was great, he just needed to learn to take care of himself too and I could totally see why Pru was so drawn to him. Heck I was halfway in love with him by the end of the first half of the book!
And Pru, bless her giving heart, she was just as great. She has a big heart but I also got the sense that she was lonely. She had her best friend but I never got the sense that their friendship was like Finn and his wacky group. Pru spent a lot of time trying to right her parents’ wrongs that she was neglecting herself but she was also witnessing in some cases the devastation that her parents had caused with their reckless actions. I could relate to and understand her hesitation to tell Finn the truth, especially after she got to know him and his friends and was welcomed into their group. For someone who didn’t have much of a family, that group of people became something she didn’t know she was missing.
Finn and Pru were just so good together. Even when they were trying (and failing) to be “just friends” there was something so warm and dependable about what was going on between them. I fell in love with their romance so to speak. It was quirky, fun, sexy, and funny at the best times.
Jill Shalvis introduced such a wonderful cast of characters in Sweet Little Lies and they’re really the backbone of the story to me. I learned a lot about Finn by the friends he had. Also, they’re so good for a laugh at the most inopportune times. Their presence really drives home the “Family is the People You Choose” theme and that’s super relatable to me. I can’t pick a favorite of the group because they all seem to operate as an important part of a whole. They’re just great.
Final Verdict: Sweet Little Lies is one of those books that checks pretty much all the boxes on my list. Finn and Pru are just darling together and when you add in a group of zany friends who all have different personalities, strong opinions, and a lot of love for each other then you really can’t go wrong.
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