Merry Christmas Baby, Jill Shalvis

I have a confession to make. I’m behind on Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor books. SERIOUSLY behind. I think there are 5 or 6 of them I need to read. Did that stop me from reading this Christmas story with a Marriage in Jeopardy plot? OF COURSE NOT.

In Merry Christmas, Baby we go back to one of the three original sisters: Chloe. She’s 8 months pregnant and her husband Sawyer is heading out of town for a job for the DEA. As someone who lives with asthma, although nowhere near as debilitating as Chloe’s, she was always the one I connected to the most, and I enjoyed revisiting her and Sawyer to see how they’re dealing with her pregnancy and all the hormones that go with.

While Sawyer is physically gone throughout most of this story, his presence is very much felt, both with Chloe dealing with her insecurities regarding her marriage and being a mom, and with how she’s been acting lately because of those same things. When Sawyer does return, he’s very Sawyer. Strong, steady, and Chloe’s rock. The one who will be there for her forever. Or as he keeps telling her always.

At 65 pages this was a VERY quick read, but Ms. Shalvis delivers. Not only does it not seem rushed, but this book feels slow in the very best way. It’s the kind of slow that comes when you’re preparing for a new adventure, but need to take a few moments to stop and think about where you are and how you got there.

In this crazy holiday season, it was lovely to sit and take a break and enjoy Chloe and Sawyer and a glimpse into the lives of those in Lucky Harbor.

Lynda the Guppy
aka Merry Christmas, Fishy
aka The Fish With Sticks

Time Out, Jill Shalvis

This review was originally posted at Wicked Lil Pixie
on November 4, 2012

I want to apologize to all those “paper only” readers out there. I’m sorry! I’m woefully behind in my reviews, so this book is out of mass paperback distribution. I’m sure you can still get it from places like Harlequin.com or Amazon, and of course it’s readily available in digital format.

I LOVED this book. Actually, let me be clear. I LOVED this hero. You all know I’m a sucker for a good alpha hero, and I love the professional sports heroes, and boy does Mark deliver on all counts! We first “meet” Mark while Rainey watches a video of a bar fight. Mark is the coach for the fictional Mammoths hockey team, and they had just lost the Stanley Cup to the Anaheim Ducks in a controversial call. Both sets of players decide to take out their issues in a nice bar fight that the Mammoths players start.

On the tape, Mark’s eyes narrowed in on the fight as he walked fearlessly into the fray, pulling his players out of the pile as though they weighed nothing. A fist flew near his face and he deflected it, leveling the sender of said fist a long, hard look.

The guy fell backwards trying to get away.

“That’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen,” Lena murmered, watching the clip over Rainey’s shoulder.

Yes. Yes, it was. I’m hooked. How about you?

I liked that Ms. Shalvis didn’t do the usual, in that Mark was a coach, and not a player. She also managed to separate Mark (and 3 of his players) from the rest of the team and their usual lifestyle in a way that was believable. It didn’t feel contrived in any way.

There was outside conflict, of course, but Ms. Shalvis tends to keep that to a minimum and really focus on the relationship between the two leads. Ms. Shalvis managed to include subplots that included physical abuse as well as the damage and destruction caused by the recent forest fires in California. While the abuse subplot felt more like a plotting device, the forest fires are obviously something near and dear to Ms. Shalvis, as I believe she lives not too far from the areas most affected. Even though I’m a California girl (SoCal, not NorCal), I learned quite a bit about the regions hit hardest and what kind of reconstruction and hardships they were facing.

As for the main story, Mark and Rainey are two very headstrong, alpha types who don’t deal well with other people taking charge, so this book became a real battle of wills between the two. Although I knew there was going to be a happy ending, I was actually concerned for these two and worried they wouldn’t be able to learn to compromise in time.

One of the things that made this particular sports story stand out is Mark isn’t a misunderstood guy, nor is he a party boy who won’t settle, and he’s not a bad boy trying to rehabilitate. He’s a nice guy who does the right thing. He’s fair and tough, but willing to work just as hard, if not harder, than his players. He’s focused and a planner and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. He’s a serious guy who doesn’t need to be fixed, because he’s just fine with who he is.

Rainey’s the same way. She’s a bit of a workaholic and needs to slow down a little, but she’s also focused and determined and willing to do whatever it takes to help her kids, even if it means putting herself in the line of fire. She’s happy in her life, but soon she learns she’s happier with Mark IN her life.

This book is a category, so there’s limited space in which to develop a relationship, and Ms. Shalvis used the time honored trick of “they dated years ago.” LOL And I’m not against that. In fact, my favorite stories are those where they two characters have known each other for a long time. I feel you get a better connection with them, because they have a stronger history with each other. I certainly connected with Mark and Rainey (ESPECIALLY Mark LOL).

When I sat down to read this book, I finished it in a little under 2 hours. I had to put it down for a few minutes in the middle and I resented that! I wanted to know NOW how it ended! I wanted to get back to Mark PRONTO! And Rainey. Rainey, too. But mainly Mark.

Seriously? Can you tell I fell completely for Mark? Or am I too subtle?

Rating: 5 Stars