He’s so Fine by Jill Shalvis is the second to last book in the Lucky Harbor series. I have stuck with this series through ups and downs but I have enjoyed the last two more than any of the books since the original trilogy.
It has been several years since the oil-rig accident that killed Cole’s best-friend and left him with PTSD and other emotional issues, which Cole generally refuses to talk about. Most days ignoring it all works well enough that no one really notices that he is still struggling but early one morning prepping one of their charter boats, sparks startle him and he falls into the water. Before Cole can haul himself out of the water he is almost drowned by Olivia whose ill thought out but well intentioned rescue attempt re-injures Cole shoulder and leaves them both almost hypothermic.
Unlike Cole who is rooted in Lucky Harbor, with family, friends, business and history there, Olivia is a newcomer. She has never really had a home to call her own and has been looking for place to set down roots. Cautious and wary she has generally keep to herself and has been satisfied with simply admiring Cole and his partners from afar. However Becca (the heroine in the last book) and fiancee to Sam, one of Cole's partners has befriended her and has slowly been making connections around town. But like Becca, Olivia has secrets about her past she rather not have become well known in Lucky Harbor as it would ruin her new start. She once use to be a child TV star, complete with a pushy stage-mom, jealous sibling and a horrible public post-career meltdown. Olivia used the last of her TV money as start-up funds for the her small antique store in Lucky Harbor. Far from LA, she hopes her new name is enough to help start off a new life.
The flashes of skin and the tantalizing brief touches Olivia and Cole shared as they tried to warm up after their dip in the harbor are enough to intrigue Cole, who hasn’t dated much since his last girlfriend broke his heart in the days after the oil-rig accident. Olivia however is trying to fend off her family’s attempts to bring her back to LA for another TV paycheck, and is wary of starting anything with Cole. Cole is persistent and charming enough that Olivia finds herself getting involved with him against her better judgement. Olivia has very little experiences with conventional relationships, everyone in her life has always wanted something from her, even if when they were catering to her needs. Going out on dates, meeting friends and family are wholly out of her realm of experience and she is confused and stressed by it all. Cole knows there is much she isn't telling him but out of self-protective habit answers his questions with evasions & half-truths and feeling guiltier and guiltier as she realizes their relationship might turn more long-lasting than she expected.
I liked that in the end it was Cole’s secrets that threatened and endangered their relationship more than Olivia’s. The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the book was Shalvis’ tendency to use “Alpha” as descriptor of Cole and the other Lucky Harbor heroes. It feels too meta, especially when the heroine isn’t a romance geek using the term ironically and it kicked me out of the story every time. It was a small flaw in a otherwise fun and romantic book.
I am thankful for the review copy of He’s so Fine provided by Grand Central via NetGalley.