It’s not often that I find a new contemporary romance author who blows me away with the very first book. But that’s exactly what happened when I bought my first Jill Shalvis novel three years ago. The story was Head Over Heels, the third book in Shalvis’ insanely popular Lucky Harbor series. From the first page, I knew it was special — the main character was spunky and fun, and her love interest was brooding and hot. More importantly, they had chemistry. Banter and sweet moments and so much heat that I had to take breaks to fan myself. It’s an elusive concept, true chemistry between characters, and so many authors get it so wrong. But Shalvis isn’t one of them, and as soon as I finished Head Over Heels, I knew I was hooked for life.
Since then, I’ve read as many of her stories as I can get my hands on. Which, luckily for me, is a lot; Shalvis has written around 70 books and novellas, in at least seven different series. Can you even imagine!? Yesterday I complained because I had to get out of bed before 9 a.m.
Her latest story is an adorable little Christmas novella called One Snowy Night (Avon Impulse, November 8, 2016). It’s part of her Heartbreaker Bay series and it looks adorable (and not just because the cover has a couple making out in a pickup truck!). She also has a full length novel, Accidentally On Purpose (Avon, January 24, 2017). Also set in Heartbreaker Bay (the third book in the series), this story is about Elle Wheaton and Archer Hunt as they try to stay away from each other, but can’t quite give up on their love. Like with any other Shalvis novel, I’ll be first in line at the bookstore that day. Or, more likely, waiting impatiently for it to download onto my Kindle.
And while I’ll snap up any new Shalvis novel to hit the shelves, there are a few that I return to no matter what. These are the books that made me fall in love with Shalvis’ writing in the first place, and I know I’ll be reading these about once a year for the rest of time.
Here they are, my five favorite Shalvis novels and why you’ll fall for them just as hard as I did:
Head Over Heels (Forever Publishing, December 1, 2011)
As I mentioned above, this was my first Shalvis book, and it’s still my favorite. It tells the story of Chloe, the youngest sister of Tara and Maddie (who fell in love in the first two Lucky Harbor novels). The three half sisters inherited a rundown inn together in Lucky Harbor, and they’re trying to make their business work, despite their very different personalities. Chloe is the wild child of the bunch, seen as irresponsible and flighty, with a hard time settling down. When she sets her sights on local sheriff Sawyer, he’s only interested if she’s willing to take them seriously and cut out all the drama. But drama is Chloe’s middle name, and neither are sure that the other is worth the risk. Unfortunately (or fortunately), their incredible chemistry won’t be denied, and soon their bickering has turned into some hot and heavy hookups. I was smitten from the start by these two, especially with how considerate Sawyer is of Chloe, both with her feelings and her physical self, as she suffers from severe asthma. And when they do actually get it on, their scenes are hot, hot, hot. Their constant back-and-forth is fun to read, but it’s the way they both learn to bend a little for the other that makes this a truly great romance.
Sweet Little Lies (Avon Romance, June 28, 2016)
Shalvis’ new Heartbreaker Bay series launched this past summer, and it’s just as addictive as Lucky Harbor. Sweet Little Lies is the first in the series, and is set in a city rather than Shalvis’ usual quaint small towns. But it still has the feel of a smaller community, with friends and family rallying around each other no matter what. Pru is a boat captain (which is totally awesome) who has a major secret. She’s carrying around a lot of guilt, which brings her into Finn O’Riley’s life. Finn runs a local pub, and has been devoted to working hard ever since his father died, trying to give his little brother the life he thinks he deserves. But when Finn and Pru grow closer and closer, Pru’s secret threatens to tear them apart for good. I loved how these two became true friends as well as lovers, and the whole book has a magical quality that will pull you in from the start.
Nobody But You (Grand Central Publishing, March 29, 2016)
This is the third book in Shalvis’ Cedar Ridge series and it is definitely my favorite of the bunch. Our hero and heroine — Jacob and Sophie — are both pretty damaged and running from their pasts. Jacob is in the army and, after a falling out with his twin years ago, hasn’t been home since he was 18. After the death of a close friend, he decides to finally come back to Cedar Ridge to rest, heal and reconcile with his family. But then he finds the newly divorced Sophie illegally docking her boat on his property. Sophie’s divorce was nasty, and she’s determined to not get hurt again. She’s broke, with only the boat left to her name and nowhere else to go. She’s also not restful or relaxing, basically the exact opposite of what Jacob thinks he needs. But the two can’t seem to stay away from each other, and it’s through their growing love (and, omg!, their sexy chemistry) that the two are both able to heal.
Forever and a Day (Forever Publishing, July 31, 2012)
There was just something about Grace and Josh’s story that instantly tugged at my heartstrings. This is the sixth Lucky Harbor book, delivering a love story for sexy ER doctor, Josh. Grace is a newbie to Lucky Harbor, determined to start her life over. After a chance meeting, she starts walking Josh’s dog, and soon she’s taking care of his adorable son and his troubled younger sister as well. It’s not too long before the family is playing house, and the overworked Josh comes to rely on Grace in a way he never anticipated. As a longtime fan of The Sound of Music, I’m always a sucker for a falling-for-the-nanny plotline, and this is no exception. Plus Josh is hot and grouchy, and Grace is smart and capable. I’ll heart them forever.
Then Came You (Berkley Publishing, July 1, 2014)
Romance plus cute animals! What more could you want? The fifth book in Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism series once again intertwines a love of animals with, well, love. Emily is a veterinary intern who ends up at a small clinic in Sunshine, Idaho, so she can fulfill the terms of the scholarship that sent her to vet school. The only problem? Her hot new boss just happens to be the guy she had a one-night stand with in Reno. Their chemistry is out of control as they work together at the vet, knowing that their life plans don’t exactly match up. Emily is determined to move to LA, while Wyatt is just as determined to stay in Sunshine and put down permanent roots. I won’t spoil how (or if) the two work it out, but trust me when I say that you will not want to miss this book. These two are adorable together, from their cute banter to their mutual love of animals.