Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis

Forever and a Day (2012)
Jill Shalvis
Grade: A
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: hot
Source: NetGalley
Lucky Harbour series: (4) Lucky in Love, (5) At Last, (6) Forever and a Day

When Grace Brooks was stranded in Eat Me diner, Lucky Harbour during a freak snowstorm several months ago, her plan was never to stay in town for very long. The adopted daughter of a rocket scientist and research biologist, her parents have always had high expectations for their only child. Grace might not have followed them into science, but she has her CPA and is expected to earn a nice salary with a big firm. Instead, she’s living in a B&B, earning money by delivering flowers and modelling for art classes amongst other things. At least she has her new best friends, Amy and Mallory to turn to. And chocolate – can’t forget the chocolate.

Dr Josh Scott has way too much on his plate and not enough hours in the day to cope with it all. A car accident five years ago killed both his parents and left his younger sister Anna in a wheelchair; Anna wants to use her compensation money to go travelling across Europe with her flaky new boyfriend; Josh’s ex-wife deserted him several years ago and he is bringing up their son, Toby, by himself; Anna has just bought Toby a dog and in his excitement, Toby has taken to barking instead of speaking; Josh is torn between the ER and the practice set up by his dad which he's being pressurised to sell and; Tank (the dog) is a nightmare on four legs that Josh only wishes he could get rid of.

Grace is hired as a last-resort dog-walker despite the ad belonging to someone else; the only thing she manages to prove is how dreadful she is with dogs. Despite this, Josh is desperate and finds himself re-hiring her (he fired her on the first day before he discovered that Tank had shit himself inside the house) when all other options desert him. When the nanny fails to turn up one day, Grace finds herself promoted to a $1000/week live-in nanny and dogminder. Besides looking after Toby and Tank and attending her interviews with big Seattle firms, Grace is also tasked with the job of finding a replacement for herself. With the prospect of the rent-free guesthouse to herself and very close proximity to the scorching Josh who has a tendency to sleep naked, how could she possibly refuse?

The attraction between Grace and Josh is electric; from his first sighting of Grace, standing in the sea, sundress soaked through so he can see her white-lace underwear while she searches frantically for a missing Tank, Josh is smitten. Grace needs some spontaneity in her life. For too long, she’s conformed to her parents’ expectations and she’s currently leading them to believe that she’s landed herself a well-paid, high-flying job because they would not be able to handle any less. For once, Grace needs to go for what she wants, damn what her parents would think. For the moment, what she wants is Josh; luckily, he wants her too. But both are crystal clear on one thing: no commitment; only fun.

As Grace fast becomes an integral component in Josh’s life, being the only nanny to actually stay with them without quitting, having the magical ability to get Toby to speak actual English as well as take none of Anna’s bullshit, Josh finds himself falling down a route that he promised himself he’d never take again …

I usually stray away from contemporary romance – small town America contemporary romance in particular – because they all seem to blur together and be very same-y same-y. FaaD is a glorious breath of fresh air – especially in this heatwave weather (well, it was heatwave weather when I started this review). It was funny, the characters magnetic and the dialogue witty and smooth. Definitely the best funny contemporary that I've read in a long time.

The chapter-header-things are sublime. I think there’s a proper word for those quotes/phrases/extracts that you get at the beginning of a new chapter in books, but I don’t know what it is. Anyway, Jill Shalvis is amazing at it. I’m always iffy about them because I think it's a hard thing to get right: the author needs to make sure that it's related to the story because otherwise it's just pointless, but without drawing the reader's attention away from the plot - Jill Shalvis manages this perfectly. Elizabeth Hoyt always has something of a side-story/fairytale thing going on in all her books via the chapter-header-thing, but I find them more annoying that enjoyable because they can get too long and distracting, however well-written and smoothly each extract ties in with the previous one. Ann Brashares always had a quote at the beginning of each chapter in her Sisterhood books which I loved, but I never understood the significance of them. Gena Showalter’s Catch That Mate is another brilliant example. In Forever and a Day, all the chapter-header-things are related to chocolate and there's enough mention of Grace, Amy and Mallory's chocolate obsession to ensure that it was relevant and amusing. Here are some of my favourites:

5. Chocolate is good for three things. Two of them can't be mentioned in polite company.
6. There are four basic food groups: plain chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate.
8. If chocolate is the answer, the question is irrelevant.
17. Chocolate is nature's way of making up for Mondays.
18. Chocolate is better than sex. It can't make you pregnant, and it's always good.
21. Always have chocolate on the To Do list to make sure you get at least one thing done.
22. Life without chocolate is like a beach without water.
24. Chocolate is cheaper than therapy, and you don't even need an appointment.
26. Save Earth. It's the only planet with chocolate.

Yes, a lot but aren’t they all awesome? Light and funny without being too engineered or forced, they provide an additional burst of laughter to look forward to, that break up the text without taking away from it. I can only hope that the other Lucky Harbour books also have a chapter-header-thing that are just as great.

Grace is flat-out awesome. It’s a classic case of over-expectant parents and she feels like a failure when she has to lie to them about her current job because it doesn't meet their aspirations for her. When Mallory first presents Grace with a shoebox full of receipts and begs her to sort them out with payment in chocolate cupcakes, it was obvious what was coming. Soon, we saw every other shop-owner and their mother push their own receipts and books at Grace with a plea for her help with their finances and she finds herself with the very viable option of setting up her own accountancy firm. Predictable, but no less sweet to watch unfold.

Josh has to be the hottest doctor I’ve ever had the pleasure reading. He’s barely keeping his head above water what with the amount of work on his plate, but family still comes first and it clenches my heart to see how dedicated he is, even when Anna and Toby don’t appreciate it. Toby was the product of a one-night-stand and while that doesn’t make him love his son any less, Josh is still very clear that he won’t allow his lust to take over and reproduce history. Thus, his descent into the land of the infatuated is completely adorable as we see that he is helpless to prevent his growing feelings towards Grace. Love it!

Toby has to be one of the cutest kids I’ve ever read. He’s convinced that if he’s the best Jedi warrior ever, (he has his own lightsaber too) his mum will love him again and come back to live with them for good. He’s generally a bit of a terror, but I figure it’s mostly a result of a lack of parental supervision/attention. Josh is way too busy to spend much time with Toby and Anna has a tendency to teach Toby bad habits to spite Josh. Being a Jedi warrior and the new dog Tank are his newest obsessions and combined with his hyperactivity, it’s no wonder that nannies don’t seem stay long. Grace manages to provide Toby with the attention that he craves. I love it where it’s the kids who declare their love for the surrogate parent first and it’s beautiful to watch the relationship between Grace and Toby develop.

FaaD is delightfully funny. I found myself laughing ever page of the way and hungering after the next outrageous thing that would happen. The events never seem forced and they were that perfect side of light and unexpected, yet never once verged into the ridiculous. Ms Shalvis knows how to strike that balance and she did it wonderfully.

I’ve used a plethora of adjectives to describe FaaD and their over-abundance is well-deserved, I assure you. I am nowhere near on-track to reach my 2012 reading target, but so far, FaaD without doubt features in my top ten. It’s my number one pick for contemporary romance this year, but that’s not a difficult feat considering that I’ve only read something like half-a-dozen contemporaries this year, if even that. FaaD is one of those books that you wish had a sequel because you never want the story to end, but at the same time, you don’t want a sequel to ruin its perfection. Making doctors sexier than ever, I will definitely come back to Jill Shalvis and FaaD again and again.

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