Winning a RITA is a Romance Author’s Pulitzer Prize; it’s their time to stand at a podium chanting, “You like my writing! You really, really, like my writing!”
The RITA Hall of Fame is filled with authors such as Nora Roberts, Kristan Higgins, Barbara O’Neal, J.R. Ward, Tamera Alexander, Susan Wiggs, Lisa Kleypas, Kristin Hannah, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, just to name a few.
So this year, when Jill Shalvis won the Rita for best contemporary romance for Simply Irresistible, you can imagine her elation, being nominated six times before and all.
Maddie Moore’s whole life needs a makeover. In one fell swoop, Maddie loses her boyfriend (her decision) and her job (so not her decision). But rather than drowning her sorrows in bags of potato chips, Maddie leaves L.A. to claim the inheritance left by her free-spirited mother-a ramshackle inn nestled in the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington.
Starting over won’t be easy. Yet Maddie sees the potential for a new home and a new career-if only she can convince her two half-sisters to join her in the adventure. But convincing Tara and Chloe will be difficult because the inn needs a big makeover too.
The contractor Maddie hires is a tall, dark-haired hottie whose eyes-and mouth-are making it hard for her to remember that she’s sworn off men. Even harder will be Maddie’s struggles to overcome the past, though she’s about to discover that there’s no better place to call home than Lucky Harbor.
I grabbed a copy of Simply Irresistible at RWA’s National Conference. Jill was there, signing books, and was so sweet and bubbly. Walking away from her table, I perused the blurb on the back cover. An undignified snort escaped me. I don’t give snorts away so freely. This couldn’t be a contemporary romance, I said to myself… still snorting. I don’t really read straight up romance, but a silly thing like a snort and a nice smile from the author go a long way.
Welcome to Lucky Harbor! Home to 2,100 lucky people . And 10,100 shellfish.
About time. Exercising muscles she hadn’t utilized in too long, she smiled, and in celebration of arriving at her designated destination, she dug into the bag of salt and vinegar potato chips at her side. Chips cured just about everything, from the I-lost-my-job blues to the my-boyfriend-was-a-jerk regrets to the tentatively hopeful celebration of a new beginning.
The first sentence really had me going, the humor, the feel for the author’s voice, and a sense of who this Maddie was already. But that second sentence regarding potato chips was the clincher. Potato chips are my Achilles’s heel, the bane of my existence, and all the junk in my trunk is compliments of the crunchy wonder. (Sour Cream and Onion to be precise). This junk food eating heroine, with all the sarcasm to make my heart melt, won me over. Jill Shalvis simply had me, the non-romance reader, and the read—pun intended—was simply irresistible.
While I read, I laughed, snorted some more, and my eyeballs were even a little sweaty at parts. This is a love story, obviously, but also a family saga. I fell in love with all the characters. The sisters have such a great chemistry and to watch them bond made me call my own sis for a long overdue chat. This book has both a heart and a soul.
Maddie is a wounded heroine and Jax shows her a gentleness and patience that made my heart sigh throughout. Their passion is full of some serious Ha Cha Cha-ing. The love between the sisters and the loyalty amongst this small town had me sniffling in places too.
Lucky Harbor could be a real town, with real people, not just some hyped-up-hottie-filled Mecca with millionaires doing nothing but boning all day and night. The setting, the characters, and plot made me feel like I lived there and watched from a bar stool or facebook as the plot unfolded. In this contemporary romance, Jill uses social media to help bring the couple together. It’s hilarious and sweet and, well, insert title here.
Jill says about her thought process for the series: “When I began brainstorming the sexy contemporary romance series about three estranged sisters who get stuck together running a dilapidated beach resort, I decided I was out of my mind. I don’t have sisters. I have a brother, and we like each other just fine. Then at the dinner table one night, my three teenage heathens started bickering and fighting, and I just stared at them in awe and wonder. I had my fodder! ‘Keep fighting,’ I told them —much to their utter shock, since I’ve spent the past fifteen years begging them to get along.
“After that night, it was a piece of cake to write the sisters—Maddie, Tara, and Chloe—their claws barely sheathed, with resentment and affection vying for space, stuck together in the small Washington State beach town of Lucky Harbor.
“So then all that I had left to do was find the three sexy guys who could handle them. I’m a big romance reader as well an author, and for me, it’s always about the hero. It doesn’t matter what he looks like, or what he does for a living, or even who his family and friends are—it’s about his heart.”
Um, yes, Jill. It’s all about how big his heart is. I agree. Simply irresistible—like sour cream and onion potato chips.