Desert Isle Keeper
Sweet Little Lies
Sweet Little Lies is the start of a new series from Jill Shalvis and if you’re already a fan of hers, you will find nothing to complain about here. Pru is a secret-keeping, self-sufficient tourist tour-boat captain in San Francisco with a heart as big as the Pacific Ocean. Finn is a recalcitrant pub owner who works more hours than God sends to keep both his pub and his friends safe, successful, and happy. When Pru moves into the building above the pub, and therefore smack into Finn’s circle, the two are bound to meet, and when they do, sparks fly. But when that move appears more like a machination, Finn has some choices to make as they find their way to that happily ever after.
I am generally a sucker for Shalvis’ works. I gobble them up like the literary equivalent of chocolate ice cream, and they make my soul just as happy. I love how she writes tribes of friends (or, “framily” as I call them). I love that there are always slightly kooky side characters that somehow make the world seem fuller. I love that she seems to do all that work in, like, five pages. It’s magic, what this woman does, at least to me.
That doesn’t mean, by the way, that I don’t see the holes, or I don’t roll my eyes occasionally. It just means I choose not to care. I choose the spell she’s weaving over my imagination instead of my logic. There are enough tethers to reality, enough things to show me the characters could be real people who react to things in the ways that real people do, for me to go along with her. That balance is key, the balance between grounded characters and whimsical motivations. Shalvis hits the balance for me. Maybe she doesn’t for you, and that’s okay.
All contemporary romances require suspension of belief on some level and as the reader, you have to buy into the world that the author is building. So the fantasy, the conceit, of this particular world is that Pru’s parents were killed in a car accident when she was in her teens. Her father was driving drunk, and ended up killing several pedestrians as well; and Pru’s life was thrown into disarray. The guilt she carries about her parents’ choices that night has shaped her entire adult life.
She has taken “paying it forward” to a whole new level, taking any monetary thing she gained from their death and parlaying it into something for the family members affected by the crash. Her parents’ life insurance money goes to anonymously pay a deposit on a business, the proceeds from the sale of their house goes to paying for someone else’s college education, and so on and so forth. It’s beautiful, and I certainly know people who would make similar choices. It’s also slightly nutty, which Pru’s best friend frequently points out. She has to close this chapter and start living life for herself. And she will, she promises him. She just has one more loose end.
Finn has held being “the responsible one” as his identity for his entire adulthood. His father was abusive and awful up until the day he died, and Finn was always taking the brunt of the awful for his little brother. That little brother is now a grown man as well, but struggles with all that comes with being an adult. Finn shoulders a lot, and the readers can feel his weariness crying from the pages. You get the impression that he permanently has a beleaguered but resigned expression on his face. His very handsome face, as Shalvis is careful to point out. He’s metaphysically and physically exhausted and figures a fling with his pretty new neighbor could be fun.
And then said fling turns his world upside down.
I recommend Sweet Little Lies to anyone who wants a fun contemporary romance with people who struggle with risking their emotions, but ultimately find that it’s completely worth it when it’s with the right person.