Miss Bates has enjoyed many a Shalvis romance. In particular, she liked the Animal Magnetism and Lucky Harbor series, but there was something about them that made her abandon them. Miss Bates would say this is because Shalvis tends to start strong and end weak and can’t let a series go after the first successful volumes. Nevertheless, Shalvis’s talent for quick, funny dialogue and smooth prose convinced MissB. to delve into the San Francisco-set Heartbreaker Bay series, of which Accidentally On Purpose is third.
Shalvis’s romances are signature: strong, mouthy heroine meets strong, silent, dominating, domineering alpha hero. Accidentally On Purpose is true to type. Elle Wheaton is independent, successful, and determined to become more so. She is the Pacific Pier Building’s general manager and working toward an accounting degree. She’s blonde, curvy, beautiful and fills out a wrap-around dress and stilettos to make men sigh. Only one man is impervious to her charms: the building security firm head, Archer Hunt. Turns out, however, that Archer and Elle share a past, a past Archer can’t seem to get beyond to the desirable, desiring woman Elle has become. Years ago, desperate sixteen-year-old Elle was caught in a heist, trying to return stolen property to save her sister’s life, and rookie cop Archer rescued her, saving her from the clinker and a life on the streets. Now, Elle’s confidence and success aren’t sufficient to help Archer ever see her as anyone other than the frightened, hungry teen he first encountered. Archer and Elle are friends of a sort, though their exchanges run more to antagonistic than camaraderie.
Like her series, Shalvis’s Accidentally On Purpose starts out strong and peters out. The novel’s first half centres on Archer and Elle’s antagonism. It’s fun and funny. Moreover, Shalvis’s prose has an ease to it that makes it pleasant to read. Archer is arrogant and bossy. Elle is assertive and opinionated and yet. Though Archer likes and wants her, he insists on paternalistic protectiveness as his default Elle-mode. As the novel progresses, it’s obvious Archer has orchestrated much of Elle’s success. He can’t stop seeing her as the scared sixteen-year-old, or rather he can’t stop behaving like the protective cop. He sees her as something entirely different, but won’t give in to his feelings or desire. Elle is smart and she’s got Archer pegged: “Her and Archer’s antagonistic attitude toward each other had been well documented. the thing was, Archer thought he ran the world, including her. But no one ran her world except her.” In the end, there was something inorganic about Elle and Archer’s relationship’s growth. Archer had sudden, unsubstantiated revelations about how strong and independent Elle had become. In the meanwhile, Elle put herself in danger needlessly and ignored Archer’s reasonable warnings.
Archer and Elle skirted each other, antagonized each other, insulted each other and never really showed character much less relationship development . And this may be why Miss Bates tends to abandon Shalvis’s series. Shalvis really only has one mode and an irritating one at that: her seemingly tough-as-nails independent heroines aren’t all that independent and her alpha heroes’ revelations about their heroines’ strength and independence don’t seem to change the way they behave toward them. Shalvis’s h/h are always surrounded by annoyingly slapsticky friends who then become the one-note wonders of the next book in the series as heroes and heroines. Miss Bates read her way to the end, kind of enjoying Shalvis’s smooth writing, but never convinced by her themes or characterization. In a way, MissB’s relationship with Shalvis’s romances echo how Elle and Archer decide to spend the rest of their lives together: ” ‘But we irritate each other.’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘but I’ve discovered that I want to spend every irritated moment with you.’ ” With her reading sidekick, Miss Austen, Miss Bates says Accidentally On Purpose provides “real comfort,” Emma.
Jill Shalvis’s Accidentally On Purpose is published by Avon Books. It was released on January 4th and may yet be found at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Avon Books, via Edelweiss.