Almost Just Friends – Jill Shalvis

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TITLE: ALMOST JUST FRIENDS
AUTHOR: Jill Shalvis
SERIES: Wildstone #4
RELEASE DATE: January 21, 2020
GENRE: Women's Fiction, strong romance focus
THEMES & TROPES: Small Town Romance, Family, Addiction, Grief
RATING: 5 Stars
CLIFFHANGER: No

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The WILDSTONE series by Jill Shalvis is the highlight of my reading time. These stories just warm my heart. In ALMOST JUST FRIENDS Piper meets Camden, who is pretty badass working for the DEA and the coast guard reserve. Piper and her siblings inherited a house and a couple of cottages from their grandparents. After raising her now grown up sister and brother she finally wants to live her own life, sell the property and go back to school. But she didn't see Cam coming, the guy she thought she could have a good time with and then leave. Neither did she realize that her wayward siblings had other plans with their inheritance. And secrets. So many secrets.

Piper was a self confessed control freak, making lists, not giving her trust easily. I loved that I still could follow her thought process although she was so closed off - this usually annoys me. Not Piper - she'd been a mom and caretaker of her siblings and never had the chance to actually live. Then Gavin and Winnie showed up with their baggage and secrets and at first I couldn't understand why they didn't tell Piper what was going on with them but in the end I understood that, like I hated to disappoint my parents so did Gavin and Winnie. I just wish they had trusted her a little bit more.
"You were my mom, my dad, my friend, and oftentimes also my enforcer," Gavin said. "But you've never been my sister. You've never let me be your brother. You've never let me be there for you, Piper, not once. You need to stop protecting me. I'm grown, I'm good, and that's all thanks to you. But I want to be siblings. I want to be equals. I want to be the one to help you for a change."
I adored the relationship Cam and Piper had. They were open and affectionate with one another. I don't know how Jill Shalvis does it but her heroes are among my favorites. They are always such good men with so much heart and humor and a huge capacity to love. Cam had some demons of his own but he felt really balanced and centered to me.

Piper wasn't in it for something long-term at first - whenever her former relationships became too serious she bailed. Adding to that was the fact that she wouldn't be around for much longer in Wildstone. But Cam was the kind of man who would give up everything for the right woman and for the first time in her life Piper learned what it meant to be a priority for someone. I loved that so much for her. She'd sacrificed so much of her life, she deserved happiness and it was so heartwarming to see that she finally got that.
Even when she was an unlovable mess, he looked at her in a way that stole her breath every time. He was her person.
As per usual with the Wildstone books we get three POVs. The third POV in this story belongs to Gavin who stole my heart. When he returns to Wildstone after years he has to make amends with the live he left without a word. CJ didn't make it hard for Gavin and he forgave his ex-lover pretty quickly. Gavin really had changed from the irresponsible boy. He took things seriously and didn't want to get off-track again.

I also loved Winnie and although I thought it was pretty awful to not trust Piper with everything she was a sweet girl. I wish Jill would give us her story. These books are complete stand-alones and the characters aren't connected except for the rare mention, so chances may be slim that we'll see more if Winnie. But, such is life and I'll get over it.

Whenever I'm on the last pages of a Jill Shalvis book my heart is always full. She writes the most satisfying stories that always make me laugh despite addressing serious topics like grief or addiction. Her characters have a warmth to them that make me come back for more of her books. She's a sure bet for me and although this series is shelved as "Women's Fiction" it is heavily focused on the romance. June can't come soon enough. That's when the next in this series, THE SUMMER DEAL, will be released.
"I can't be the girl who changes her plans for the guy," she whispered.
"I know." His hand covered hers. "But I can be the guy who changes his plans for a girl."


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