Jill Shalvis is back with the fourth installment of her contemporary Wildstone series, Almost Just Friends. Just like every other book she’s written, you can count on this one to make you feel good. Shalvis has a knack for creating charming characters who are vulnerable yet strong. They’re likable, relatable and possess the ability to face any challenge head-on.
On her 30th birthday, at a celebration she neither asked for nor wanted, the reality of Piper Manning’s life rings true: She is responsible for “gathering and keeping all us misfits together and sane.” That’s her friends talking, but the same goes for her family—Piper is the glue that holds them together. She’s raised her siblings, built a career as an EMT and has started refurbishing her grandparents’ lake house. Once she sells the valuable property, she’ll finally have the money to pursue her dreams of becoming a physician’s assistant.
But change is scary. Despite the responsibilities Piper has had for over half her life and now her yearning for the next chapter, taking the first step is harder than she thought. And despite all the planning, hoping and wishing she holds close in her heart, falling in love doesn’t factor into the chaos of her life.
Then she meets Camden Reid, a secretive DEA agent and Coast Guard reservist. Camden, a man in search of an anchor but with no interest in romance or love, finds Piper to be both a conundrum and irresistible. He’s drawn to her strength and vulnerability (which we’ll call the “Shalvis specialty”), and Piper challenges him more than anything he’s ever experienced.
I know it’s only January, but Almost Just Friends is my favorite book of the year so far. It’s the message we need for this new decade: Everybody struggles with change and challenge and hardship, but if you’re brave and take a leap of faith, you can be happy.