Leah grew up with a perfectionist father who seemed to see nothing good in Leah. She was constantly told she'd never amount to anything and couldn't do anything right. She was more than happy to leave everything and everyone in Lucky Harbor behind when she left, including her good friend Jack. Years later now, Leah is back in Lucky Harbor to run her grandmother's bakery while her Grandma recovers from knee surgery. Leah has never really settled anywhere since she left Lucky Harbor, and she is not sure where she'll head next after Lucky Harbor. She never did finish pre-med, political science, journalism or culinary school - then she was on the reality cooking show Sweet Wars...but what's next is still up in the air since no one knows the outcome of the show yet. She does know she loves baking though...it is one of the few for sure things in her life.
Jack watched his mother fall apart after his father was killed on the job as a fire fighter. Now he is also a fire fighter, and he's determined his line of work and a long term relationship won't work. As happy as he is to see his good friend Leah back in Lucky Harbor, he still feels the hurt of her leaving him all those years ago. He's not sure how things will be between them now, but he does know that Leah is still part of his life. She's been a big help to his mother too, who has had cancer and is undergoing treatments. Unfortunately, Leah tries so hard to cheer his mother up, she blurts out that her and Jack are now in a relationship, hoping that the fact that Jack is in a committed relationship will make his mother happy. Leah's little lie has the desired effect on Jack's mother, but it's about to throw a whole new wrench in Leah and Jack's friendship. It's something Jack might have wanted years ago, but not now when he has no intention of settling down.
Leah and Jack start off playing the pretend relationship, but soon it evolves into something much more, no matter how much they both try to deny it. Both of them are very cautious with their hearts. For Jack, Leah "...had always been fickle with her heart and its wants. If he let himself fall for her again, losing her this time would kill him." The chemistry is certainly there for Leah and Jack, but Leah is still ready to run and not settle...even though Jack is starting to feel more and more like he wants Leah to stay in Lucky Harbor with him, running the bakery. Jack knows some things are worth fighting for "I want you, Leah, I've always wanted you, but you have to want to fight for it too...", but he's not sure how much fight he has left in him. Will Leah finally believe that she is worth love? Do they have the courage to risk their hearts for each other?
Leah's issues with her father's treatment of her have carried forward into all aspects and relationships in her life. She doesn't have a lot of self confidence, she's a complete perfectionist, and so far she hasn't stuck around in one place for very long. She had a really good friend in Jack, but ran from that too. Leah was a really hard person for me to connect with. I felt at times bad for her and at times frustrated with her for her lack of faith in herself and others. She's a perfectionist but seems to have very low expectations of herself. I would have liked to know a bit more about her relationship with her mother and why her father's behavior was tolerated. I loved Leah's Grandma and her silent support of Leah.
Jack is doing what he feels is expected of him...following in his father's footsteps even though it's not exactly what he wants to do. Why he is who he is is much clearer in Always On My Mind. He's definitely not looking for a relationship, but his 'pretend' one stops him from seeing anyone besides Leah. He has always had feelings for Leah, but the hurt from the past are still with him...and seeing his mother unable to move on from his father's death have deeply affected him. Whereas I felt Leah had very low expectations of what she could do, I felt like Jack had too many expectations of what he should be doing!
Always On My Mind is a friends to lovers story that works really well. The friendship part of the relationship was a long time ago, now limited to a few cards a year Leah has sent to Jack, and it was fun to watch them muddle their way through a 'pretend' relationship with all sorts of rules. The secondary characters and side plots in Always On My Mind really added depth to Leah and Jack's story...the little mystery and quirky characters were woven well into the main plot. They were a great part of this book to bring it to life for me. I loved reconnecting with all the other residents of Lucky Harbor we have met through the series, and of course, the facebook page!!
Jill gives us an easy to read, fun love story in Always on My Mind. I don't think you have to have read all of the other Lucky Harbor books to enjoy this one, but I recommend them!
3.5 / 5 stars