Category Archives: kristan higgins

Waiting on You

waiting on youWaiting on You
by Kristan Higgins
Published by Harlequin
464 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance; women’s fiction 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4.5 / 5

 

For once, I will not begin a review of a Kristan Higgins novel by raving about how much I adore her. Because, you know, that drum has been beaten to its tattered remains. I’m tempted, though, because Waiting On You reaffirmed my adoration.

We get to know characters whom we’ve met in previous installments of Higgins’ Blue Heron series (The Best Man and Perfect Match), both of which focused on members of the Holland family. Present in their stories was Colleen O’Rourke, who owns the local tavern with her brother. Colleen has a reputation in Manningsport as a sort of Hello, Dolly: when you want to know how to find a love match, you go to Colleen.

She’s also known as having a fairly liberal sex life. Colleen might take exception to that; she does not believe she is the town slut, nor does she believe that she’s easy. What she does know is that she’s in her early thirties, still single, and still hung up on The One Who Got Away.

Lucas Campbell was Colleen’s first – and only – love, but he moved away to his hometown of Chicago and got married. The latter is particularly hurtful because Lucas told Colleen that he wasn’t sure he wanted to get married. At least he managed to tell her that, though. He never mustered the courage to tell her he loved her.

But now he’s back home. His uncle, who helped raise him when he moved to Manningsport as a teenager, is dying, and Lucas has come home to help. Not that he feels particularly welcomed. His aunt embraces him with all the love she could have for a rabies-laden squirrel, reaffirming his sense that he’s never been first in anyone’s life. Well, except for Colleen’s. He was first in hers.

Many of Higgins’ hallmarks are here: lovable and quirky characters, laugh-out-loud slapstick, and heartbreaking losses. I wept and wept openly and unabashedly in some of the scenes, especially those in which Lucas reveals himself to us. I particularly enjoy Higgins’ books that take us into the heads of her heroes, and Lucas here is as complex and intricate as you’ll find.

Colleen is equally enjoyable. She’s a tough Irish girl who gave her heart away half a lifetime ago and has never been able to reclaim it. She loves Lucas – oh, how she loves him – but he’s made it clear his home is not in Manningsport. Hers is. If she opens herself to rekindling the flame, she also opens herself to inevitable heartbreak. Much as Lucas has to open himself to coming first in someone’s life and what that means, Colleen has to open herself to mattering beyond a one-nighter.

Higgins isn’t one to confront Big Issues, but there is one lurking here: love. Not the sort of romantic love that Colleen shares with Lucas, but other loves. Love between a father and his daughter. Love between an uncle and his brother’s son. Love between cousins, between siblings, between spouses. Love between friends and former lovers. What is love? What obligations come with it? What should we be prepared to sacrifice and what should we expect in return? What do we owe the people we love?

And then there is the love I have for Higgins’ writing. I just love her books. They make me laugh, they make me cry, and they make me happy.

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The Perfect Match

perfect matchThe Perfect Match (The Blue Heron Series)
by Kristan Higgins
Published by Harlequin
448 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

I heart Kristan Higgins. Like, a lot. I’ve read all of her books and I’ve enjoyed every one. I like the quirky families, apparently mismatched lovers, and I like that love doesn’t come easily to them.

I enjoy the way she writes.

So here we are with her latest, which revisits the Holland family last seen in The Best Man. This time our heroine is Honor, the middle daughter. She is as disciplined and rigid as they come. In fact, her brother-in-law tells her she is unapproachable. She’s also in her mid thirties and not married, so when she decides that she has to change that, she proposes to Brogan, a man with whom she has had an on-again, off-again (a lot more off than on) fling since they were in college. Brogan enjoys the sexy times, but marriage? Brogan doesn’t enjoy the thought of that at all, at least not with Honor.

So now what is she to do?

Fortunately, grandmother Goggy sets Honor up on a blind date with Tom, a British professor. The date is disastrous, but Tom and Honor soon discover that they can help each other out: Honor wants marriage and babies, and Tom needs a green card.

Honor is a difficult character to like, but like her I did. She is so narrowly focused on work and her family that she doesn’t know how to open herself up to someone else. That deficiency, however, allows her to be non-judgmental. Aside from suspecting that Tom enjoys his booze a bit too much, she accepts him as he is. When she realizes that she cares about Tom, she goes all in, albeit with a certain amount of awkwardness.

Tom, however, does not know how to give himself to someone else. His past attempts did not end well, and he has no interest in getting hurt again. He’s far slower to understand love and affection than Honor is, which is a welcome spin on most romances.

Okay, the characters are not all that lovable. I liked Honor, although most of the time I couldn’t figure out why. Tom, likable. The two of them? Likable. But the rest? Uh, no. This is the first time in a Higgins book that the number of unlikable characters outnumbers the likable.

But … that’s life, isn’t it? I think, aside from some of the slapstick, that this is the most realistic of her books. Nothing comes easily to Honor. She’s in her mid thirties, unmarried, no prospects. She feels desperate enough to marry a man just so she can get married. And he’s desperate enough to marry a woman for a green card. You can feel how much each needs this to happen, and that’s one of the things I enjoyed most about this book. Yes, the characters are not the sort you’d want to share an evening with at the pub. But they also do not feel fictional. They feel real.

We have Higgins’ stock quirky characters in evidence, along with a couple of slapstick scenes. Tom’s and Honor’s dance with each other, though, is fun to read. Is it new and different? No. It’s pretty typical Higgins fare, except that we feel we know Honor and Tom.

But it’s fun, sweet, and entertaining. And it’s Kristan Higgins. Even on her worst day, she’s someone I love to read.

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Somebody to Love

Somebody to Love
by Kristan Higgins
Published by Harlequin
432 pages
Genre: chick lit, romance
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5

So I love Kristan Higgins’ books. I love them so much that I push them on my students (the girls … the boys could not care less), encouraging them to read my girl crush. Every time I read a new one, though, I find myself a little nervous. Will she disappoint? Will I still love her?

I can report that my adoration continues unabated.

Somebody to Love reunites us with Parker Welles, whom we met in The Next Best Thing. We also get to check in on Ethan and Lucy, as well as Maggie and Malone from Catch of the Day. Malone, by the way, has some things to say, which may surprise those of you who recall him from his previous outing.

A children’s book author with writer’s block, Parker discovers she has bigger issues at stake. Her father, reminiscent of Bernie Madoff, has been convicted for insider trading and is headed off to jail, leaving Parker virtually penniless. All of those book royalties? She donated those to charity. Daddy Welles did leave his daughter one bit of help: his attorney James Cahill, or Thing One as Parker thinks of him. James has some handyman skills, so when he shows up to help Parker rehabilitate a seaside shack she was bequeathed by a deceased aunt, Parker reluctantly accepts his help.

She also accepts his kisses. Which, really, she should, because he is totally adorable.

As happens in Higgins’ books, there is no clear path to true love. Parker has trust issues. Big ones, thanks to her father. She also doesn’t quite trust herself, and given that a child is involved, she is all the more reluctant to embark on a romance with James. For his part, James is a bit too enamored of Parker, but he sees through her bluster to the woman who’s really there.

Parker is a bit different from Higgins’ typical heroines, though. She’s prickly, snobby, and not always entirely likable. Even when Lucy bumbled, you liked her. But Parker occasionally is so bitchy as to turn us off. I liked that, though. She’s flawed, and she knows she’s flawed. She wants to be a better person, but she doesn’t know how.

It’s a cute story, one that entertains and that you will enjoy. If you’re a fan of Higgins’ books, you need to read this.

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The Best Man

The Best Man
by Kristan Higgins
Published by Harlequin
432 pages
Genre: romance, chick lit
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview.
4 / 5

I have a well documented girl crush on Kristan Higgins. Her books always seem to cure what ails me, showing me happy, quirky families, flawed heroines, hot heroes, and true love conquering all. Fairy tales, yes, but believable fairy tales, the sort that might come true. I regularly loan her books to my high school students, and when the girls do not return the books, I replace them. Between Kristan Higgins and Megan McCafferty, I have spent a fortune raising their sales numbers.

And now we have the latest Higgins book, The Best Man. Her books follow a general formula: girl from a boisterous, nosy, noisy family falls for a boy who loves her, but there are complications, usually on his side. They come together, get broken apart, come together, rinse, repeat. What makes the books so enjoyable, though, is Higgins’ writing style. She respects her characters, but with a wink and a smile. They are not perfect, their tales occasionally break your heart, but you will always enjoy a laugh (or several) as they go through their ups and downs.

For this one, the first in a series of sorts set in the same whimsical New England town, our heroine is Faith Holland, a landscape architect who bolted to San Francisco when her wedding was called off at the altar. By the groom. Who announced he was gay. And for which Faith holds local sheriff Levi Cooper somewhat responsible. Not for making Jeremy gay, but for failing to tell Faith his suspicions. Yet as we get to know Faith, we also can see that Jeremy left clues, even if he himself apparently had no idea.

Her career thriving in California, Faith returns home to help her family, who own a winery. The very first person she runs into is Levi, and Faith immediately feels herself propelled backwards to that fateful wedding day. She never got the sense that Levi cared much for her, and that sentiment seems to continue to hold true. Faith has trust issues – not surprising, given how the most important romance of her life worked out – and Levi has problems of his own.

As the two come together, their relationship is beset with various conundrums and problems. Typical of a Higgins book, most of the problems are Levi’s, and we feel Faith’s frustration in dealing with him. Somewhat atypical of a Higgins book, this is told in the third person. We spend most of our time in Faith’s head, but we do get into Levi’s every now and then. It helps us understand where each is coming from and what motivates them. Too often in Higgins’ novels, the book ends without giving us much clarity or insight into the hero (and I’m looking at you, Malone, in Catch of the Day). Here, we do have a greater understanding of Levi, which makes us care about him even stronger, which makes us cheer for him and Faith even harder.

This is not my favorite Higgins book – that slot is reserved for My One and Only – but I enjoyed the heck out of reading it. I laughed, I cried, I fell in love a little with the characters. And my girl crush on Kristan Higgins remains unabated.

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Too Good to Be True

Too Good to Be True
Kristan Higgins
Published by Harlequin
384 pages
Available on Amazon.com
I bought my own copy
5 / 5 cupcakes

So I love Kristan Higgins. We know that, right? I rave about her all the time, I gave away one of her books, and I can’t get enough of how she writes. So it will come as no surprise that I really liked Too Good to Be True.

Grace Emerson is the middle child of bickering parents. Her father is a lawyer, while her mother crafts glass sculptures in the shapes of female reproductive organs. Gorgeous older sister Margaret, also an attorney, is in a complacent marriage not improved by her caustic observations. Gorgeous younger sister Natalie is an architect. She’s also dating Grace’s ex-fiance.

When Grace has come up against romantic conundrums in the past, she solved her problems by making up a boyfriend. Her solution to Natalie’s relationship with the ex-fiance is no different. This time she creates Wyatt the Pediatric Surgeon, who, in addition to saving lives, also rescues feral cats. Grace’s intentions are honorable; she knows that Natalie will not invest herself in a relationship with Andrew unless she knows that Grace is happy, and Grace is smart and intuitive enough to know that what Andrew and Natalie feel for each other is very different – far more passionate – than what she and Andrew shared.

But then trouble shows up in the form of Callahan O’Shea, Grace’s new rugged and HOT neighbor, who recently spent time in the old Grey Bar Hotel. Callahan’s ex-con background may put off some people, but Grace is too attracted to him to let a little thing like a prison record keep her from finding out if he’s a good kisser.

Like most of Higgins’s books, you know exactly where this is headed. And, like most of her books, our heroine has a colorful family for whom she does too much and to whom she is a bit too devoted. Grace’s self-sacrifice knows no end. There are times when you want to scream at Andrew and Natalie on her behalf. Thank goodness for Margaret, who often says what we think.

This book differs from others, however, in that Grace and Callahan are together as a couple more than Higgins typically delivers. We actually get to see them struggle together to work things out, and it’s fun to read.

Still, this is a feel-good, happy book, full of Higgins’s witty one-liners. The path to true love never runs smoothly, least of all in a Higgins novel, but fortunately she gives us heroes and heroines we can root for, along with some good, hot kissing.

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Just One of the Guys

Just One of the Guys
Kristan Higgins
Published by Harlequin Mira
384 pages
Available on Amazon.com
I bought this book my own darn self, thank you
4.5 / 5 cupcakes

In honor of the Sharing My Favorite Blog Giveaway, I read a Kristan Higgins book this week. I’ve read a lot of her books – I love her beyond words – and I find myself parsing them out, making sure I don’t read all of them all at once, because then I have to wait for the next one to get written.

Just One of the Guys is pretty standard Higgins fare. It’s set in the northeast (in this case, northern New York, as opposed to her more typical locales in New England, and features a young woman trying to find love while dealing with a colorful family.

Chastity Virginia O’Neill is the youngest of five kids, the other four being older brothers. Longtime family friend, Trevor Meade, is sort of an honorary brother, as much a part of the family as if DNA claimed him. When Chastity returns to Eaton Falls, her small hometown in upstate New York, after college, grad school, and establishing her journalism career, she also returns to the specter of Trevor. She has loved him since she was ten-years-old, a love that is largely unreciprocated. In search of romance, she meets Dr. Darling (seriously – that’s his name), and tries to see if she can love someone like she loves Trevor.

As with Higgins’ books, you know how this will end, but she gets you there in cute, humorous, sometimes heartbreaking ways. I did cry about four times while reading this. Chastity’s complete, consuming love for Trevor can only end in one of two ways, and because she misinterprets everything, she comes awfully close to having to settle for a life she doesn’t really want. What she wants is Trevor, and having had a brief taste of him when she was in college, she wants more.

He swallowed and gazed at me, serious and quiet. I could see him weighing the intelligence of what we were about to do, what we had already done, could see his hesitation. Because I’d loved him for so long, been crushed by my yearning for Trevor for so damn long, I slid my hands under his shirt and pulled it over his head. “Please stay,” I said, kissing his beautiful neck.

The only complaint I have about this book is that we don’t get to see the happy couple together romantically for more than a few pages. That’s the case with most of Higgins’ books, which may be why my favorite is My One and Only, in which our hero and heroine are trapped in a car together for chapters on end.

Kristan Higgins peppers her books with a lively cast of supporting characters, never more so than with this one. What with four brothers, some sisters-in-law, a passel of nieces and nephews, co-workers and firefighters, there are a LOT of people. You get to know most of them, but the danger is not getting to know Trevor as much as you want. A similar problem existed with Malone in Catch of the Day. It’s a compliment to Higgins that we want more of her heroes.

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The Next Best Thing

There is something about the way Kristan Higgins writes that appeals to me. The stories, the people, the craftsmanship – I just love ’em. I come away wishing I lived in those small New England towns, convinced that I could be friends with her characters.

So it is with The Next Best Thing. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will state straight away that this is not my favorite of Higgins’ books. Lucy Mirabelli, the 30-year-old widow around whom the book turns, is the reason. She’s just not all that likeable, I guess. Or at least she isn’t for about three-fourths of the book.

Lucy and her husband, Jimmy, were married a little over eight months when he died. As if the loss isn’t tragic enough, Lucy has to contend with the “Black Widows” – her mother and two aunts, all three of whom were left widowed when they were young wives. Like Lucy, none remarried, but unlike Lucy, none were interested in doing so. Lucy, however, thinks it’s time to pursue marriage and family. Unlike Jimmy, however, she plans to look for someone safe. Someone she can be fond of, without losing herself completely.

Meanwhile, there is her brother-in-law, Ethan, who introduced her to Jimmy in the first place. It is clear that Ethan cares about Lucy, and she about him, in her own way. But Lucy’s problem is that everything must be her way. She tells us that this is because she’s a widow, and unless you’ve been in her position, you have no idea how she feels. And she’s right about that. I did not lost a husband in my mid-twenties, and I don’t know how it feels. But I do know that Lucy’s self-focus is off-putting at best. How she has any friends, much less a fairly devoted one in Parker, who happens to be the mother of Ethan’s son, is beyond me.

In fact, Parker urges Lucy to date Ethan, and she also pinpoints the reason behind Lucy’s reluctance to do so.

She gives me a wry smile. “Well, one could say that you do love Ethan already. The big question must be, what if you didn’t love him as much as Jimmy?”

Hearing it said out loud like that, right here in the kitchen with the sun shining in the windows, my African violets blooming on the windowsill … it’s a slap in the heart. “I really don’t want to talk about this, Parker,” I whisper.

Parker sighs. “Okay. I’m sorry.” She pauses, and I swallow against the pebble, knowing she ‘s not finished. I’m correct. “But Lucy, you’re never going to know unless you give him a shot, are you? And if you don’t, you’ll end up with some loser who leaves you cold. Is that what you want?”

You wouldn’t think it would be, but Lucy seems to be aiming just for that. She wants comfort and predictability. Safety. No threat of an early death. As Lucy observes, love ran her over and left her bleeding in the road. She doesn’t want that again, and the potential to get hurt by Ethan is just too much to bear.

But Ethan isn’t going anywhere. And when he asks Lucy to give him a chance, it is heartbreaking and beautiful. In fact, Ethan is the reason I like this book as much as I do. He becomes a real person, someone I understood, empathized with and cheered for. If it makes Ethan happy to be with Lucy, then I hope it works out. For him. Hopefully, in the process, she loosens up a little.

The Next Best Thing has an obvious ending, but the way we get there is not obvious at all, and that’s another reason why I adore Kristan Higgins. She respects her characters and her stories too much to shortcut them. If Lucy is going on a tortured chase for love and stability, then that’s what it will take.

I’ve got a few more Higgins novels on my TBR pile, and I can’t wait to read them.

Published by Harlequin and available on Amazon.com.
I purchased my own copy.

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