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.