Valentine’s Day Blog Tour – Guest Post from Kristan Higgins

Today I’d like to welcome Kristan Higgins, the author of the recent Now That You Mention It as well as the absolutely marvelous Blue Heron series. (Anything for You was my personal favorite).As this is a Blog Tour for Valentine’s Day recommendations, Kristan is here to tell us her favorite Valentine’s tradition. And don’t we all remember the dread of having to give Valentine’s to every kid in the class?

Pizza, Books & Valentine’s Day
by Kristan Higgins

Here’s a little secret I’m somewhat loath to admit—I hate Valentine’s Day. When I was a kid, we’d have to give every single one of our classmates a card, and I’ll confess: Joey L. did not deserve a Valentine from me, no sir. Nor did Kate M., who was always mean.

Even then. the holiday smacked of forced good cheer. When I was in college, the poor lad I dated would give me a gas station rose, or worse, write me a poem and then read it to me, and I’d sit, twitching, waiting for the recitation to end.

As a young married couple, McIrish and I once made a Valentine’s Day reservation at a lovely Italian restaurant. That night, the servers were harried and forgetful, and the restaurant was mobbed with couples feeling the pressure to be romantic. No one was proposed to, though I’m pretty sure one young woman was waiting, because she got more and more tense as the night went on (eavesdropping is one of my great gifts). The food, which was usually so good, was mediocre, and McIrish and I decided not to go out anymore. These days, I usually draw McIrish, my sainted husband, a cartoon of the two of us. Some grown-up snuggling may ensue. Sometimes I make him pudding or crème brulée in the heart-shaped ramekins we got as a wedding gift.

Truthfully, the best Valentine’s Day I can remember was when I was living alone, working in a strange city, no friends. A bouquet of flowers arrived at my workplace, signed “From Your Secret Admirer.” I immediately called my dad to thank him, and, bless his heart, he played dumb.

When I got out of work, I went home to my little apartment, got a pizza from the restaurant below, and read a book. A romance novel, of course. No pressure, no expectations… just me with two of the great loves of my life: pizza and a good book.

About Now That You Mention It

One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter–a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was–Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family.

But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway

if you only knew by kristan higginsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genre: women’s fiction
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate understands the happily-ever-after business, yet somehow she’s still involved in her ex-husband’s life. In fact, Owen’s new wife may—inexplicably—be Jenny’s new best friend. Sensing this, well, relationship isn’t helping her move on, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she’ll be able to bask in her sister Rachel’s picture-perfect family life…and hopefully make one of her own.

Her timing couldn’t be more perfect, since Rachel will need her younger sister. Her idyllic marriage has just fallen to pieces in spectacular fashion after she discovers her husband sexting with one of his colleagues. Second chances aren’t in Rachel’s nature, but the desire for an intact family has her rethinking her stance on adultery, much to Jenny’s surprise. Rachel points to their parents’ “perfect” marriage as a shining example, but to protect her sister Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a secret about their family she’s been keeping since childhood.

During this summer of secrets and lies, temptation and revelation, Jenny and Rachel will rely on each other to find the humor in their personal catastrophes, the joy in their triumphs…and the strength to keep hanging on.

My Review:

This is a story about secrets and sisterhood. And its heart is in the relationship between two sisters, Rachel and Jenny, and in the sure and certain knowledge that no one on the outside ever really knows what happens between the two people who make up a marriage.

And it’s about a life-altering secret that achieves closure in the most surprising way.

Three women are trying to discover what comes next after they lose the man they think is the love of their life. Not just Jenny and Rachel, but also their mother.

Mom has been a professional widow for over 20 years by this point. She’s never gotten over the sudden death of her supposedly perfect husband, and has become a person always looking for the dark side of life. If there’s a silver lining, she’s skipped looking for the cloud, and starts immediately searching for the mercury poisoning.

But dear old dad wasn’t perfect. Not long before his death, Jenny caught him in the supply closet of his dental practice with one of his assistants, playing tonsil hockey. After dad’s death, his secret became her secret – neither her sister nor her mother ever knew about dad’s feet of clay.

Jenny always wonders whether things would have been, or would be, different if she let that particular cat out of the bag. It would certainly change her mother and sister’s opinions of dad. But it might also destroy them. Or their relationship with Jenny. Shoot the messenger is not an uncommon reaction.

Instead, Jenny holds this secret close as she puts her life together after her divorce, and she watches Rachel’s world fall apart after she finds her supposedly perfect husband sexting one of his associates.

The story is told in alternating points of view, switching from Jenny to Rachel. Jenny is still passively friendly with her ex and his new wife. He didn’t cheat, he just fell out of love with her, got a divorce, and married and knocked up the first woman he met afterwards. But Owen also gets to have his cake and eat it, too. He gets to keep Jenny’s friendship and have a perfect life in all the old familiar places that used to be Jenny’s.

No wonder she moves away.

Rachel’s world falls apart. She’s always said that infidelity was a deal-breaker, but she also wants to keep her perfect life in her perfect house with her suddenly not-so-perfect husband and their triplet daughters. We watch her flail around as the secret and the ensuing distrust undermine her world and her sense of herself.

In the end, both Jenny and Rachel find a future that is different from what they had always imagined, but that might, possibly, be better than they dreamed. And that perfect is an illusion.

Escape Rating B+: I stayed up until 4 am to finish this. I started it and couldn’t put it down.

Unlike some of the author’s previous books, this one is definitely women’s fiction (much as I hate that term) and not a contemporary romance. Jenny does find a relationship, but the resolution of that thread was not the backbone of the book. Instead, it’s about finding herself, and also about Rachel figuring out her future.

There were a lot of times when I wanted to shake either Jenny or Rachel for their passivity. Jenny knows that it is insane to be best friends with her ex-husband and his new wife. Note that I’m not saying friendly, I’m saying besties. Friendly is good if it’s manageable, because hate just eats at you. However, being an actual part of the life that used to be hers but isn’t does not let Jenny move on. Staying too connected to Owen is holding her back and she knows it. But she doesn’t make herself let go until near the end, and when she finally does, it made me want to stand up and cheer.

Rachel is in an awful position. It’s not just that her husband has been having an affair and continues to lie about it, but the way that he projects all the blame onto her for his inability to keep it in his pants, and to expect that she has to instantly forgive and forget because she’s a stay-at-home mother. I wanted to slap his smarmy, lying face. It’s not that it isn’t possible to rebuild trust after an affair, but that he expects all the work to be on Rachel’s side, and that he doesn’t have to do anything, including stopping the affair, in order to maintain his outwardly-seeming perfect life.

It takes Rachel a long time to finally realize that she can’t go on like this. He’s lying to her, and she’s lying to everyone else. The scene where she finally puts the mess in terms that he can’t ignore was awesome. And heartbreaking.

She also acknowledges that she has to do what Jenny has already done – figure out who she is and what she wants so that she can make a life for herself that might, someday, include someone else in it again. In her need to be a perfect wife and mother, and her exhaustion with caring for the triplets (OMG three babies) she has lost sight of her own person.

A lot of this story resonated with me. Rachel and Jenny’s mother is all too much like my own mother, so the things that she said that drove them crazy were all too familiar. And crazy-making. I understood why Jenny didn’t tell either her sister or her mother about their father’s affair. Some pains are not helped by sharing them, and this is one of them. If he’d lived, it would have been different, but once the person is dead, it’s too late.

And I did love that Jenny finally got closure on her dad’s secret, just not in a way that she expected.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a paperback copy of If You Only Knew to one lucky U.S. commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway

in your dreams by kristan higginsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Blue Heron #4
Length: 480 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: September 30, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Emmaline Neal needs a date. Just a date—someone to help her get through her ex-fiancé’s wedding without losing her mind. But pickings are slim in Manningsport, New York, population 715. In fact, there’s really only one option: local heartthrob Jack Holland. Everyone loves Jack, and he won’t get the wrong idea…. After all, Jack Holland would never actually be interested in a woman like Em. Especially not with his beautiful ex-wife creeping around, angling to reunite ever since he rescued a group of teens and became a local hero.

But when the wedding festivities take an unexpectedly passionate turn, Em figures it was just one crazy night. Jack is too gorgeous, too popular, to ever end up with her. So why is she the one he can talk to about his deep, dark feelings? If Em is going to get her dream man, she’ll have to start by believing in him…

My Review:

perfect match by kristan higginsVery much like the initially fake marriage in book 2 in this series, The Perfect Match (reviewed here) the romance in In Your Dreams is kicked off by the strong and quite natural desire to show one’s ex that one has SO gotten over the breakup–especially if one hasn’t.

Emmaline Neal receives an invitation to her ex-fiance’s wedding back home in Malibu. Some of us might just throw it in the trash and have a private pity party, but Em knows that reaction isn’t going to work for her. Well, it might work for her, personally, but her parents are still friends with the erstwhile groom and his family, and they will expect her to come.

Not just that, but both Em’s parents are psychologists. They will analyze her (badly and incorrectly) if she does come, and do more and worse if she doesn’t. All their messages about what she should and shouldn’t do with her life and her relationships would make any adult child flee to the opposite end of the country.

Her parents are in Malibu, and Em is one of two Deputy Police Officers in Manningsport, NY. Just about as far across the continent as she could get.

So she needs a date for the wedding, and doesn’t have one. After a certain amount of persuasion and lots of people taking care of her business for her, Em ends up going to the wedding with Jack Holland. Jack is handsome, amiable, and every woman in Manningsport’s perfect date to any function. He is NOT the town bicycle, he’s a perfect gentleman about all of this. It just gets him away from his loving but slightly intrusive family.

best man by kristan higginsJack is the youngest of the Hollands, and we’ve seen most of his family’s story in The Best Man (review), The Perfect Match and Waiting on You (review). The story we see in flashbacks is Jack’s late marriage to the extremely high-strung Hadley, and Jack’s incredible act of heroism that has left him with an untreated (let’s face it, Jack isn’t willing to acknowledge it) case of PTSD.

Em doesn’t want to go with Jack because she likes him just a little too much. She neither wants him to see her at her worst, nor does she want to further explore the crush she has on him.

But when their crises run into each other at the wedding, they decide (not exactly decide, more like mutually exploit) to temporarily forget their problems by having one really hot night together.

Jack wants more. Em wants to forget it ever happened, which is impossible. But she refuses to believe that Jack wants her as more than anything but a fun diversion. His ex is back in town, and she’s chasing him with every “helpless female” weapon in her arsenal.

Jack is a sucker for a woman he can rescue. And Em, the very competent police officer, is not a woman who regularly needs rescuing–or ever wants to be.

Escape Rating B+: As with most of the Blue Heron series, the author tells the love story in the present day while using flashbacks to show the trauma that both characters have suffered in the past that makes them right for each other; even when they both use the scars from that same past to push the other away.

Em’s memories of her relationship with her ex are particularly heartbreaking. They were childhood sweethearts, the only two not-perfect kids in their Malibu high school of perfect-bodied beautiful children with important Hollywood parents. Em had a stutter and her ex was the only “fat kid” in the school. They bonded over not being perfect, and always being the last kids picked for everything.

When he finally starts to lose all the weight he’s accumulated, her ex loses everything that made him who he was, and restarts his life with his trainer. Even worse, when he’s featured in People Magazine he trashes Em in print. It’s not just heartbreaking, it’s downright devastating.

There was some codependence there, he didn’t like it when Em figured out how to stop stammering, so he started getting back at her; or it felt that way to me.

Jack is the Manningsport golden child. He’s always been perfect, and he always comes to everyone’s rescue. The incident that causes his PTSD is tragic but understandable. And the aftermath affects the story deeply.

He has to convince Em that she’s not just a way of getting him through the nightmares, and he finally has to get his ex out of his life. His inability to see through Hadley went on just a bit too long.

But it was terrific to catch up with the Hollands and all the wonderful people in Manningsport. I can’t wait to see what happens next!


Kristan is giving away a copy of In Your Dreams to one lucky U.S. commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway

waiting on you by kristan higginsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Blue Heron #3
Length: 464 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: March 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Does being nobody’s fool mean that you’re nobody’s love?

Colleen O’Rourke is in love with love… just not when it comes to herself. Most nights, she can be found behind the bar at the Manningsport, New York, tavern she owns with her twin brother, doling out romantic advice to the lovelorn, mixing martinis and staying more or less happily single. See, ten years ago, Lucas Campbell, her first love, broke her heart… an experience Colleen doesn’t want to have again, thanks. Since then, she’s been happy with a fling here and there, some elite-level flirting and playing matchmaker to her friends.

But a family emergency has brought Lucas back to town, handsome as ever and still the only man who’s ever been able to crack her defenses. Seems like maybe they’ve got some unfinished business waiting for them—but to find out, Colleen has to let her guard down, or risk losing a second chance with the only man she’s ever loved.

My Review:

Waiting on You is a story about finding true love, and what happens when you lose it. Or it loses you. The story is marvelously bittersweet, in spite of the happy ending, because it acknowledges how precious love is and how hard life can be when you find true love and lose it, and are too shell-shocked to risk it again.

Colleen O’Rourke is half-owner and barkeep at O’Rourke’s bar and grille in Manningsport, NY. Being the barkeep means that Colleen sees every romantic make-up, break-up and devastated aftermath in her small town. It doesn’t leave her a lot of scope for finding and dating someone new, because there isn’t anyone new and she knows WAY too many of everyone’s drunken secrets.

The bloom is pretty much off all the local roses, at least for Colleen. Which doesn’t mean that she doesn’t do a marvelous job of finding the “right person” for everyone else in town. She just doesn’t have any luck herself.

Until her first love, her only love, comes back to town, and she still feels every spark and tingle she ever did, just with the added bitter knowledge that Lucas Campbell is only back until his Uncle Joe passes away, and then Lucas is back to his life in Chicago, leaving her behind, again.

It’s not that simple. She broke up with him, because he kept a secret from her. A big secret. Lucas knew that her father was having an affair, and didn’t let her know. When her parent’s marriage broke up over the girlfriend’s pregnancy, Colleen lashed out at Lucas.

In the intervening ten years, a lot happens. Lucas marries and divorces. Colleen’s mother spends ten years trying to regain the attention of her gone and selfish ex. And Colleen fears that she is just like her mother, doomed to compare every man she meets to her own true love, and having them all fall very short.

Although the story centers around Colleen and Lucas, they serve as the center of other events that are happening while they work through the issues that are keeping them apart. Colleen, the matchmaker of Manningsport, is just sure that awkward but steady Paulie and Lucas’ “boy never grown up” cousin Bryce are perfect for each other. That Paulie is a weightlifter and Bryce is not just the feckless town bicycle but goes for the skinny and willowy type doesn’t matter, Colleen is determined that they are good for each other.

Colleen’s mother finally stops mourning the loss of her ex, but the results are less than optimal for quite a while. Colleen’s mock prayers every time her mother starts running on are hilarious, and so much the voice of an adult daughter still embarrassed by her mother.

But it’s Colleen’s and Lucas’ story that provides the heart of the book. Told both in flashback and the present day, we see the point where they instantly and completely fell for each other, and then every roadblock and setback along the way.

They belong together, they always have and they always will. But they have to decide whether they can put the pain behind them and stop looking for roadblocks to get in the way of their happiness.

Ten years is a long time to wait, and there are a lot of things that need to be forgiven, forgotten or pushed aside. Maybe one too many.

Escape Rating B+: I poured through this book as fast as I could, because I couldn’t wait to find out how all the stories resolved. It was easy to get caught up in, not just Colleen and Lucas, but also Paulie and Bryce, Colleen’s mother, and the family dramas around Lucas’ Uncle Joe’s impending death and his last wish.

Lucas needs to feel loved and accepted. It’s something he lost when his dad went to prison, and although his Uncle Joe and Aunt Didi raised him, Didi is the absolute caricature of the shrewish, selfish, domineering wife. Joe didn’t stand up for Lucas, and let Didi make his life a misery. (Think muggle version of Harry Potter and the Dursleys, and you’re close)

Except that his manchild cousin Bryce worships Lucas, and Lucas envies Bryce for being the favored child who has everything handed to him, while Lucas is left to take the blame and pick up the mess.

Colleen is the only person Lucas has ever had who was his and only his. He needs her but never managed to tell her so. When he comes back, Colleen is rightfully worried about pinning her hopes for the future on someone who will leave, again. They nearly blow it multiple times, and for real reasons that make sense, no misunderstandammits here. A lot happened between them that is hard for them both to get past. And their shattered trust in each other has to be rebuilt piece by piece.

This is a happy ending that needs to be earned, and the reader can’t help but root for them to reach out and grab it.


Kristan and Little Bird Publicity are giving away a paperback copy of Waiting on You to one lucky (U.S.) commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway

perfect match by kristan higginsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: Paperback, ebook, audiobook, Large Print
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Blue Heron #2
Length: 442 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: November 1, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

What if the perfect match is a perfect surprise? Honor Holland has just been unceremoniously rejected by her lifelong crush. And now—a mere three weeks later—Mr. Perfect is engaged to her best friend. But resilient, reliable Honor is going to pick herself up, dust herself off and get back out there…or she would if dating in Manningsport, New York, population 715, wasn’t easier said than done.

Charming, handsome British professor Tom Barlow just wants to do right by his unofficial stepson, Charlie, but his visa is about to expire. Now Tom must either get a green card or leave the States—and leave Charlie behind.

In a moment of impulsiveness, Honor agrees to help Tom with a marriage of convenience—and make her ex jealous in the process. But juggling a fiancé, hiding out from her former best friend and managing her job at the family vineyard isn’t easy. And as sparks start to fly between Honor and Tom, they might discover that their pretend relationship is far too perfect to be anything but true love….

My Review:

When it comes to relationships, Honor Holland doesn’t start out this story with anyone in her circle dealing with a whole lot of honor, including herself. Although at least she has some excuse for her behavior.

When the man you’ve loved for years compares your relationship to a baseball catcher’s favorite glove, well, acting out of character does seem more than called for, doesn’t it? Most of us would be looking for a fake boyfriend or fake fiance to rub in the clueless wonder’s face. There’s letting a girl down gently, and then there’s THAT. Or splat.

After the shameful letdown, if your best friend instantly moves in for the kill (and the engagement ring) while a very public catfight might not be what Miss Manners recommends, it could easily seem like the exact right thing to do at the time.

Especially if your former BFF comes off as a smug little bitch while she’s dishing you all the details, with a sly little smile on her face that lets you know she did it all deliberately.

But Honor’s post-catfight response is to contract a green card marriage with a hot mechanical engineering professor at the local college. If you get whiplash from that sentence, it’s okay. It is pretty whiplash inducing. It also sets Honor’s life on an entirely new course.

Tom Barlow needs a green card to stay in the U.S. because his very small college isn’t willing to continue the legal hassle of dealing with it. (I’m not totally sure how this bit works, because his job was never in jeopardy, only their legal wrangling) Tom needs to stay in the U.S. to be near the sullen teenager who would have been his stepson, IF his marriage to the boy’s mother hadn’t been called off on account of the woman’s death.

There’s an emotional sinkhole there even worse than Honor’s friends-with-benefits relationship with Brogan Cain that she thought was love for over a decade. Tom stayed with cheating Melinda because he wanted to raise her son Charlie. When Melinda was killed while off having an affair, he had no standing to adopt the boy. Now he’s in emotional limbo.

Honor is in emotional limbo, too. It turned out that her best friend was just a leech waiting for an opportunity to go after the man she thought was the love of her life. Tom Barlow’s need for a green card came up just at the point where her doctor (Jeremy from The Best Man) informs her that at age 35, her eggs are getting older and it’s time for her to think about having babies if she wants them.

Tom needs a wife, Honor needs a sperm donor. While this is not a marriage made in heaven, necessity is often the mother of invention, especially in a case where someone wants to be a mother.

Honor is trying to think of it as an arranged marriage. Sometimes the idea works. Sometimes she watches her grandparents argue and thinks she’s out of her mind.

But the more time she spends with Tom, the more she thinks that this arranged marriage has the possibility of turning into something real. But only if they both stop protecting themselves from the bad things that have happened before and reach for the good things that might happen in the here and now.

Escape Rating B+: There are so many “perfect matches” being worked out in this story; that’s part of what makes it so much fun to read.

best man by kristan higginsHonor and Tom are in some ways the least interesting match, but their story provides the frame for all of the other action that takes place. Also, their story has much darker motives behind it than Faith and Levi’s story did in The Best Man (reviewed yesterday)

Initially, Honor and Tom get together because they are doing the right thing for other people. They think it’s going to be a business arrangement. Admittedly, a business arrangement where they are defrauding the U.S. Government, but a business arrangement.

She gets married, gets to stick Brogan and Dana in the eye, gets a baby maybe. He gets a green card and gets to stay in Charlie’s life. She also gets out of her father’s house because he’s finally found the right woman to marry. Her dad finally woke up and smelled the coffee right under his nose.

Her dad is marrying Mrs. J, the woman who helped raise them and kept house and home together for them after their mother was killed. Mrs. J. been in love with Honor’s dad for sixteen years, and it’s about time he figured it out. Slow learner, but very sweet.

Tom and Charlie’s relationship is painful to witness. Charlie blames Tom for his mother’s death, because he has no one else to blame for that pain. And because he’s a teenager. And because his mother was out running around with his dad and had left him behind with Tom when she died. He has to blame someone.

So both Tom and Honor enter into their relationship for reasons other than love, and they are both afraid that the other one is going to back out, or even worse, that one will put their heart on the line and the other will stomp on it. Neither wants to discover that they have come in second best again.

But the more they try to fake things, for the Immigration Service, to stick it to Brogan, for their families, the more they discover that what they have might be real. And that ups the relationship stakes for both of them. Which is what makes the story so very good.


Kristan has graciously agreed to give away a paperback copy of The Perfect Match to one lucky US winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

best man by kristan higginsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: Paperback, ebook, audiobook, large print
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Blue Heron #1
Length: 426 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: February 26, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she’s ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family’s vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there’s some great scenery there….

Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief – and best friend of her former fiancé. There’s a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it’s not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she’s having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.

My Review:

This series is off to a rousing start. The Holland sisters are named Faith, Honor and Prudence. Faith’s first love didn’t exactly keep faith with her, it looks like Honor’s first love wasn’t all that honorable (more tomorrow), and Prudence certainly isn’t prudent in a whole bunch of ways.

I really want to find out how brother Jack got away with just being named Jack! That’s just way too easy.

But The Best Man is Faith’s story. In the case, the title is a pun. Levi Cooper was supposed to have been the best man at Faith’s wedding to Jeremy, except that wedding never happened. (This is the third book I’ve read this year where the bride gets left at the altar in her fancy wedding dress. Is this a trend?)

Levi was the one who finally got Jeremy to own up to Faith that he was gay, at the point of the ceremony where the minister asks if anyone knows about impediments to the marriage. Since Faith didn’t know, it does kind of constitute an impediment.

Faith left her small town of Manningsport blaming Levi for ruining her dream. It was easier than blaming Jeremy. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe that Jeremy was gay, once Jeremy told her, it was that she and Jeremy still loved each other. And that she had never loved anyone else.

She had to move all the way across the country to start over. She took herself on the honeymoon trip to San Francisco that she and Jeremy had planning, and in the end, she just stayed. Faith became a landscape designer, and a very successful one.

And she planned her trips home so that she didn’t run into Jeremy.

She also made sure she didn’t run into Levi Cooper very much. They hadn’t gotten along very well when they were in school together, and their banter continued to have a barbed edge to it. Levi had seen Faith at her worst, and she’d never forgotten it.

He’d also been the first man to give her a little taste of real passion, once when she and Jeremy were on a “break”. But she’d never been able to forgive him, not so much because he’d been the one for making Jeremy reveal the truth, but because Levi had known it all along, and hadn’t said anything in six years of double-dating. He could have warned her, even if they weren’t exactly friends.

But now she’s back in Manningsport to design something special on her family’s land. It’s time for Faith to lay all of the ghosts in her past to rest, including the ghost of the wedding that might have been. Everywhere she turns in Manningsport, she finds her first love, Jeremy, and she finds that the friendship they used to have is still there. He can still be part of her life.

Levi Cooper is also still around. He’s changed from being the town bad boy to the local Police Chief. The upper class citizens of Manningsport who used to think he was trash changed their tune after he came home from a couple of tours with the Army in Afghanistan.

He always thought Faith Holland was hot, but it would have broken the rules to chase his best friend’s girl. He still thinks she’s hot, but he’s not willing to be second best if she’s still pining for Jeremy.

Faith and Levi might figure out what they could be to each other–if either of these two could get to the bottom of what really is going on between them, either in the present or in the past.

Escape Rating B: We see the town of Manningsport and the Holland family through Faith’s eyes as she returns home. The totality of the reason she left is actually revealed in bits and pieces because the past is not just another country, but it’s a country that Faith really doesn’t want to visit. Too much bad stuff happened back there.

Manningsport is part of the Finger Lakes District in New York. It’s wine country and the Hollands are a wine growing family. They don’t act rich, they think of themselves as farmers, and hard-working farmers at that. Everyone in the family except Faith works in the family business in some meaningful way, including Faith’s grandparents, who are in their 80s.

Levi grew up literally on the wrong side of the Manningsport tracks. His family were called “trailer trash” and worse. The social gulf between the Coopers and the Hollands during their school years was huge. Faith’s mother dropped her hand-me-down clothes off at the trailer park for Levi’s sister. THAT kind of huge.

Levi returning from Afghanistan bridged that gap, but it doesn’t mean he’ll ever forget, or can ever forget that Faith’s parents would not have wanted him dating their daughter back in high school, even if Faith had been interested. The chip on his shoulder is part of the romantic equation.

Some reviewers have wondered either how Faith could have not known that Jeremy was gay, or why she threw up so many of the usual stereotypes as a defense about why she didn’t know. She didn’t merely date Jeremy, they were high school sweethearts and then college sweethearts and then engaged. The relationship lasted eight years before his last second confession. This is a contemporary romance, so in eight years you’d think there would have been an inkling. They were even lovers. I would be willing to go with the explanation that Faith tries to refute Jeremy’s confession with so many of the stereotypes that Jeremy doesn’t fit into because she doesn’t want to let her dream die. A person would grab at straws in that situation, whether they were politically correct straws or not.

However, there is a scene later in the book where Faith and her sisters are trying to fix their widowed father up on a blind date. The woman that he has an arranged meeting with, a woman whom he likes and gets along very well with, turns out to be a transwoman. The nasty, rude and disparaging comments that the sisters make after their father’s date ruined the scene and pulled me totally out of the story. Whether this was homophobia or transphobia or simply misinformation and done for a cheap laugh, it was not well done and not necessary for the story.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Q&A with Kristan Higgins, author of Somebody to Love plus Book Giveaway

Today on Reading Reality my guest is Kristan Higgins, a two-time RITA award winner and best-selling author of contemporary romances. Kristan is here to talk about her latest book, Somebody to Love, and to giveaway a print copy to one lucky (US) commenter. (The winner will be very lucky, see my review for the reasons why)

I had the opportunity to send Kristan some pretty specific questions about the book, the theme, and her writing in general. (And thanks, Kristan, I was only supposed to send 5-8 questions, I sent 9!)

Here’s the interview:

How do you choose the settings for your books? In other words, what drew you to the remote coast of Maine for Somebody to Love?

Is it shallow to say “rugged lobstermen”?

No, in all seriousness, my settings always play a big role in the story. I don’t just pick a place because it’s pretty. Gideon’s Cove, Maine, was the setting for a previous book, CATCH OF THE DAY, and I wanted to return there very much. It’s a scruffy town graced with breathtaking natural beauty—the rocks of the shore, the pine trees, the ragged little coast—but it’s also populated with hardworking people who all have a strong sense of community. Parker, who’s a little bit of an observer of her own life, had to go to a place where she’d have to roll up her sleeves and get dirty, literally and figuratively. Gideon’s Cove, which is so removed from Parker’s ordinary life, was the perfect place.

And house-flipping as the project that brings Parker to Maine? Why house-flipping? It’s an interesting choice these days…

A person’s home usually says so much about someone, don’t you think? Parker’s from a very wealthy, old-money family, and she’s been living in the mansion built by her great-great grandfather for the past few years. Nice, right? But dear old dad loses all the family money in an insider trading deal, and voila! For the first time, she has to worry about paying the bills and finding a job. A distant relative left her a house on the northern coast of Maine; Parker’s never seen it, so she pictures the Bush compound, maybe. Alas, she finds that it’s not much more than a shack with faulty plumbing, filled with years of accumulated crap. Her job: clean it out, spruce it up and flip it, fast…no easy feat, given her limited funds.

I wanted to challenge Parker in a way she’d never been challenged before, and I wanted her to learn the satisfaction of hard physical labor. So many people have been in her shoes, especially these days—having to reinvent themselves because of financial woes. A lot of people have had to scale down, move, start over.

On your blog you said you decided to write romance novels after reading (swiping from your grandmother’s nightstand) Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna and you bet yourself you could write one.  What other romance novels have “inspired” you, and exactly what sorts of “inspiration” have they given you?

Well, actually, I became a romance reader because of my sticky-fingered appropriation of SHANNA. I was thirteen at the time; it would be more than two decades before I’d start writing fiction. But because I was a lifelong romance reader, yes, I felt I understood the genre quite well: the good, the bad, the reasons we love them.

I think any book that can surprise me (in a good way, not in the “and suddenly the evil third cousin she didn’t know she had broke out of jail and kidnapped her” kind of way) with how the romance plays out, any book that makes me literally feel the emotions of the characters, is an inspiration. My favorite authors blend humor and yearning and give characters depth and strength.

So tell us a little bit about your latest heroine, Parker Welles. Your readers have met her before, right?

Yes, readers might remember her as the heroine’s pal in THE NEXT BEST THING. Parker has it all: financial security, a ridiculously beautiful home, an adorable son, a cool career. In that book, she seemed to know it all. And here’s the thing about certain characters. You just can’t shake them. I kept wondering what Parker would be like without all that great stuff (well…she keeps her son, of course). She hasn’t been tested yet in life. So in the first chapter of SOMEBODY TO LOVE, her book series has ended, her father informs her she’s broke, and she has to move.

Parker’s my first single-mom heroine, and what I loved most about her was that she was willing to roll up her sleeves and do whatever it took to ensure her son had stability. She’ll flip that house, find a job, get them a new place to live…and she’s very resolute. Underneath, of course, she’s panicking. Who wouldn’t? And whenever she’s about to lose it, James seems to be around, watching and ready to lend a hand, even if she’s not sure she wants his help.

What made you reach back to Dr. Seuss for the nicknames Thing One and Thing Two?

I’m Dr. Seuss’s biggest fan. You know that question, “If you could meet any author, alive or dead…?” Dr. Seuss is my guy. It also gives Parker the chance to use humor in dealing with her horrible relationship with her dad. She once worshipped her father; now he’s cold and removed and puts just about everyone before her. Using Seussian nicknames for the people he likes best lets her adopt a wry attitude, at least a little bit. 

Besides the contents of your grandmother’s nightstand, who else influenced your decision to become a writer?

Listen. Gram left that book right out in the open, practically begging me to take it. 🙂

When I decided to give writing a shot, it was for several reasons. First, I wanted to continue to be a stay-at-home mom but also wanted to contribute to the family finances. Figured writing could be a good way to do that. Second, I wanted to read (and therefore write) books about normal people. Back then, it seemed like everyone was a vampire or a billionaire or a celebrity (or a billionaire celebrity vampire). I thought, “I’m none of those things! I don’t even know a celebrity billionaire vampire! Where are the books for folks like me…the slightly overweight, not shockingly beautiful non-billionaires?” So that was type I tried (and try) to write: big, memorable love stories about regular people.

 What book do you recommend everyone should read and why?

Er…The Joy of Sex; Essentials of Italian Cooking; and Gone With the Wind. The first two are obvious; the third is because that book is simply one of the best American novels ever written. People tend to think about how handsome Clark Gable was when they hear the title, but don’t forget it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, too. It also taught me more history of the Civil War than I ever learned in school. There’s an homage to GWTW in my fourth novel, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. I indulged myself a little there.

What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?

Hmm. I’ve learned that writing has a lot less to do with muses and inspiration than it does with showing up at the keyboard and putting in the hours. It’s a hard job! But a wonderful job, too. As for publishing, it’s a fascinating time to be an author. There are so many ways to read a book these days, and so many ways for writers to get their work out there. And I’ve learned how lucky I am to have a publisher who’s done so much for me. 🙂

For us cat folks out there, how’s Willow doing at winning Huck over? (The picture to the right below is Kristan’s Huck. Cat lover Marlene couldn’t resist)

The cat has successfully made Willow into her love slave. They cuddle together at night, Willow gazing worshipfully at Huck, until Huck decides he’s had enough and pounces on her. I’ve never seen a cat flip a dog who weights more than three times what he does, but Huck is gifted. When the mood strikes him, he’s very affectionate. But he likes to keep us all on our toes.


Huck is not available for the giveaway. However, a copy of the book, Somebody to Love, is available to one lucky commenter. Because Kristan will be shipping a copy of the print book, this giveaway is open to the US entries only. So what are you waiting for? There’s the rafflecopter form, right there.

Continue reading “Q&A with Kristan Higgins, author of Somebody to Love plus Book Giveaway”

Somebody to Love

Somebody to love, isn’t that what we all want? It’s such a universal wish that it’s been a song title, over and over, from Queen to Jefferson Airplane to (gulp) Justin Bieber. At least Glee went with the classics, and covered Queen’s awesome version, pretty well, at that.

Somebody to Love is also the title of Kristan Higgins’ latest contemporary romance. And it fits even better than the songs. Because every single character, from Parker Welles, the poor little rich girl heroine, to James Cahill, the lawyer with a whole lot of baggage, to Parker’s daddy Harry Welles, even right down to the dog Parker adopts, Beauty, every single one of them is searching for somebody to love. And somebody to love them back.

That tale of searching, and finding, and the other things they lose and find along the way, makes for one fantastic story.

Parker Welles starts out as the quintessentially poor little rich girl. She lives in a mansion, Grayhurst, that belongs to Daddy Dearest, her father Harry. She even refers to him that way. Harry owns Grayhurst, but only visits when he wants to impress some clients, because Harry is a real wheeler-dealer. Harry never comes just to visit his daughter, he only shows up with his entourage, his interchangeable flunkies in their conservative suits.

Parker even tries to forget they have names. She refers to them as “Thing One and Thing Two”.

But they aren’t interchangeable. “Thing Two” might be just a yes-man, but “Thing One” is Harry’s lawyer. His very young and attractive lawyer. Something it turns out that Parker has very good reason to know.

There are two things that keep Parker Welles from being a classic poor little rich girl. Thing One is that she is a best-selling children’s author. Unfortunately for her, she gave all the money from her books to charity, because she didn’t need it. Or so she thought.

Thing Two is that Parker has a five-year old son, Nicky. Who she unashamedly had out-of-wedlock and cheerfully shares in joint-custody with his father. Who just married her best friend.

And Parker is going to need her friends. Because Daddy Dearest is going to jail for insider trading. He lost the house. All the houses. And everything in them. And Parker’s trust fund. And Nicky’s trust fund.

Parker has just one thing left. A house her great aunt left for her in Gideon’s Cove, Maine. Parker thinks she can flip the house and have a nest egg to start over. It turns out that the house isn’t quite in shape for that. But, Parker finds something better in that small town on the remote coast of Maine.

She finds her strength. She finds family she never expected to find. She finds friendship. She rescues a terrific dog.

And in the most unlikely person, and at what seems like the lowest point in her life, Parker Welles finds Somebody to Love.

Escape Rating A: Heart-warming is such an over-used word, but it definitely applies to Somebody to Love. This contemporary romance definitely is heart-warming. The slowly simmering love story between Parker and James Cahill also warms up the temperature (and eventually Parker) quite nicely as well.

Both characters have a lot of emotional baggage they need to sort through. Not so much in the romance department, but in much earlier, and more fundamental relationships. They’re both afraid to love, and yet, they’ve found each other anyway. They want to trust, but they’re not sure they can, or if they should. And they both have good reasons for that wariness.

Beauty, the dog Parker adopts, has been beaten before too. Just the same, she learns to trust again. Metaphor, anyone?