I discovered Kristan Higgins at the beginning of 2014 and immediately fell in love with her writing. Since then, I’ve been steadily working my way thrI discovered Kristan Higgins at the beginning of 2014 and immediately fell in love with her writing. Since then, I’ve been steadily working my way through her backlist. Earlier this year I realised that I didn’t have many books left to read, and was pleasantly surprised when I heard about If You Only Knew. The only drawback was that the book seemed more like a chick-lit novel than a romance, which is a little bit of a change from Kristan’s usual writing. Early reviews were a bit mixed, but I’m glad I went ahead and read this book. Sure, it’s not a standard romance, but if you like the way that Kristan writes about family relationships, particularly those between siblings, you’re sure to appreciate this book. And let’s not forget her humour. And the dogs! I’m definitely not a dog person and even I find myself becoming attached to the pets in Kristan’s novels.
If You Only Knew focuses on two sisters, and as such, switches between their points of view throughout the book. Personally, I love first person storytelling, but sometimes I feel like I’m in the minority when it comes to this. Sometimes it can be annoying only getting one perspective on a situation, but since this book’s focus is on Jenny and Rachel growing as individuals, and not so much about their romantic entanglements, I think it worked well. I really liked getting inside their heads, and seeing how each sister viewed the other. As can be expected, their views of each other weren’t always correct.
Jenny is pretty much your typical Kristan Higgins heroine. She has a drama-queen mother, a snarky gay employee, an ex-husband who she’s somehow still best friends with (not to mention his new wife!), and she goes on one fantastically awful blind date. I’m not going to lie, I did initially wonder if this book was going to feel formulaic. I love reading about horrendous blind dates (perhaps because I’ve never been on one?), but Jenny felt like she was ticking too many boxes that had already been ticked in other books. Thankfully, she quickly became her own, wonderfully unique character. I really enjoyed reading about her journey away from Manhattan and her ex’s new family, and learning to let go of her past. She is in no way a perfect character, and sometimes she stuck her nose into Rachel’s business too much or at the wrong times, but that made her all the more real.
I also loved Jenny’s relationship with Leo, the superintendent of her building. To begin with, I thought he was a bit too aloof and alpha-male for my liking, but as his story unfolded it became clear why he was acting like that. Honestly, when Leo’s entire back-story was revealed I found myself crying a little. This definitely isn’t your conventional romance, and it isn’t a light, fluffy read either—it has a lot of hidden deepness to it that I really wasn’t expecting. It pleasantly surprised me.
I found myself relating to Rachel more than Jenny, and not just because we share the same name. Like Rachel, I love being a stay-at-home mom, and I derive so much pleasure from it. I understood her issues with not getting along with all the other local moms, the pressure to make sure everything your kids do is enriching, organic and Pinterest-worthy, and the struggle to still be you in the midst of all the stresses of parenting. So I ached and got angry alongside her when she uncovered her husband’s affair. I want to think that I would be like Jenny and immediately see through Adam’s lies, but in reality, my mind might be clouded just like Rachel’s was. Wouldn’t I want it all to just be a big misunderstanding, for the sake of my family? Wouldn’t it be easier to sweep everything under the rug and start over again? I might not have always agreed with everything Rachel did, but I understood her reasoning. I don’t think anyone truly knows what they’d do with a cheating partner until they find themselves in that situation.
In the end, Jenny and Rachel both made decisions that I wasn’t expecting. They grew so much over the course of this book, and I was both surprised and proud of them. Their hardships and friendships helped them to be strong enough to break off relationships that weren’t healthy, and take steps that would allow them to move forward with their lives. If You Only Knew wasn’t the book I was expecting it to be—in fact, it was even better. While it’s quite unlike anything Kristan’s written before, it still contains some of the best elements of her romance novels. I definitely shed a tear or two in the final chapter of this book, and I was sad to say goodbye to the sisters I had become so fond of.
Clare Wilson has given her husband numerous second chances over the years. She's forgiven his many affairs in the hope that keeping3.5 out of 5 stars.
Clare Wilson has given her husband numerous second chances over the years. She's forgiven his many affairs in the hope that keeping her marriage intact is the best thing for their teenage son. But when she's in a near-fatal car accident following a run-in with her husband and another woman, she decides that she's had enough. Her brush with death convinces her to make a clean break from her philandering husband. Clare has a long road to recovery ahead of her—both in her personal life and her physical therapy—and she's prepared for this. What she isn't expecting is the cute police officer who witnessed her accident to keep checking up on her. Is he simply doing his duty, or do his calls mean something more? More importantly, is Clare ready for another relationship? Between finding a job to support herself, negotiating her divorce and trying to reconcile her son with his absentee father, Clare isn't sure that she should be getting involved with another man right now...even if it is awfully difficult to avoid Officer Sam's advances. When she is ready to date, will it be Sam she chooses, or someone from her past...perhaps the one who has haunted her all these years?
I didn't used to read a lot of contemporary romances, but I decided to pick up one of Robyn Carr's Virgin River novels a couple of years ago and she got me hooked—both on her writing, and contemporary love stories. Never Too Late is a little different from the novels Robyn's fans may be used to, and the writing style makes it clear that this is one of her earlier books (the 2015 reissue being almost ten years old). Nevertheless, it contains some of the elements that Robyn's fans are fond of—small towns, strong bonds between family members, sizzling romance, and plenty of second chances.
Clare's story is one that a lot of readers will be able to relate to, or at leasy sympathise with. It's not easy to restart your life on your own, after being married for over fifteen years. Clare has been a housewife and stay-at-home mother for the majority of her adult life, and now she has to navigate the world of work all over again, as an almost forty-year-old rookie. And after so many years out of the working world, Clare discovers that although she trained to be a teacher, it's no longer a job she enjoys. It was encouraging to watch Clare try to figure out her new niche in life, where her talents and interests could best be put to use. Although her situation isn't ideal, Clare offers hope to other men and women who may find their worlds' similarly turned upside-down. Divorce isn't the end of the world, especially when you have the support of your friends and family to hold you up.
Clare's sisters play a large part in this novel, and they even have their own sort-of sub-plots. I say “sort-of” because the way that Maggie and Sarah's stories wove into the main plot didn't always flow terribly well. We hear a little about Maggie's marital problems at the start of the book, and then it takes ages for her story to be picked up again. Maggie is growing frustrated with her husband's inattention and the lack of romance in her life, and the antics of her teenage daughters are causing her additional stress, but her story takes up so little page-time that it almost felt like it didn't need to be there at all. It either needed to be more detailed, or taken out altogether, as the little we did hear about Maggie's troubles almost trivialised them.
Sarah doesn't get a lot of attention at the start of the book, other than the constant reminders that she dresses in plain, frumpy clothes and spends all of her time on her art. After a while, I got a bit tired of these comments. Finally, Sarah gets more page-time when she spots a guy who catches her attention. She gets a complete makeover and devotes all her free time to getting this guy to pay attention to her, almost to the point of stalking him. While I don't have any problems with women making the first move in a relationship (in fact, more women should do it!), Sarah turning her world upside down for this guy seemed a bit ridiculous given that she'd met him twice and barely spoken to him. It was a little too “love at first sight” for me. I understood that Sarah being interested in this guy was a big deal because she'd been reclusive and blocked out the world for so long, but she did seem a little stalkerish. I'm glad that she found her happy ending, but the story didn't entirely work for me.
I'm hesitant to class this as a romance novel. While each of the sisters has their own romance, it isn't always the focal point of the story. A lot of Clare's sections focused on her getting her new life in order, and while she is persued by Officer Sam for a while, he isn't the love of her life. While other reviewers have complained that half the book focused on Sam when Clare wasn't actually in love with him, I actually appreciated the way Clare's story worked out. How many of us have dated people (sometimes for a significant amount of time) only to realise that they're the not the one we want to spend the rest of our lives with? Clare spends a lot of time talking to and hanging out with Sam, but she knows after a couple of dates that he's far more serious about the relationship than she is. It takes courage to admit that a relationship isn't working, and given that Clare had been stuck in a failing marriage for so long, it made sense that she was cautious about dating. I kind of figured, based on Clare's backstory, that she might end up with someone from her past. While I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, I will admit that I wished more of the book had focused on Clare reconnecting with her lost love. We got some nice scenes, but not nearly enough for my liking.
This definitely isn't my favourite of Robyn Carr's novels, but it is an easy read and an encouraging tale of second chances. Whether you're married, single or starting over, Never Too Late reminds readers that hope is still out there, sometimes lurking in the most unexpected places.
Disclaimer: This is a general market romance and contains scenes of sexual nature, and occasional strong language.
Review title provided by Little Bird Publicity....more
I've read four Kristan Higgins novels so far this year, and I don't think I've rated any of them less than 4.5 out of 5. While this one was quite diffI've read four Kristan Higgins novels so far this year, and I don't think I've rated any of them less than 4.5 out of 5. While this one was quite different from her Blue Heron series, it still had Kristan's trademark humour, quirky family relationships and a heroine who continually finds herself in embarrassing moments.
Some people seem to have disliked the first-person perspective of this novel, particularly as it provides very little insight into the hero's thoughts and feelings. Personally, I thought of this book more of a chick-lit novel than a contemporary romance, and for that reason I didn't mind that the book was told entirely from Maggie's point of view. Although the romance between her and Malone is important, a large part of the story focuses on her personal journey--dealing with her perpetual singleness, her dependency on her sister and the local priest, figuring out her relationship with her mother, learning to take pride in her business, etc. Her relationship with Malone wasn't necessarily tacked on at the end, but he also wasn't the only source of her happiness. I don't read a lot of chick-lit any more, but I really enjoyed this book. However, if you're wanting a standard romance, this might not be for you.
Given that this is one of Kristan's earlier novels, I didn't have such high expectations as I do for her more recent books, and for a while I was convinced that I'd figured out two big twists in the story. As it turns out, I was completely and utterly wrong, so the red herrings in this book were fantastic! There was one thing that I suspected towards the end, but that was only after I ruled out all the other options. This book definitely wasn't predictable, and I fell into some of the same traps as Maggie with my suspicions.
I didn't completely and utterly love this book, and if I had to pin-point one thing that occasionally bugged me, it's probably that it didn't always seem entirely realistic for Maggie to end up in so many embarrassing situations. I think this is a common trope in Kristan's books, but in this one it felt a little overdone at times, especially with some of the blind dates or situations with the priest. It isn't a major flaw, however.
While some people have complained about Malone being too silent for much of the book, I don't think I minded this too much. I guess I kind of like the strong, silent type of hero, who waits patiently for the right moment to show how he cares for the heroine, rather than a pushy guy who won't shut up. Malone's quiet personality made certain situations and moments all the more special simply because I could see he was making a special effort for Maggie. If you want a pushy alpha male, he's definitely not the hero for you, but I came to appreciate Malone.
My library has the second book in this series, and it looks like I picked up the third book for 59p on Kindle a few months ago, so I'll definitely be looking forward to revisiting Gideon's Cove. While this book had a different style from Kristan's newer books, it was still fantastically written and of a very similar quality. Highly recommended! 4.5*...more
In spite of their differences in family life and careers, Gerri, Andy and Sonja have been friends and exercise buddies for years. Gerri’s hectic lifesIn spite of their differences in family life and careers, Gerri, Andy and Sonja have been friends and exercise buddies for years. Gerri’s hectic lifestyle hasn’t stopped her from helping Andy through her relationship problems over the years, and both women appreciate Sonja’s positive attitude, even if they could do without some of her New Age advice. But one day, Sonja turns up on Gerri’s doorstep for their morning walk to discover that their simple, little suburban world is starting to crumble. Andy has just caught her husband cheating and is devastated to be going through her second divorce. Normally Gerri would offer a shoulder to cry on, but she’s recently discovered a secret from her husband’s past that is threatening to destroy her previously rock-solid faith in her marriage. And Sonja’s meditation and herbal remedies may not be enough to help her weather the storms coming along in her own life. Throw in teenage children who are experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sexuality, and these women don’t know where to turn. Will they be able to cling to each other during this difficult period, or will help come in the surprising form of their usually quiet and reclusive neighbour, BJ, who appears to have some secrets of her own?
I discovered Robyn Carr a little over two years ago, and I’ve been slowly working my way through her back catalogue ever since. Given the speed that she manages to write at (I believe she’s already released three new books this year alone), I don’t think I’ll ever get caught up, but that doesn’t stop me from jumping on each new book as it arrives. Four Friends is a little different from Robyn’s previous novels. While it centres around a community of close friends and features a healthy dose of romance, the protagonists are significantly older than those typically featured in her Virgin River and Thunder Point series, and the focus is more on the friendships between the female protagonists than their love lives. I’m not entirely sure if this book fits squarely into the categories of chick-lit or women’s fiction, but if you like a little more family drama than romance, this book might be a perfect fit.
I wasn’t entirely sure how well I’d relate to Gerri, Andy and Sonja, given that I’m significantly younger than them. I’ve no idea what it’s like to balance family life and a high powdered job, or how to handle a drunken teenager or a marital dispute. Fortunately, my lack of experience in these areas didn’t stop me from becoming interested in each woman’s situation and the dilemmas she faced.
This book could easily have become a depressing read, given the difficult situations each woman found herself in, but the close friendships the characters clung to enabled this book to be more encouraging than I initially expected. Even as it’s revealed that Gerri, Andy and Sonja are all having marital problems, their ability to weather the storms and push through their difficulties managed to prevent this book from becoming too discouraging. That’s not to say that Robyn brushes over the difficult subject matter and turns a serious situation into a fluffy, happy story—but she manages to deal with each issue as it arises, without the storyline feeling too preachy or disheartening.
Given the number of issues that arise over the course of this story, I wondered if some of them might be skimmed over or neglected. Surprisingly, it seemed like each issue was dealt with in a realistic manner, even in the case of small side stories that only appeared for a couple of chapters. I was definitely impressed with how Robyn dealt with the various topics that arose over the course of Four Friends, from mental illness to homosexuality to domestic abuse. That said, it did sometimes feel unbelievable that so many problems would crop up in such a short space of time, in such a small group of friends. In particular, what were the chances of all three protagonists having serious marital problems at the exact same time? This book may require a little suspension of disbelief with regard to all the drama that occurs over the course of the story.
Although I didn’t particularly relate to any of the women, they were all compelling characters, and their problems and family dynamics drew me into their lives. I was pleased to see Andy find happiness in spite of her two failed marriages, and waited patiently while Gerri came to terms with her husband’s secret and figured out how she wanted to move forward with her life. It was Sonja’s storyline that I initially thought I might relate to the most, given her interest in herbal remedies and the part that mental illness played in her storyline. For part of the story, her plot was the most intriguing to me simply because it was the most unexpected. But I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the developments Sonja’s character made. By the end of the book, she seemed like an entirely different character, but not necessarily in a good way. While it’s obvious that she’s gone through a massively altering experience, I wasn’t entirely sure how believable her abrupt change in personality and mannerisms was, or whether I thought she’d truly changed for the better. Even a week after finishing this book, I’m still not sure how I feel about Sonja.
Although we never really get to see the story from BJ’s point of view, I enjoyed the addition of her character, and the role she came to play in the story. It was encouraging to see such different women rallying together to help each other through difficult times, and BJ’s situation brought about some interesting questions that I’m sure book groups would love to discuss. I don’t want to spoil anything for potential readers, but BJ’s story certainly provided a lot of food for thought.
While Four Friends is quite different from Robyn Carr’s more popular works, it still contains elements that will appeal to fans of her writing. The family dynamics and diverse friendships that evolve as each character struggles to get a hold of their situation make for a very compelling read, and are accompanied by just enough romance to stop the book from ever feeling too dark or depressing. Four Friends may even reel in some new fans who wouldn’t normally pick up one of Robyn’s straight contemporary romances.
Review title provided by Harlequin and Little Bird Publicity.
Disclaimer: This is a mainstream novel and contains several scenes of a sexual nature and language that may be upsetting to some readers....more
Kristan Higgins has been on my radar for ages, and every time I read a good review of one of her books I find myself sucked in by the intriguing synopKristan Higgins has been on my radar for ages, and every time I read a good review of one of her books I find myself sucked in by the intriguing synopsis--and then stop and remind myself that I already have way too many books waiting to be read! But this book was £0.59 on Kindle and that seemed far too good to pass up, right? I read the sample chapter and immediately had to purchase this book. And I'm so glad that I did.
It's been a really long time since a book has made me sway from being in fits of giggles to crying at several points throughout the story. Some of the humour may be a little over-the-top and verging on slapstick at times, but I loved reading about Faith's ridiculous escapades and her crazy family. Not only that, but this book was so touching. I know I'm a little bit emotional in general right now, but I really felt for Faith and all the tough things she'd been through--from being broken up with on her wedding day to witnessing her mother's death and believing it was her fault. She was a flawed character in the best sense, whether she was trying to climb out of the bathroom of a bar to avoid seeing her ex, or trying to fix her father up with a date because she was worried he was lonely without her mom. I can see from other reviews that some people struggled to relate to Faith, but I loved her.
Levi was a fabulously flawed hero as well. I loved the relationship between him and his teenage sister--plenty of romance novels feature single dads, but not so many have heroes who have to look after their younger siblings. It took me a while to warm up to Levi to begin with, until I understood the weird dynamic between Levi, Faith, and Faith's ex-fiancé. He really won me over towards the end of the story when he and Faith talked about her mother's death. Even if they did have some silly communication issues, they worked them out quickly, which I was pleased about as I am not a fan of Big Misunderstandings.
I loved the town that this book was set in, and will definitely be hunting down the later books in the series. There were plenty of fantastic characters--from the Bible study ladies who picked bizarre passages to analyse, to Levi's colleagues on the police force to Faith's amusing gaggle of siblings.
Honestly, I don't have any major complaints about this book. It really touched me and got me to care about these characters as if they were my own friends. If there was anything I didn't like, it was some of the terminology--if Levi used the word "rack" one more time to describe Faith's chest, I would have wanted to punch him! But really, that's the extent of my gripes with this book. I am definitely a fan of Kristan Higgins now. And this book was more than worth the £0.59 I spent on it!
A note on the cover: I love Kristan's US covers, and I don't understand why her UK publisher insists on these cheesy, cartoony ones? Ick. For years I've been bemoaning the sad state of romance/chick-lit covers over here, and it's yet to change. ...more