Millie, a local-girl-done-good, returns to her Cape Cod hometown to start her career as a doctor--and, if being perfectly honest, to also secure some true love and romance with her childhood crush, Joe. Plus, she hopes to set up her freshly divorced former-brother-in-law Sam with her happily-divorced BFF Katie. Of course, what goes on in Millie's head has no bearing on what happens in reality, and while the book ends with a wedding, it's NOT one of the specified couples.
I needed to read something light and fluffy, and I had hoped that Fools Rush In
would be just what I was looking for. I liked the summery atmosphere, the baseball games and tourists and dinner & drinks at the local dives. Unfortunately, the story and the main characters didn't work for me, and it wasn't as funny as other Kristan Higgins books I've read.
I really liked the friendship between Millie and her best friend Katie, because it was something I rarely encounter presented in an angst-free way in books: a friendship between a single, childless woman and a divorced woman who's single-parenting two small children. There's no drama in terms of the life differences between Millie and Katie, and no angst over whether a mom and a non-mom can be good friends: just demonstrations of the two of them making their friendship part of their ongoing lives. The friendship wasn't all sparkles and butterflies, however, and I was quite impressed by Katie's maturity and willingness to confront (and forgive) Millie in regard to Millie's unwelcome and offbase meddling. I liked that, eventually, Millie's childish matchmaking was not tolerated by the characters as something cute, but as seriously annoying, and an example of Millie's inability to actually see and know even her best friends well.
Unfortunately, while I liked that real-world and interesting and consequential spin on delusional/meddling matchmaking (a common enough chick lit trope), Millie's characterization in that dynamic is pretty much her personality in a nutshell, and the major source of my frustrations with the book. She's childish and annoying, and she's unable to actually see and know even her best friend well. This from a woman who's just completed her med school residency and turns 30 during the course of the book. Millie's terrifying stalker-crush on the town's golden boy was ridiculous, and even though it was played for humor, I didn't find anything enjoyable or even patronizingly charming about it. Mostly, I was dismayed to think that such a delusional and childish woman was out in the world practicing medicine.
Even though the narrative, and Millie herself, eventually, seems to understand just how immature Millie is being, it's too little too late. It's not until nearly the end of the book that Millie actually sees her behavior as delusional:
I was like some poor adolescent girl who was in love with a movie star or singer, assigning all kinds of qualities to a pretty face. "And then, someday, our eyes will meet at a concert, and we'll just know that we're right for each other..."
That's the realization that comes three-fourths of the way through the book. THREE-FOURTHS. Even with her very minimal background in romance and relationships, it's kind of frustrating that it takes three-fourths of a book for a thirty-year-old woman to recognize she has an adolescent crush.
I could deal with a frustrating and immature character, but the romance aspect of this book only compounded my frustration. I didn't buy the whole in-love-with-the-ex-brother-in-law aspect. There are a couple issues at work here. First, I had a problem knowing that Higgins does this relationship (falling in love with a sibling's ex, or falling in love with sibling of former husband, etc.) in a few of her books, and just feeling personally squicked by that repeated relationship type. I know, there's no actual incest involved, but it still makes me uncomfortable. Decades of a brotherly-sisterly relationship turning into a romantic/sexual relationship didn't sit well with me, and though I appreciated that Millie struggled with it, I was still boggled by how fast it was reconciled. Second, with so little time devoted to the fallout of Millie and Sam actually acting on their feelings for each other, there's no actual show-not-tell of how they managed to get over the uncomfortableness of the situation. It's mainly told in exposition. Millie's infatuation with the false golden boy Joe was so, so less interesting than Millie and Sam's situation but dominated the page count of the book, yet there was so little "screen time" devoted to showing Millie and Sam dealing with the hard and complicated (and, well, squicky to me) aspects of their relationship. (Plus, Sam was too perfect and too put-upon. I know, it's a first-person chick lit sort of book, it's not unusual for the male lead to be less than well-rounded. But still. Being told over and over how perfect Sam was and how everybody loved him, it didn't give me a good idea of what he was like.)
Between Millie's dippiness and over-the-top stalking and delusional nature, the unengaging romance, the stereotypical gay friends, and the lack of hilarity I associated with other reads from Higgins, I just didn't enjoy my time with this one.