Higgin’s books are often considered more chicklit than romance, with the lack of hero point-of-view cited as the reason they may seem insufficiently romantic. In Until There Was You
, she departs from her usual first person style to give us both points of view -- yet ironically, though it’s a good read in many ways, it’s the least convincing romance by her I’ve ever read. Possibly one of the least convincing romances I’ve ever
Once upon a time, the school bad boy married the school good girl and they moved away to live happily ever after… leaving Posey, the school flat-chested girl, brokenhearted. But happy ever after was ruined by death, and now Liam is back in town, a widower with a fifteen year old daughter -- and still the hottest guy Posey’s ever seen. Ludicrously overprotective and anxious about his daughter, Liam finds that being with Posey is unexpectedly comfortable and relaxing
First the good. As always, it’s funny. Depictions of Posey’s difficult adolescence brought tears to my eyes. And though I think the casual feel of Higgin’s writing works better in first person, getting Liam’s perspective is helpful, at least at first -- knowing that he has a lot on his mind makes it more forgivable that he pretty much ignores Posey for the first third of the book.
There’s often a serious edge underlying Higgins' lighthearted books, and there’s plenty here. On Posey’s side, there are issues over her adoption: greatly loved, she nonetheless feels something of an outsider in her family, and worries that her parents wish she was more like her cousin, a strapping German beauty who looks just like Posey’s mom. This aspect of the book is well-drawn, with tenderness and realism. (Posey’s brother was also adopted, and plans to adopt a child with his male spouse, so there’s a very balanced view of the topic.) And I thought it interesting to have a hero with severe anxiety -- it’s not a sexy disorder. Liam’s over-the-top protective dad act gets annoying though, and I can’t believe that in real life his daughter wouldn’t seriously rebel against his almost psychotic behavior.
I enjoyed the details of Posey’s work in architectural salvage. It’s more of a mission to her than a job, making sure things that were left behind are cherished and loved: “Something that had life in it yet, even if it was slightly damaged, or broken. Something that might find new meaning, new beauty, if given the right home.” How’s that for a metaphor? And this attitude of Posey’s is healing for Liam, who had never felt good enough for his wife or his daughter.
So -- what goes wrong? Part of it is Posey: her incessant mental squeeings over Liam reduce her feelings to an adolescent crush. And I found it unsatisfying that Liam so easily gets anything he wants; Posey barely seems to hold a grudge for something extremely hurtful he once did, (view spoiler)[I guessed that he had a good reason and he did, but even so, there could have been more emotion around this point. (hide spoiler)]
and after a little initial resistance, which is probably what gets his attention, she throws herself at him at every turn. He always gets to be the one running the show.
But the nail in the romance coffin for me was that Liam’s feelings for her never seem like more than a mild affection, that will never be as powerful as his love for his first wife. A grand, classically ridiculous romantic gesture by him at the end can’t make up for that.
Considering that Until There Was You
made me laugh and cry
, I can’t give it less than three stars. But if you’re mostly looking for strong romance, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
(E-arc provided for review by netGalley.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>