Monday, February 7, 2011
All I Ever Wanted, by Kristan Higgins - Review
This book made me laugh out loud, cringe in embarrassment and sympathy for the main character, and yep, made me cry. Not the first time for this author, I might add. Ms. Higgins is becoming my go-to author for those times when you just need sweet romance with a side of salty tears.
Callie is my favorite Higgins heroine yet. She's smart, funny, confident, and generally just really good at life -- except when it comes to men. Even then, she knows that she's "doing it wrong," even when she can't help herself. Emotion is pesky that way.
This is a story that crackles with fantastic dialog and vivid secondary characters. At times the secondaries might veer near the edge of caricature, but the important ones are grounded with the kind of telling details that make their relationships with Callie very real, whether they're her sister, her BFF from fourth grade, a scheming co-worker, or the drinking buddies at the bar.
Higgins' heroines have bordered on the farcical in the past, but I felt like this book marked some kind of leap in the author's ability to create a character that was whimsical and quirky but still felt real and not too much like the 80's sitcom wacky neighbor. For instance, the dogs in this book had some personality and lent some character insight, but there was no 120-lb mastiff in heat careening through the streets with the heroine trailing, wackily, behind [Just One of the Guys]. I mean, it's possible that I just liked this heroine and this book better, but I think there's a developing maturity in Higgins' characters that has me really looking forward to the next one.
The hero is a little out of the ordinary for a modern romance. All the right bones are there -- wounded past, emotionally distant, sort of anti-social [read: an asshole] at first. The biggest difference - and some reviewers had issues with this -- is that we don't get much time inside his head, so he is pretty distant to the reader, too.
In some ways I like this, because it puts the reader in the same vulnerable space as the heroine, when you don't quite know what's going on with that guy. But it does make him a bit less sympathetic to the reader. What I liked best about this slightly damaged, slightly angsty hero is that, while the bubbly, friendly heroine does help heal his wounds, his more taciturn nature enables him to see under Callie's facade and gives her a space where she doesn't have to be "on" all the time. In his words, she "doesn't have to try so hard. Not with me, anyway." It was a terribly awkward moment for both of them when they have this exchange, but it becomes a real turning point for Callie, and-- besides raw chemistry-- the real reason that he is The One for her.
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