Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Review: All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins
Callie Gray knows that she should’ve gotten over first kiss, boss one-time fling, and love of her life Mark years ago. Yet when Mark gets engaged to a woman who is everything she’s not, Callie finally decides to attempt to move on. Unfortunately, in their sleepy Vermont town, there aren’t that many candidates. The most eligible bachelor, the new vet, Dr. Ian McFarland, is antisocial and seems to have a stick up his bum. And yet Ian is precisely who Callie keeps on running into. As their paths continue to cross, Callie begins to wonder if she may actually be able to love Ian after all…
The problem with reading my first two Kristan Higgins novels back to back is that, the second time around, the formula becomes glaringly, embarrassingly obvious. In one breath, here are the characteristics that, after reading just two of her books, I suspect hold throughout all her novels: a theoretically smart female MC (often a middle child with an unusual interest or hobby) with a bad history in men and who turns into idiots around men, a quirky family, a cantankerous grandparent, an over-hyper and disobedient canine pet who gets talked to in frighteningly embarrassing babytalk, eCommitment and horrible blind online dates, a gay best friend… I guess I’ll stop here for now (although I’ll just say: seriously, a requisite gay best friend? Isn’t that so 1990s?).
Furthermore, the plot progresses at pretty much the same “ratio”: for example, the requisite lovers’ misunderstanding occurs at around 85% of the way through the novel. GAH. I don’t know whether I should laugh at the unapologetic adherence to a formula, or cry a little.
Now, I understand that this is romance and that bestselling romance often follows a formula that everyone knows yet still loves. And yep, that’s pretty much the case here. This is classic Higgins (if one who has only read two of her books is allowed to reach such a conclusion after having just dissected her formula in a disconcertingly easy way). Callie is likable (and has the requisite quirky hobby!), and her awkwardness/stupidity around men is still infuriating yet relatable. Zany humor abounds in conversations. The dog is still annoying.
But Ian. Oh, Ian. He totally makes this book. Think a blond, Slavic version of Mr. Darcy, with a reticence slightly reminiscent of Asperger’s but with puppy-like loyalty that is hard to earn but oh so worth it. Shy guys! Stories these days are overflowing with guys who know they’re good-looking and know how to say just the right thing to get what they want. Ian, however, has NO CLUE what he’s doing most of the time, as far as relationships go, which makes his rare right actions all the more genuine and truly endearing. We need more Ians in stories, that’s for sure.
It’s probably going to be hard for me to pick a favorite Higgins romance, because they all follow pretty much the same formula, and yet are all so much fun to read. Hopefully this review will push you in the right direction and encourage you to pick up a book by Kristin Higgins! And if you already have, well, let’s just giggle and gaggle and gossip together over which Higgins man we’d like to have for ourselves…
HQN Books / July 27, 2010 / Mass Market Paperback / 384pp. / $7.99