Sunday, 10 September 2017

#CBR9 Book 78: "My One and Only" by Kristan Higgins

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3 stars

While others may describe divorce attorney Harper James as somewhat bitter, cynical and decidedly unromantic, she herself claims that she is realistic and practical and her job allows her to help her clients, usually in miserable relationships have the best possible lives after their divorces. Her mother packed up and left Harper and her father on Harper's thirteenth birthday, and Harper's own marriage didn't even last six months, but she doesn't really feel that those things in any way influenced the woman she is today.

Successful and good at her job, Harper has been dating a guy for several years now, and as she's about to turn thirty-four, the same age her mother was when Harper last saw her, she feels that now would be a good time for them to take their relationship to the next level. Sure, Dennis still lives with his parents, tends to call her 'dude', has a very annoying rat tail that he refuses to get rid of, but he's tall, extremely handsome and works as a firefighter, saving lives! Harper has even bought her own engagement ring and seems very surprised when Dennis appears reluctant to agree to her fine list of bullet points on why they should get married. Her rather awkward proposal attempt is interrupted by a phone call from her younger step-sister, joyfully announcing that she's getting married. In two weeks' time. As her sister's been married twice before already, Harper thinks this may be extremely foolish and impulsive, but nevertheless agrees to be the maid of honour.

Complications arise once they get to the Montana wilderness retreat where the marriage is taking place. It turns out the best man is Harper's ex-husband, Nick Lowery, because her little sister is marrying his younger brother, after they've barely had a chance to get to know one another. Harper obviously brings along her hunky boyfriend, but it's quite clear from the moment they meet again, that there is still tons of chemistry between Nick and Harper. While Nick may think Harper never really loved him and was determined to see the marriage fail from the moment they tied the knot, Harper did actually have her heart thoroughly broken and still feels that Nick was caring and attentive until he actually made her his wife, and then turned into a neglectful workaholic.

When it's time for everyone to leave, Harper's flight is cancelled due to technical difficulties, and she ends up accepting an offer from Nick to drive with him part of the way home, until they can get her on a plane back to Martha's Vineyard. During this several day road trip, they get lots of time to talk things through, and slowly start to find some common ground again.

There is a lot going on in this book, and Harper has a whole lot of emotional baggage to process before she is in any way ready for any romantic relationship, with Dennis (who, while cute, is obviously all wrong for her) or Nick. Nick really does seem like a good guy, but it's obvious that he's laying way too much of the blame on their brief and failed marriage at Harper's door. They were both very young when they got married, Harper pretty much let herself be talked into it, but her slew of complicated abandonment issues combined with his need for success meant the marriage never stood a chance. On this road trip, it's not just about Harper and Nick possibly working through their differences from last time, Harper also gets a chance to confront the parent who left her all those years ago.

This book is standard length for a romance, but it felt longer, because so much happened in it. Due to her constant fear of abandonment, Harper has a real problem disappointing other people. While she's an efficient and fairly ruthless divorce attorney, in her personal life, she will go out of her way not to say no to people, even when it can cause major problems. In the final section of the book, there is an implausible and very frustrating complication which could have been avoided with one simple no, but instead Harper goes on to hurt more people she cares about. I will say that she turns around and grovels rather spectacularly, after a heck of a grand gesture, but it this book was all a bit too much and I doubt I will ever re-read it.

As well as the all over plot, I was constantly annoyed throughout the book by Harper's "swearing". She says or thinks "crotch" instead of more traditional swear words, and on occasion will exclaim "holy testicle Tuesday". I get that some people get annoyed and offended by swearing, but I would much rather have had that than Harper's silly exclamations.

I have heard good things about Kristan Higgins' contemporaries, and while I didn't love this, I certainly didn't hate it either. I suspect, given my tendency to buy books pretty indiscriminately in e-book sales if they cost $3 or less, that I not only own several more books by her, but that I will end up getting more at some point in the future.

Judging a book by its cover: Open-top sportscar. Check. Couple sitting close together. Check. Tiny, cute dog. Check. All these elements are in the book and it's quite obvious that this is a romance novel. I don't exactly think it's a very exciting cover, but it does what it needs to and none of the major element on the cover seem out of place or inappropriate.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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