Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kristan Higgins: Adult Contemporary Romance

This year I have branched out in search of some smiley, breezy contemporary romance to chill out too. One name that kept popping up is the ever-so-popular Kristan Higgins. This post reviews two of her books and (briefly) mentions a third (the total I have read of her)

My first Higgins book is the road-tripping book that was most highly recommended to me:

My One and Only
Just when she thought she had life and love all figured out…

Divorce attorney Harper James can’t catch a break. Bad enough that she runs into her ex-hubby, Nick, at her sister’s destination wedding, but now, by a cruel twist of fate, she’s being forced to make a cross-country road trip with him. And her almost-fiancĂ© back at home is not likely to be sympathetic.

Harper can’t help that Nick has come blazing back into her life in all of his frustratingly appealing, gorgeous architect glory. But in Nick’s eyes, Harper’s always been the one. If they can only get it right this time, forever might be waiting—just around the bend.

My review: Reading this book was exactly like watching a romantic comedy. 

I like reading books like this for indulgent relaxation. For some swoony/fun times. For the romantic in me (I guess, haha).

I don't expect depth. It's the kind of book that is predictable just after reading the back blurb. A guilty pleasure indulgent read.

The thing is, I am not the hugest fan of romantic comedies. As much as I want to love them, they more often than not frustrate me. Still, I continually go back searching for more (weird).

In some ways, this book delivered exactly what I wanted. In other ways, it annoyed me.

Here's what I loved: Nick. He was hot, in the way you want your leading man to be. He oozed sex-appeal, charisma and general hotness. He is a dream-man ~ caring, romantic, intelligent, genuine, often too good to be true ~ even his flaws are ones that can be romanticised to swoon-factors. He is what kept the pages turning for me. His sardonic wit, his alpha-maleness, his unreadable gazes, etc. You know the drill.

He had a great chemistry with Harper (love the name)

Here's what had the eyes rolling: Harper. She frustrated me. I get that she needed to have hang-ups to provide a character arc and to wedge some tension in her relationship with Nick ~ but it was so overdone. No subtly at all. She was overly intense in her weaknesses. Not sympathetic at all, and often I was wondering just whydid Nick love her?

Here's what grated, but was to be expected: the secondary characters. They were all caricatures. Painted loudly and over the top. Just like in those screw-ball romantic comedies (movies) where the side characters are just too much: overbearing, making ridiculous decisions, being completely unrealistic people (parodies of themselves) running around presumably for our amusement. It's just not my sense of humour.

overall: I think Higgins wrote the relationship between Nick and Harper well. She knows how to create (oodles) of sexual tension, how to steam up the bedroom, how to bring out the swoon. The rest of the drama/characters I could do without (although maybe that kind of screw-ball, ridiculously unbelievable cast of side characters is a staple of this genre? Which is why I can only handle these kinds of books in small doses...) Weirdly, I think I will go back for more of Higgins at some point, LOL. Even though I know up front I will probably only ever "3 star" her books, sometimes 3 star reads like this satisfy*.

*I sound contradictory I know. 

My second Higgins book was also recommended by a few good reading buds, to showcase a different side of Kristin Higgins. 

Too Good To Be True

Too Good To Be True had a much more relate-able heroine and, while still sexy, it relied more on embarrassing situations than sexual innuendo for it's laughs. 

The characters seemed to have more emotional depth but I missed some of the smirks I got from the (sharper) banter in my first Higgin books. 

This was a little bit tamer, IMO... despite having, erm, that cover, haha. It was still very smiley, addictive with that popcorn-movie-sleep-over-vibe.

Sorry for the fly-by mention ~ I could divert your attention to an Awesome review from YA blogging guru Steph Su while I keep moving on... :D

And then... along came Netgalley (thank you):

Until There Was You

Posey Osterhagen can't complain. She owns a successful architectural salvaging company, she's surrounded by her lovable, if off-center, family and she has a boyfriend—sort of. Still, something's missing. Something tall, brooding and criminally good-looking…something like Liam Murphy.
When Posey was sixteen, the bad boy of Bellsford, New Hampshire, broke her heart. But now he's back, sending Posey's traitorous schoolgirl heart into overdrive once again. She should be giving him a wide berth, but it seems fate has other ideas….
My Review: 
‘Until There Was You’ is Kristan Higgins latest offering (out this week!) and it’s different yet again in tone, but still has some trademark tropes (of both the genre and her previous books I’ve read). 

I love the premise, it may be cliche, but it is deliciously addictive in its anticipation. Posey’s high school crush, bad boy Liam “tall, brooding and criminally good-looking” returns to his home town, widowed with a teenage daughter in tow. Posey and Liam have some history between them, more-so from Posey’s POV who crushed on him hard and felt burned (whereas Liam is oblivious to some of the scars he caused). 

This is Higgins first book where the POV swivels between both the heroine and the hero. And I do think she works the device really well, highlighting misunderstandings, creating tension and building foreshadowing nicely. Plus it was nice to be in Liam’s head, her male POV was pure fun :) 

Liam’s suave: exuding confidence and success, ladies everywhere keen to jump the guy (LOL) but he battles demons of his own... He’s hot enough to rival any fictional hot bad boy, but secretly tender under it all (aww ;)) 

Posey is independent, klutzy, intelligent and comfortably quirky yet secretly aching for acceptance and love. Small in stature (and we are continually reminded of her equally small bosoms ;)) and quietly feisty. She is surrounded by a larger than life (adoptive) family who run a German restaurant. 

I love how Higgins molds the relationship between her leads. She gets the tension (sexual and otherwise) cracking. She banters brilliantly with dialogue. She creates an equally compelling back story ~ side note: a few chapters are set back in high school days and a fateful prom night, a touch of YA crossover, eh? I LOVED the back story. The sex scenes are tasteful (it’s more about the tension beforehand than a tedious play-by-play. Very fade to black, thank you) adding to the character interplay. It’s all good fun. 

It’s written like a romantic comedy and you could easily see the whole thing being played out on the big screen. Many awkward moments ensue between the leads, requisite misunderstandings, short-lived happiness followed by personal demons interrupting but all with a smiley HEA (and smoking hot male lead). I felt Higgins shifted focus with this books to trying to give her characters more emotoinal depth, making it more character driven (thank plot-driven), a touch womens’ fictions mixed in with her usual rom-com style. 

I did find some of the side characters and side plots tedious. I wanted to read about Liam and Posey, watch their sparks fly and see them quietly romance each other. Sometimes the story felt bogged down with external plot-lines. The family’s restaurant was fun, but many of the scenes dragged. Posey’s friends were good for a laugh, but didn’t feel overly integral to the main story arc. I was tempted to skim some side-plots to get back to the good stuff ;) 

Thanks to Harlequin and Netgalley for 'Too Good To Be True'

Overall: I am not sure which is my fave Higgins so far? It probably would have been 'My One and Only' if Harper wasn't SO annoying (seriously. Ugh.). I know I am interested in reading more of her work when I am in that guilty-pleasure, pure good-fun, smiley times mood. I recommend Kristan Higgins to fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips :)

Do you read in this genre? (good times)
Hit me up with any recs as I am a little out of my depth ;)

(sorry this post is so long, just combining it up)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm with you. When I was younger I loved romance movies. Now they just don't do much for me. This genre is the same for me. Great analogy. Great honest reviews.

  3. I am picky about my romantic comedies a lot of the time the are just to silly for me to enjoy. But there are the few out there that are just perfection which is why I think I keep going back for more in hoping to strike gold.
    Sometimes I just need chic lit just like sometimes I just need chocolate.

    My brother says he has a hard time with romcoms because the last half hour is always completely ridiculous. It is funny how I never even noticed, but it is so true.

  4. PS I am going to look to see if my library has Until There Was You now, even if I already have a pile of library books by my bed. :)

  5. Harper was annoying wasn't she? but I didn't like Nick much either, that book was so not made of win for me.

    Too Good to Be True was a lot better.

    I liked Until there was you a fair bit but it's not my favorite.

    That would be All I Ever Wanted :D

  6. That's exactly why I don't watch many chick flick movies, because of the ploy to get the characters into embarrassing situations just for the laughs. To me, it always feels forced. :(

    I agree that books like this have their place and audience and can most definitely be fun to read when you are in the right mood for it. :)

  7. I have just started reading a lot more contemporary romances this year. I really love Robyn Carr (although they are less rom com more womens fiction with lots of issues based emphasis), loved Shannon Stacey's Kowalski trilogy, and really like Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor books which are probably a similar tone to these books or a bit lighter.

    Oh, and for a good old comfort read you can't go past Nora Roberts. Start with her last series to see if you will like them or not.

  8. I started reading Kristan Higgins' books because she was compared to two of my favorite contemporary romance authors - Jennifer Crusie and Julie James. Her novels are light and fun and like you said, they read like rom com movies. I'm a sucker for books like that because it can get me out of a slump and they're perfect in between reads.

  9. This is a fantastic post that I was only able to read half of, due to being super busy at work, but I'm bookmarking it because I'm about to start writing my own romantic Contemp and these books are already on my TBR list :)

  10. It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this useful information with us. Thanks so much for sharing all of the good content! I am looking forward to checking out more!

  11. I love this post. Like you said Kristan Higgins books aren't going to be amazing but she deserves to be highlighted nonetheless.

    I haven't read the first two but I have read UNTIL THERE WAS YOU and I definitely enjoyed the alternating POV. I think I may miss that in her other books.

    Nice reviews. :) Please let us know if you read any other of her books and if they're worth reading.

  12. Ahhh you've reviewed Kristan Higgins! I wanted to get into contemporary romance and asked my blogger friend Sarah about some recs, she recommended SEP and then when I asked for more she recommended KH! Love it! I've only read Too Good to be True, and I really liked it! I am such a sucker for silliness and humor and this book was filled with that. And hello swoony boy next door! I also love how the pups are apparently prominent in all of her books, too? Anyway, very small side note. ;)

    I need to try out My One and Only next!

  13. Ha, Liam Murphy? That one's stolen from good ol' Home and Away.

  14. You should try Bet Me by Jennifer Cruise if you are in the market for adult contemp romance, it's as funny as Higgins, but with a touch more depth and is definitely more character driven.

    I really liked the one book I read by Higgins (the Next Best Thing) and that's the one that most people don't really care for, so I think she can only get better from there.

    Also, with the Susan Elizabeth Phillips comparison -- reading that makes me realize I will have to add her books to my TBR!


Thanks for the commenty love :)