"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Reviews #39 - 41: Kristan Higgins Audiostyle

I have a pretty long commute, and I spend a lot of time in the car. There's only so much NPR I can handle during election season, and listening to audio books appears to keep the road rage to a minimum. But I need them to be light and fluffy romance novels, or else I can't also concentrate on driving. I live in Florida, home of the alligators, the snowbirds, and the worst drivers known to man, so I've got to pay attention. So some Kristan Higgins novels fit the bill. Also, they were what was available from the library.

But honestly? I can't remember much about them. They were fine, if a bit formulaic. I'd have been irritated if I spent money on them. They're the equivalent of a Lean Cuisine macaroni and cheese. They give you the idea that you're eating macaroni, but it's certainly not the gouda mac and cheese that costs $8.50 at the local fancy pants restaurant. They're not even the blue box of Kraft mac and cheese. But they're okay, and sometimes, they're what you want.

In The Best Man, Faith Holland, one of three daughters of the Holland family that runs the Blue Heron Winery in Manningsport, New York, returns to the farm, ready at last to settle down and join the family business. She's been gone all the time because her former fiancé, the dreamy local doctor, literally dumped her at the altar and came out to the entire town at the same time. Faith blames her ex-fiance's best friend, local sheriff Levi Cooper, for her humiliation. So when Faith and Levi meet again, sparks fly, even though they can't stand each other. An interesting twist on this is that Faith is prone to epileptic seizures, which Higgins never uses as a capital T Thing, they're just a part of her life, like having dark hair or brown eyes. (Although there is a plot point where Levi was the one who took Faith to the nurse after a seizure in high school.) Of course, the love/hate turns to love/love, and they live happily ever after.

That brings us to The Perfect Match, which features the middle Holland daughter, Honor. Honor thinks she's dating her lifelong crush, but really, it's a friends with benefits situation, and three weeks after a painfully awkward proposal scene, he's engaged to Honor's best friend, who, bizarrely, still wants Honor to stand up for her at her wedding. Staid, boring, Honor, who - I'm not making this up - always wears a headband like she's eight - impulsively agrees to marry a charming but gruff British professor, who needs a green card in order to stay in New York so he can stay close to his unofficial stepson Charlie and see him through his teen years. It's the old marriage of convenience trope, which works for a reason, and the book was fine. But Honor kind of irritated the ever loving daylights out of me. She ran the vineyard, allowed her family to take advantage of her, and never stood up for herself. She couldn't even tell her best friend, who had been schtupping the love of Honor's life behind her back, to go jump in a lake, for Pete's sake. In fact, she was still considering being the maid of honor at the wedding. What the hell, Honor? Grow a backbone, sister. I can't remember how this one ended, but my guess is happily ever after.

Leaving Manningsport and moving over to Georgebury, VT, we meet Callie Grey and Dr. Ian McFarland in All I Ever Wanted. Callie is staring down the barrel of thirty, in love with her boyfriend-slash-boss, who, it turns out, is getting married to the daughter of the company's biggest client, who, it also turns out, has it in for Callie. Callie's heartbroken over losing Mark, but through a confluence of events (that I can't remember), she takes up with the very single, very good looking, very aloof new town veterinarian. There's also a B story about Callie's overbearing, confirmed spinster older sister falling in love with their mother's undertaker (they run the town funeral home), and Callie's dad trying to get back in to Callie's mom's good graces after fooling around on her twenty years ago. (There was potential for humor when Callie's mother forced her dad to introduce her to each of his former paramours, but it just fell flat and felt kind of sad.) Like The Perfect Match, I can't remember how it ended, but I'm sure if was happily ever after.

Higgins is a fine writer. It's not high literature, but it's enough to keep me from stabbing the old people clogging up the roads at rush hour.

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