Winter Mini-Reviews 2: Romance

I am trying to wrap up my 2014 reviews by posting some mini-reviews for things I neglected to review in full.  This is the romance novel edition.


Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins writes fun, cute, breezy romance novels.  In this one, we have Posey, who has always been a bit of a wallflower, and Liam, the boy she had a crush on all through high school.  Liam has recently moved back to town, a fairly recent widower with a teenage daughter in tow.  Liam was a total bad boy in high school and builds motorcycles for a living.  He’s grown up, but is still gorgeous with a bit of an edge– with the exception of his overprotectiveness when it comes to his daughter.  Posey is skinny and boyish and makes her living scavenging old homes for her architectural resale business.  She’s adopted and her family is crazy, but in a loving way.  Liam and Posey are attracted to one another, but their complicated past gets between them.

What I liked: the ridiculous side characters– for example, Posey’s brother is a surgeon obsessed with amputations and her cousin hosts a cooking show called The Barefoot Fraulein, the animals (always a plus in Higgins)
What I felt meh about: Posey and Liam as a couple– too much baggage, too many differences between them for me to really buy their romance, Liam’s overprotectiveness– men obsessed with their daughters’ virtue drive me crazy
All in all: I will read Kristan Higgins again, I’m sure, but wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re better at suspending your disbelief than I am.


Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe

Monica has returned to her hometown in Bishop, Arkansas (holy cow, a book set in Arkansas) to begin writing her next tell-all book, this time about the night her mother shot her drunken, abusive father in self-defense.  Monica is a bit of a wreck, having survived an incredibly unstable childhood and a wild, drug-fueled adolescence, much of it televised on a reality TV show her fame-whore of a mother landed them on.

Jackson is the mayor of Bishop and feels completely shackled by the responsibility on his shoulders– an economically failing town and the teenage sister he is rearing.  He dreams of freedom, namely in the form of random sexual encounters with women, and getting the heck out of Dodge.

Jackson lands Bishop a spot on a reality TV show, competing as the best town to house a new cookie factory.  Monica’s notoriety can only help his cause.  The two get involved with one another– both in saving Bishop and in a romantic way.  But the buckets and buckets of emotional issues make theirs a bumpy road to falling in love.

What I liked: the love story between two pretty messed up people, O’Keefe pushes the boundaries of the romance genre- flipping some tropes around on us, the small town setting
What I felt meh about: I mostly really liked this one, but I don’t think there was anything tipping the scales into omg awesome for me
All in all: I have already checked out another book by O’Keefe from the library.  This is smart genre romance and that’s something I can’t get enough of.

Believe by Erin McCarthy

Robin is a college student who parties.  Hard.  That is, until she wakes up after a night of drinking to find she slept with her roommate’s boyfriend.  She swears off drinking and partying, not liking the kind of person she becomes when she does.  Phoenix is fresh out of jail, broke, and sleeping on his cousins’ couch.  Robin and he meet at the cousins’ house and find one another really refreshing to be around.  There’s no judgment, no expectations, no pressure.  They quickly fall in love with one another with their past indiscretions lurking in the background, ready to make things difficult.

What I liked: Erin McCarthy’s writing, that the characters were getting second chances
What I felt meh about: Phoenix and Robin declare their love way too soon, especially since they are both supposed to be so damaged by their pasts; Phoenix seems far too nice to have the anger management problem he supposedly has; Phoenix tattoos Robin’s face onto his body after knowing her for a month- INSANE
All in all: Enh.  I liked it enough to read it, but it was silly and cliched.  This author is really hit and miss for me.  Not sure I want to keep trying with her any more.

Somebody to Love- Kristan Higgins

Parker is a grown-up trust fund kid living in her family’s mansion with her 5 year old son, Nicky.  She has written a successful series of saccharine children’s books called the Holy Rollers, but has donated all the profits to charity.  Her life is rocked upside down when her father liquidates her and Nicky’s trust funds in the wake of an insider trading scandal.  Parker’s only remaining asset is a house in Maine she inherited from a great aunt.  So she sets off to Maine to flip the house and begin rebuilding her life.  The complicating factor comes in the shape of James Cahill, her father’s lawyer, who insists on coming up to Maine to help Parker fix up the house.  Parker initially lumps James into the same category as her morally-bankrupt absentee father and keeps him at a distance, referring to him as “Thing 1.”  But James is a better guy than she gives him credit for and the time they spend working together on the cottage stirs up some deeply buried feelings for one another.

This is the first Kristan Higgins novel I have read and it was just what I look for in a romance– cute with plenty of quirky characters and romantic leads with believable obstacles to their budding relationship.  Parker is a bit spoiled, but she doesn’t shy away from hard work or learning new things or asking for help.  She is pretty down-to-earth for a someone who has never had to earn a living for themselves.  She does have real daddy issues and is definitely afraid to trust men, especially James, who has a closer relationship with her father than she does.  James struggles to deal with feelings of inadequacy, particularly as a result of a tragic accident in his youth.  But they are able to confront their pasts and communicate openly with one another, slowly gaining one another’s trust.  And as a bonus, the story is told from both Parker and James’s perspectives, which added a lot to the story.  It was good to see that James had good intentions, even when Parker had a hard time believing he did.  Even better, the town in Maine is filled with quirky small town residents who know everything about everyone.  And there is a sweet, shy dog that Parker adopts on a whim and who becomes Parker’s companion when she misses her son (who is living with his father for the summer).

I read this after A Game of Thrones, when I needed something fluffy and sweet and this definitely fit the bill.  I will certainly look to Kristan Higgins in the future for a light quirky romance.  If you like genre romance and haven’t given Kristan Higgins a try, I’d definitely suggest you do.  While I wouldn’t say this story will stick with me forever, it was the perfect sort of fluff to recover from the dreariness of my previous read.