TBR Challenge Review. Kind of.

If I’m lucky, this review will be up in time for Keishon’s TBR Challenge. Pacific time, anyway.

This month’s challenge was to read something by an author I hadn’t read before; I do have a few of those in my TBR, but I didn’t get one out and read it in time. The truth is, I’ve been ignoring my older print TBR mountain recently, in favor of the digital library (playing with the new iPad) and the special new RomCon TBR pile.  So while I’ve been reading quite a few new-to-me authors lately, they aren’t really in spirit of the TBR Challenge.

Thus, a compromise. I read two books this month by an author I have been meaning to check out for some time, since other readers I trust really like her contemporary romances.  Kristan Higgins won the RITA for Best Contemporary Single Title for her 2009 release To Good to be True.  I didn’t read that one. Instead, I read her two books released this year, The Next Best Thing, from my RomCon swag, and All I Ever Wanted, which I got as an e-book for the Smart Bitches’ Sizzling Summer Book Club (it’s the book up for discussion on Friday).  That was extra cool because the book hit the NY Times best seller list — the e-book version! So I helped!!

Kristin Higgins writes wacky contemporary romance — she has a real talent for crazy characters and bizarre situations.  Her books remind me of TV sit-coms, like Friends or Frasier. Or, when they don’t work as well for me, like Everybody Loves Raymond.  I’m generalizing a little based on these two books, as well as from the reviews I read of her earlier work.

The Next Best Thing was good, but not great, for me.   I tried to describe the book to my partner, and it came out sounding like a hot mess. Which it wasn’t, but it caused me some real WTF? moments.   I thought Higgins made an interesting choice having the heroine be the one who couldn’t recognize or accept love; usually it’s heroes from historical romance and even Harlequin Presents who can’t see that the person they are having hot sex with is, in fact, the person they love and want to be with.  She even had to grovel and make a public declaration at the end!  But I thought she resisted the obvious too long, and then when she accepted her feelings, she still fought them.  “I love him, he loves me, but…” is often a tough sell for me, and here it just didn’t quite ring true. Yes, she was a widow who had really loved her husband, but it felt a little skeevy that she could have the sex but not risk the love.  And honestly (avoiding spoilers), I didn’t care for the way her realization and acceptance finally came about. So it was a pass.

All I Ever Wanted started off weak for me, because the heroine seemed a bit spineless. I wanted to buy her a brown fuzzy shirt that said “WELCOME” on the back. But the hero was great, and the complications were believable, so I thought the time it took them to acknowledge their feelings and work through their differences was about right.  I also really enjoyed the  multiple secondary romances in this book. It was a win.

In both books, Higgins has a terrific talent for comic scenes and timing. Both heroines try internet dating services, with hilarious (if extreme) results.  She also has an excellent sense of the complex and sometimes frightening ways that family relationships can work (or not), and I like how her happy resolutions include whole families, not just the central couple. She does nice twists with “evil ex” figures, too.

In short, I’m very glad I finally read something by Kristan Higgins. I definitely intend to read her RITA winner and her earlier books, too.

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