Review: On Second Thought

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: On Second ThoughtOn Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
Series: Cambry-on-Hudson #2
Published by HQN Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 480
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION:  A book that focuses on two sisters experiencing the ending of the relationships and the birth of new ones, this book was interesting but the romance was definitely secondary.

THE STORY:  Kate finally has everything she has ever wanted except a child.  She and her new husband have been trying since their marriage and have hopes of having a child soon — then he husband dies in a freak accident on the night her stepsister expects to get engaged. Ainsley has been with her boyfriend for eleven years and expected to be with him forever — until the death of Kate’s husband convinces him to dump her. Now Kate and Ainsley are living together and their mutual grief and anger bring them together in a way they didn’t expect. Both also have other men in their lives step up and begin to develop a different romantic relationship.

OPINION:  I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a fan of so-called “women’s fiction” because I prefer books where the romance is central to the story.  While this book has romance (two of them) in it, I was left unsatisfied because I wanted to know more about the romance between the characters than either Kate or Ainsley’s personal journey.

That doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good.  It was well written and I really did enjoy it, but I wouldn’t read it again.  The central story in this book is Kate’s loss of her husband. Because the book begins before her husband’s death and takes her through her grieving process, her husband is a central part of the book.  This is Kate’s journey and I greatly appreciated that her journey was complex and multifaceted and addressed head on how one lives again after a loss.  The book was especially refreshing in that it doesn’t judge Kate for moving on — even if other do. It is all here..the grief, the anger, the denial, the desire to be normal and live again.  The emotions are messy and much remains unresolved.

For me, however, the complexity of these emotions meant that they overshadowed any romance between her and Daniel. Things between them felt like default. I liked him and liked his character, but I didn’t feel any intensity between them. Instead, it felt like any guy who had been there for her would have garnered the same response from her. I walked away from the book wondering if the two would even be together in a couple of years.

I really liked the story of Ainsley more and I wish there had been more resolution to her story. Ainsley is suffering when her boyfriend of eleven years dumps her, but that event opens her up to the possibility of a different guy. I thought that her feelings for her ex were resolved before she got involved so the romance felt less conflicted and I really got some connection between these characters.  Her romance was funny and sweet and my only wish is that I had gotten more.

This book is billed as two sisters who resolve their relationship.  But there really isn’t much to resolve between these two.  Yes, there was distance and the two were not particularly close, but there were no serious disagreements or problems between them.  Rather than being their story, I felt that Kate’s personal journey was the heart of this story and Ainsley had a supporting role (even though the book is told in alternating first persons).

Ultimately, the book is a serious look at grief and loss and living again, but not my favorite kind of book.  (I do want to note that I read Higgins previous book in this vein, IF YOU ONLY KNEW, and liked it much better).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is really women’s fiction rather than romance although romance does play a part.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This book is loosely connected to IF YOU ONLY KNEW as the two take place in the same town, Cambry-on-Hudson.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

Review: Anything for You

Anything for You
Anything for You by Kristan Higgins
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Most Kindhearted and Patient Hero Ever

“Connor Michael O’Rourke fell in love with Jessica Dunn when he was twelve years old. The feeling was not mutual.”

FINAL DECISION: Emotional and at times heartbreaking, this is the story of a man who is willing to wait and care for the woman he loves, even when she turns from him again and again. A story that spans decades, I love how Higgins brings to life this small town with all the complexities and relationships involved and gives readers a hero that is imminently loveable.

THE STORY: Connor O’Rourke has loved Jessica Dunn for years. She never looked at him until they were adults. Then they have been involved in a secret on again off again relationship. As the book begins, Connor asks Jessica to marry him and she says no. Finally, he has had enough of her pushing him away. But the truth is that he has loved her for so long that he doesn’t know how to do anything else. At the same time, Jessica begins to realize that Connor has always been there for her. What will she do if he isn’t there any longer?

OPINION: When I read a Kristan Higgins book, I am always surprised by how much I like them. The plots themselves tend to be straightforward and simple, but the execution and depth that she brings to the characters, the emotions and the relationships are incredibly moving.

As readers follow the story of Connor and Jess, it seems that they are destined to be star-crossed or cursed. Over and over again, they seem to be getting close and then events tear them apart. The beauty of the story is that ulitmately, Jess has to make the decision to trust in the future and not allow them to be torn apart.

I found Jess to be a frustrating heroine because she is difficult to get close to. The daughter of alcoholic parents, she had to handle things far too young and did it far too poorly at times. In a lovely manner, the motivations behind Jess’s decisions become clear. There are no excuses here, merely understanding and compassion. Being the “slut” in high school, Jess has poor self-esteem and sacrifices herself again and again for those she loves. For years, she has been the parent of her mentally challenged brother in a relationship that is filled with love and guilt and selfish need. HIggins has thoughtfully set out this complex relationship. There are no simple answers here and that is what makes it great.

In compensation for the difficult heroine, Higgins has given readers one of the most adorable heroes ever. Kindhearted and caring, Connor has always been there for Jess — even when she rejected him. He deeply cares for those around him and is incredibly patient with Jess. Friend, lover, companion — Connor is willing to be whatever Jess will allow him to be in her life. Thankfully, Higgins has given Connor a complicated and difficult relationship with his father who has a new family of his own. This keeps Connor from being too perfect and also his neglectful father is part of the motivation for Connor being so dedicated to others.

This book spans decades and there is no single moment when things become perfect for these two. Instead, this book is about working through problems, believing in one another and taking the leap of faith even when things go wrong again and again.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will enjoy the small updates on the locals including the couples from the previous books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ANYTHING FOR YOU is the fifth book in the Blue Heron series. Although this book is connected with the other books in the series, it can be read as a standalone as everything you need to know is in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.