ARC Review: The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

Format: E-bookthenextbestthing
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Ethan Mirabelli
Heroine: Lucy Lang
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 27, 2013
Started On: August 26, 2013
Finished On: August 28, 2013

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins, though I got it off of Netgalley as an ARC is not an altogether a new publication. This book was first published in 2010 and has been on my to-be-read pile for quite sometime now. And though I didn’t figure this fact out until I was about to begin reading this, it just made me wonder a little why Harlequin hadn’t listed this as a republication.

The Next Best Thing is a book that bears all the hallmarks of Kristan Higgins. There is humor of course, weird and laugh out loud variety of family antics to go around, a hero and heroine who for all intents and purpose spend most of the book apart and yet find their happily ever after towards the end and a dog or a cat to complement the picture. However, there is a slight difference when it comes to The Next Best Thing because the protagonists, i.e. Ethan and Lucy have been sleeping with each other even before the story begins.

The synopsis that goes with the story is a bit misleading to say the least, perhaps not to give the story away? Lucy is a widow, and  going on 5 plus years in her current status quo. The thought of moving on and finding someone else to share her life with stresses her to the point that the panic attacks that she has held at bay for sometime comes calling again, but the children that she wants to fill her life with urges her to seek a husband who would be an emotional risk-free investment on her part.

Having brought to an end her mostly weekend trysts with Ethan that has been going on for two years, Lucy tries to find that someone who meets all her criterion, all of them falling short of the mark for one reason or the other. Lucy doesn’t want the complication of even thinking of Ethan as a viable choice to share the rest of her life with, but time and yet again, it is Ethan that she misses like a proverbial ache in her heart, his companionship that she seeks when she has something worthy of sharing, and the combustive chemistry that they had shared that makes her want to rip her clothes off and get down and dirty with him every time she sees him.

Underneath the veneer of laugh-out-loud humor, The Next Best Thing is a story that waged an emotional warfare inside of me. I hated Lucy for what she continuously put Ethan through, all the while wondering how she could have been so clueless. But I guess given the circumstances and the pedestal upon which she had placed her dead husband, it was hard to see past that and see Ethan, the man who had always stood with her and beside her, unwavering in his support for her, no matter what. There was  this part of me that absolutely sympathized and empathized with what Lucy goes through. I have survived tragedy of the panic-inducing variety and I know what its like to battle with it every single day afterwards. And change, is definitely a trigger and that is exactly what Lucy is subjected to when she sets out to get out of the “rut” into which her life had fallen into after the death of her husband.

Ethan is a character to absolutely die for. Ethan and his emotions never making it to the forefront is one of the reasons why I tend to steer clear of books told in first person from just one character’s point of view. I would have dearly loved to see things from Ethan’s point of view, the heartache and desolateness that is part of him that was evident to see even when his point of view wasn’t part of the story. Simply put, I loved Ethan and everything to do with him, his unwavering courage in standing by and letting the woman he has loved ever since he set eyes on her find her way on her own terms telling in itself. A lesser man would have walked away to restore the pieces of his heart but Ethan sees it all through even if it must have broken him from inside out. The fact that he has always been considered “the next best thing”, even by his parents was heartbreaking to see. And Lucy not seeing it for so long just made my hands clench and unclench every single time such an incidence came up in the story.

Perhaps, I might not put Lucy into the category of heroines that I hated by the end of the story, but she certainly is someone who was difficult to fall in love with because of her blind devotion to the memory of a man who was less than perfect but made otherwise by those who had adored him to the point that the rest had just paled in comparison and faded into the background. I had a pebble the size of Mount Everest in my throat by the time I finished reading this in the wee hours of the morning. But every emotion wrangling bit towards the end was so worth it! So very worth it. And the epilogue tucked in at the end certainly went a long long way into soothing my ruffled feathers where Ethan is concerned.

Recommended for fans of Kristan Higgins, those who love romances with a large dose of humor and books that invoke a shitload of emotion from you!

Final Verdict: Worth every bit of emotion it wrenches out of you! Ethan is a must have on your bookshelf.

Favorite Quotes

His arms tighten around me, and the hangers rattle again as we knock against them, and now his lips are on my neck, the gentle scrape of his beard contrasting with the warm silkiness of his mouth. My knees soften in an almost painful rush. Then his mouth finds mine again, and the kiss is not so gentle this time…desperate, hungry, hot and forbidden and utterly welcome.

My hands move to his chest, and his skin is hot, practi- cally burning me through the cotton, and I can feel the hard thudding of his heart. Without thinking, I tug his shirt and slip my hands underneath.
“Lucy,” he mutters against my mouth. “Honey, wait.” But I just kiss him again and slide my hands against the smooth skin of his back, his ribs, and pull him closer, wanting him against me. He shifts so we’re closer, his mouth hot and hard. Waiting is forgotten.

Then he leans in closer so that our foreheads touch. “You sure, honey?” he asks
“Yes,” I whisper, and his mouth is on mine. His hand slides under my T-shirt and cups my breast, and my breath catches. He tastes so good, feels like heaven and I can’t believe I’ve waited so long for this. His mouth moves to my neck, a hot jolt shudders through me, and I sink into the bed, the sun hot on my skin, and give my- self away.
And I realize that despite my intentions, I’ve fallen in love after all.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Harlequin | Kobo | Diesel

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