ARC Review: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

Format: E-bookifyouonlyknew
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: MIRA
Hero: Leo Killian
Heroine: Jenny Tate
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 25, 2015
Started On: August 10, 2015
Finished On: August 14, 2015

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins comes after a seemingly long wait since her last novel. I’ve been scouring through Netgalley, and even tweeted to Ms. Higgins go find out when her next book was going to be released. And as luck would have it, I found this up on Netgalley after finding out its release date and since then have been on tenterhooks, all giddy of course, because that’s what happens when you have a book that you’d love to really sink your teeth into, waiting for you.

If You Only Knew, like most stories by Kristan Higgins, is told in the first person. The difference perhaps is that it tells the story of two people, Jenny and Rachel, two sisters, their love lives or the lack of, their struggles which reaches out to you and the emotions that practically whip your insides to a frenzy. Kristan takes your emotions or rather your soul on a roller coaster ride, makes it reach heights that you never thought possible with the way this story plays with your emotions.

Wedding dress designer Jenny Tate is ready to leave the big city life behind and move back to her hometown, and perhaps in the process learn to let go of her ex-husband whom she has never truly managed to divorce from her heart. The “jovial” relations she has with him and his newly wedded wife, though told with the sort of humor that makes it easy to laugh through the heartache, is more than relatable.

Jenny’s sister Rachel struggling for perfection with the handful that is her triplets, finds her seemingly picture perfect marriage in a rut when she opens a sext message that had been meant for her husband. Unable to face the reality of reconciling with the truth, Rachel goes out of her way to make things work with her husband, showing to us all that even though we promise ourselves that we would never be that woman who hangs around with the guy who hurts us beyond repair, walking away from a marriage or a relationship, especially when kids are involved, is one of the hardest decisions you would ever have to make.

Jenny has this quirky factor to her character that makes her go into daydream mode every time she eyes someone remotely potentially partner worthy. That’s the exact same thing that happens to her when she first encounters her landlord Leo Killian, his pain filled eyes and don’t-get-too-close-to-me attitude acting like a siren’s call that beckons her heart. Jenny’s journey towards happily ever after is not an easy one, but worth all the pain in the end.

Kristan spins a tale that makes you cry god honest tears as you read through the struggles and the turns the lives of Jenny and Rachel takes along the way. The second guessing, the doubts that creeps into you along the way, the self recrimination during the darkest moments of your life, they are all dealt with in this masterpiece with the sort of flair that only an author like Kristan can pull off.

Leo’s character is equally haunting, the secrets he hides in his soul coming to light towards the very end of the novel. Teaching beautiful music to a handful of youngsters, Leo would rather keep to himself, live by himself, than allow someone into his life, to open up his heart for the kind of heartbreak he never wants to subject himself to, ever again. Just like the music that lives inside the musical prodigy that is one of his students, If You Only Knew hits every note perfectly; sometimes it gets messy, ugly and ties you up in knots. But the whole of it together just takes your breathe away. 

The high you feel from reading a good novel is difficult to come down from. It also makes picking your next read that much more difficult because a story like this comes along, if at all, more rarely than you would think. I have just this left to say.

Dear Kristan, If You Only Knew was well worth the wait. It broke my heart & you managed to put it back together again. Might never be as it was before. But it’s all good. Because you left me with a smile in my heart & the beautiful glow of love in my soul.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: So much heart packed into 400 plus pages; it wrings everything out of you!

Favorite Quotes

“You eye-fucking me?” he asks.
“What? No! I’m just… I’m not, okay? I just need my key, but the stupid super isn’t here.”
“The stupid super is right in front of you.”
I close my eyes, sigh and then smile. “Hi. I’m Jenny. The new tenant.”
“Leo. Keep your eyes to yourself, for the record.”

Then he slides his hand around to the back of my head and pulls me to him. One of my hands goes to his chest, and I can feel the solid thumping of his heart. “Recreation only,” he murmurs, his voice scraping a part low in my stomach. “Got it?”
“Got it,” I whisper back.
His eyes crinkle with a small smile, and then he’s kissing me, and his mouth is… God, his mouth is good at what it’s doing—a slow, gentle, thorough kiss that makes my insides leap and spark.

And when he left, he pushed me against the front door and gave me a long, hot, lingering kiss. His hands slid down to my thighs, and he picked me up against him and I wrapped my legs around him, my back pressed against the door, and if it wasn’t the horniest moment of my life, I don’t know what was. Then he let me slide down against him, his hands going to my hair.
“Make sure your rent is on time,” he murmured against my mouth, and then he smiled and was gone, and I staggered back to the couch and collapsed there, grinning like an idiot.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | eBookMall | ARe | HQ | iTunes

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ARC Review: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

Format: E-bookinyourdreams
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Blue Heron, #4
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jack Holland
Heroine: Emmaline Neal
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 30, 2014
Started On: September 26, 2014
Finished On: September 28, 2014

The fourth book in the Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins tells the story of Jack Holland, the only son in the out of John Holland’s four children. Jack has been a substantial part of the previous novels in the series and I was properly excited to be finally reading about him and his road to the happily ever after.

Jack handles the actual wine making process behind the Blue Heron vineyard, the family’s business. Everyone sees and defines Jack as perfection itself from his family to everyone in town to practically anyone who has ever crossed his path. Graced with good looks of the kind women find it hard to look away from together with a bucketload of charm makes him easy to love. Jack is elevated from his status as perfection itself to the town hero when he rescues three boys from drowning, an act that puts Jack in the limelight like never before.

Emmaline Neal is the deputy police chief of Manningsport, having moved just nine months back after having her heart broken by her fiance who had moved on with another woman. Being invited to their wedding means having to turn up to save face and Emmaline is determined to acquire a date of sorts to go with her as moral support. In the end it is Jack who fills the role and though Emmaline has her reservations about going to a wedding where she would be emotionally vulnerable with a man who renders her speechless most of the time, there is not much she can do about it given the short notice.

In Your Dreams tells the story of two individuals who each have powerful back stories to tell. Emmaline the heroine’s story is one that can move most to tears; the rocky childhood that she had, the way she had found that someone with whom she thought she would spend the rest of her life with by the time she had hit eighth grade, only to have her heart smashed to pieces by the wicked turn of events that takes place. The wedding is the place where she is determined to put her past to rest, but it doesn’t come as easy as it sounds.

Jack the perfect son, the perfect citizen of Manninsport finds himself battling symptoms of PTSD though he’d rather die than admit to the fact. Determined to ignore the debilitating conditions to which his symptoms reduce him to, Jack grasps the wedding which is to be held out of town as a lifeline thrown his way, a chance to get away from everything and just breathe. Put his ex-wife into the mix and Jack is ready to scream (something that totally goes against the perfection that his character is famous for) and while neither Jack nor Emmaline thought that anything would happen between them, something that irrevocably ties them together does.

In Your Dreams while wasn’t as heart wrenching as some of the other novels in the series when it came to the relationship between the hero and heroine nevertheless proved to be a riveting read. I couldn’t for the life of me put down the book even into the wee hours of last night and I just had to finish the 400+ pages of the book before I could sigh in contentment and sleep knowing that all was right in Jack and Emmaline’s world.

I totally fell in love with Emmaline. Having had a tough time while growing up, Emmaline makes for a steadfast, snarky and beautiful person. The way she hurts over the man she fell in love with was one that touched my heart and I could literally feel the pain that coursed through Emmaline as she moved through the different stages of heartache before finally moving on.

Now Jack, I had a teeny weeny problem with because there was nothing but perfection to him. It’s hard to put into words what exactly that I found off in Jack but I think there was a little bit too much emphasis on how perfect a man Jack was. There is no one that perfect, everyone has their flaws and everyone has their quirks that annoys and pisses other people off and endears them to others. Though Jack’s past broke my heart I just felt that he needed to come down from that pedestal a bit and reach the level of us humans. I also felt a bit cheated out on not having seen Jack move on from his battle with PTSD; there was a reference to him getting help but I would have loved to see more of that actually realize in the story after having seen how much of an affect the symptoms seemed to have on his life. I know I would be in the minority when it comes to thinking this way about Jack but that is how I felt when I was reading In Your Dreams.

That being said, Kristan Higgins never ceases to amaze me with the incredible stories that she writes and In Your Dreams is no exception. Recommended for those who love humor of the laugh-out-loud variety (the husband seemed perplexed by my bouts of laughter that he couldn’t find any reason for) and those who love honest to goodness variety of storytelling that would keep you up way past midnight turning the pages. And most of you would literally love Jack to pieces. I loved the way he could seduce the pants off of Emmaline and boy, was he good at it. Grab a copy and indulge. You wouldn’t be sorry you did.

Final Verdict: Delicious with a lot of heart; Higgins delivers an unputdownable tale.

Favorite Quotes

He turned his head to breathe in her smell and felt her shiver. She didn’t pull away.
That skin smelled so sweet. He dropped a kiss on her bare shoulder. Smooth as water.
Emmaline inhaled, her breath shaky.
Another kiss, this one closer to her neck.What are you doing? a small voice asked, but it was faint, drowned out by the hard, deep pulse that was thudding through his body. She tasted as good as she smelled.

He pulled her hands over her head and held them there, still kissing her mouth, her neck, the softness of her breasts against his chest making him drunk. She wasn’t protesting. In fact, little sweet sounds were coming from her throat, and he could swear he felt her skin get hotter under his mouth, because he was kissing his way down her neck, scraping her skin with his teeth, because Emmaline Neal was edibly delicious.

Clearing her throat, she looked down at the rumpled sheets. “Hungry?” she asked.
“Starving.” He reached out and, very slowly, pulled the tie of her robe.
“There’s still some cake,” she whispered.
“I wasn’t talking about cake,” he said, his voice deep and rumbly, and her girl parts gave a hot, sudden throb.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | HQ | iTunes | eBookMall

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ARC Review: Waiting On You by Kristan Higgins

Format: E-bookwaitingonyou
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Blue Heron, #3
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Lucas Damien Campbell
Heroine: Colleen Margaret Mary O’Rourke
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 25, 2014
Started On: March 24, 2014
Finished On: March 28, 2014

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins is the 3rd book in her Blue Heron series. All stories are based in the small town of Manningsport, New York and are fabulously good, at least starting from the 2nd book which is where I got my introduction into this series. Each of these stories can be read as a standalone, but then why give up on reading equally good and heartwarming tales of love that can leave you with a tingle or two in the right places and a smile deep in your heart, rather than wasting time on so many lackluster reads out there?

Waiting on You tells the story of 31 year old Colleen who has lived in Manningsport practically her whole life. Co-owner of the best and only bar in town with her twin Connor, Colleen is happy and well adjusted into her crazy life in which she finds the time to play matchmaker and considers half of the happily married younger couples in town to be her success stories. Though her own life could use a dose of all consuming love and lust, Colleen hardly lets it bother her until Lucas Damien Campbell strolls back into town bringing the memories of an entwined past that leaves her with little choice but to convince herself that she is so over Lucas.

Life and circumstances had kept Lucas away and he would be leaving once again when he finishes taking care of what summoned him back in the first place. Though seeing Colleen brings back all the yearning and memories back with a force that rocks and shakes his very world, this time around Lucas is prepared for the effect Colleen has always had on him ever since the very first time their eyes had met across the breadth of a classroom. There is desire and then there is the wanting of the heart which had never stopped clamoring for the one single time love and passion had consumed Lucas in his lifetime.

Colleen would like nothing better than to think of herself immune to all that Lucas is has been and will always be on her senses and her heart. But it is inevitable that with nothing holding both of them back that they would gravitate towards each other sooner or later, and oh but what a delicious way to surrender when it is with the man to whom no one else would ever compare with. But Colleen does put up a good fight, trying to save herself from a heartbreak that she knows is yet again as destined to happen as the two of them getting back together.

When you open a Kristan Higgins, it is not just a story of boy meets girl and they fall in love and lived happily ever after that you get. There is so much more to each of her stories, the heartwarming small town life that she practically brings to life in every single one of her stories part of the charm to a Kristan Higgins. And of course there is her characterization; each and every single one of the characters that appears in her stories has something to contribute towards making a well rounded story; some come with an edge to them while the rest fill in those roles that makes a story wholesome for the lack of a better word. And in Waiting on You, readers get to sample the full scale of just how beautiful a tale that Kristan can weave when she puts pen to paper and starts creating her stories.

One must not forget the fun factor in Kristan’s books and Waiting on You definitely had its fair share of laugh out loud moments. Trust me when I say this, I was laughing so hard during certain scenes in the story that I was starting to question my own sanity a time or two. There are very few authors who can do funny like Kristan does and that is always one reason that I would keep going back for her stories.

For those who steer clear of Kristan’s books because she almost always writes her stories in the first person, here is the chance to sample her stories as the Blue Heron books are all written in third person with both the hero and heroine’s viewpoints included. I would say Kristan has come a long way in terms of how she tells her stories. The level of involvement between her heroes and heroines that definitely takes up a larger chunk than they did in prior books. And then there is the sizzle factor in her books that used to be left mostly up to the imagination and creativity of the reader’s mind. Though even now there aren’t detailed scenes of lovemaking included in Kristan’s books, I’d say her novels of late are more well rounded even in that aspect.

I loved Lucas, no two ways about it. There is no way on this Earth that a straight woman would NOT be moved by the man that Lucas is, his intense gaze alone enough to render a woman into a puddle of goo. Yep, Kristan has created him that well. Trust me on that.

And then there is Colleen. At first, I thought that I wouldn’t end up liking her as much as I loved Lucas, but turns out she proved me wrong and I was in love with her and rooting for her as much as I was for Lucas. There is so much emotion interwoven into the story that I had this huge lump the size of a football field lodged into my throat. Yes, it was that angst ridden at times and that emotional too. I wept for the boy that was Lucas and the man who had to turn his back on the yearnings of his heart because that’s the sort of person he is. A man with a beautiful and loyal soul that refuses to back down, a man who owns up to his responsibilities. Add to that his gorgeous looks, oh well, Lucas practically speaks for his character himself.

Recommended to every single one of you who loves contemporary romances. There is humor, there is love and then there is the sort of emotional sucker punch that you would not be forgetting anytime soon! A good story is one that makes you smile, laugh and cry and then makes you smile from ear to ear through your tears. And that is the reason why Kristan Higgins remains a force to be reckoned with in the genre!

Final Verdict: Laugh inducing goodness & emotional wallop that only Kristan Higgins can deliver!

Favorite Quotes

He threw up his hands. “I don’t know whether to strangle you or kiss you.”
“Don’t you dare kiss me.”
He kissed her.
God.
God. It was a prayer, as in God help me, because Colleen’s whole body lit up with flares of light and heat and tiny pinpricks of shock. Lucas was hot and hard and strong, and she wrapped her arms around him and held him just as hard, her mouth opening under his, and yes, yes, this was what they were meant to do, this elemental, hard, thought-stealing kiss.

He was locked in from the second he kissed her, something he’d been thinking about doing from the moment he first saw her, something he’d vowed not to do because it was certain that even one kiss would bind him to her.
He was right. The second his lips touched hers, a word came into his head, a word from long ago when his mother was still alive, when Spanish was still spoken at home.
Mía. Mine.
Colleen was his.

Then he stood up, slid his hand around her neck and pulled her in for a kiss.
She didn’t see that coming.
Didn’t pull away, either.
It was a hard, authoritative kiss that seared through her. Good God, the Spaniard could kiss. His five- o’clock shadow scraped her just the right amount, and his mouth, oh, yes, that mouth of his, that fallen-angel mouth…and then it was over, and he stood in front of her, dark and sure and steady when she was lucky to be standing, her legs suddenly warm and wonderfully weak, her special places bursting into song.

He wrapped her in his arms and hugged her against him, tucking her face against his beautiful, smooth warm neck. “Thank you,” he whispered, and her en- tire side electrified.
“Oh, you know,” she said, her voice wobbling. She tried to pull back, but he just held her tighter.
“Have dinner with me tomorrow,” he murmured, his lips so close to her ear. “I promise not to break your heart.”

He sat on her bed and looked at her, his Spanish eyes black and unfathomable in the dim light of the fading day. Turned her hand over and kissed the soft side of her wrist, and looked at her again, his thumb sliding over the spot he’d just kissed, and suddenly, Colleen realized her eyes were full of tears.
“I missed you,” she whispered, and he stood again and kissed her softly, softly, then wiped her tears away and kissed her again.
“Oh, mía,” he whispered. “I missed you, too.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepo | B&N | ARe | HQ | iTunes

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ARC Review: The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins

Format: E-booktheperfectmatch
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Blue Heron, #2
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Thomas Jude Barlow
Heroine: Honor Grace Holland
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 29, 2013
Started On: October 28, 2013
Finished On: October 29, 2013

A Kristan Higgins book is like that favorite dogeared pillow that you hug yourself to sleep with, it is just like having that cup of coffee you have been craving for all day long; yes a Kristan Higgins definitely raises your spirits, gives you a ton of stuff to laugh about and also leaves you with that glow of being satisfied from a well spun romance that few authors manage to deliver time and yet again.

The Perfect Match is the second book in the Blue Heron series, the first one which I seemed to have missed out on. Honor Grace Holland is 35 year old, celebrating her birthday with a pap smear when her doctor has “the talk” with her which propels her to take action to save her dying eggs which would definitely mean the end of the road on her dream of having her own family someday. A botched up marriage proposal and a cat fight later, Honor is very much determined to get back on track for she is a woman who gets things done if nothing else.

Thomas Jude Barlow (Tom Barlow) is from Britain, has a wicked and wild accent that drives the ladies crazy and a professor of mechanical engineering. Tom is desperate for a way to stay in the US when a twisted sequence of events brings Honor and him together. A very hot and memorable night of sex together, Honor proposes a way out for him which would tie them both together in a marriage of convenience. Although neither Honor nor Tom believes that they are on the right track, both of them agree to a relationship that seems more difficult to make into a reality than it should have been.

Honor has her reservations about letting her heart get away from her a second time round. Having her heart crushed by the man whom she had loved and yearned for for the past 17 years is a bit too much and Honor knows deep down where it matters that Tom with his wicked smile, those deep gray eyes and panty melting accent of his not to mention the smokin’ hot body which makes her melt practically anywhere is hazardous to her heart. And of course there is the way that Tom doggedly keeps trying to win the affections of the one person who turns him away time and yet again, the reason he is marrying Honor for which practically makes falling for him that much easier.

Tom reserves a huge part of himself from the world, has a part of his heart sealed off which would never see the light of day if he has anything to say about it. Though Honor tugs at certain places in the left region of his chest which seems to have been left hollow for far too long, Tom knows that he has nothing in reality to offer to a woman like Honor who deserves so much more than a jail sentence for helping him out in time of his need. But every kiss they exchange tends to break down a little bit of the walls that Tom has built around his heart, Honor’s honest, and giving nature crumbles his resistance away until Tom has no choice left but to run away from himself when it all gets to be too much.

The Perfect Match was right about just perfect in every way. I loved the fact that this was told in third person and included both Honor and Tom’s points of view, something you usually miss out on when you read a Kristan Higgins because she mostly tends to write in the first person, mainly from the heroines point of view. I loved Honor’s larger than life family, each and every character in the story lending a rich vividness to the story that kept me turning the pages. It wasn’t just Honor and Tom’s story that kept me glued to my e-reader every spare minute I could find, but rather the whole brood that comes together that created a magic that totally washed over me and kept me enthralled till I turned the very last page.

Honor is one of the most swell heroines. You have to read the book to understand what I mean. Best way to describe her is to say that she is the one that keeps everything firmly glued together in her family and the whole story, the one who continues to give in that gentle way of hers, a woman who stands up that much quicker than she falls down; because life certainly does punch her in the face a time or two, hard enough to really knock her flat on her face. Enter Tom who is all kinds of sexy and appealing that half of his students tends to be women who just wants a piece of him, a man with whom she clicks right from the very start turning the sensible Honor into a woman of sensual cravings that is so unlike her.

I loved the fact that Kristan included more romance in this novel than any other novel I’ve read from her to-date. In most of her stories, the heroes and heroines tend to spend a lot of time apart before they do come together eventually. But The Perfect Match I think struck just the right balance and gave just enough amount of steam and romance to keep me all warm, happy and aglow with the wonderfulness of it all.

Along with the laughter, Kristan certainly knows how to deliver the gut wrenching emotional aspect that practically gobsmacked me with all those tears my eyes refused to shed and the throat tightening which went on for quite a while. Wait, I think I’m still suffering from some of that. Sigh, which practically means that I had one hell of a time reading The Perfect Match and so would you. So just find yourself a copy and take a peek. If nothing else you’d get a couple of unforgettable laughs and a happy jiggle in parts of your body better left unsaid here, just from the sheer experience that is Tom Barlow.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Laugh out loud funny, sexy and full of heart. Kristan Higgins is an incomparable force in the genre.

Favorite Quotes

She didn’t realize she’d launched herself at him until she was kissing him, and hell, it’d been what, almost two minutes, possibly more, since he’d last kissed her, and she missed it. He landed on his back with an ooph, but she didn’t really care.
“Hallo, what have we here?” he murmured, and she kissed him again, sliding her tongue against his, dying to kiss him, taste him, feel him.

She tugged his shirt from his waistband and slid her hands up his back, feeling thick muscle and hot skin, and pulled his shirt over his head. Something metal brushed against her—a medallion, dangling from a silver chain around his neck.
He pulled back a bit, looking down at her. His own breath was ragged, and though his face had been gentle earlier, he now looked somewhat…fearsome. Down Under clenched at the word.

He tossed down the scrunchy and kissed her. Hard. “You fucking terrified me,” he muttered, and kissed her again, this time more gently.
She was alive. She was safe. She was wet and naked and warm.
Then, before he took her right here in the shower, he left, streaming water, sopping wet.
Because the last thing he wanted was to feel all this.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BookDepo | iTunes | Harlequin

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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

[xrr rating=4.5/5]

Caliber SEAL: AMAZING READ!

Review: Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Chic-lit
Series: Standalone
Publisher: HQN Books
Hero: Trevor James Meade
Heroine: Chastity Virginia O’Neill
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1, 2008
Started On: March 22, 2012
Finished On: March 24, 2012

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins is a book that always ends up in one recommendation list or the other. And the hero Trevor James Meade seems to be a real hit amongst the ladies so much so that I decided to give this book a try because when it comes to Kristan Higgins you are always in for a laugh-fest no matter what.

Chastity Virginia O’Neill is the youngest child and the only daughter in the O’Neill family. She is a plus-sized heroine if there ever was one and a jock to boot, a mark left over as a result of growing up and competing with 4 brothers in the household. After moving back to her hometown of Eaton Falls, Chastity is determined that she would find someone to fall in love with, someone to settle down with and have 2.5 kids with, even if the man who holds the key to her heart remains completely oblivious the ferocity of her feelings towards him.

Trevor James Meade can almost pass off as Chastity’s fifth brother because Trevor is almost like a son to her parents, biology be damned. Chastity falls in love with Trevor during the darkest period of Trevor’s life and she holds her feelings towards Trevor close to her heart, the one time that she and Trevor slept together a memory that she treasures and remembers all too often for her peace of mind.

However Trevor acts as if the thought of her settling down with someone else means nothing to him and goes as far as to encourage her to date and find someone who would provide her with everything her heart desires. And when the sexy new doctor in town notices Chastity and they both start dating, Chastity couldn’t be happier, or so she tells herself until everything starts falling apart around her, forcing Chastity to face the reality of her feelings and move on.

I had a hard time classifying Just One of the Guys as a romance. Chastity and Trevor spends the majority of the book apart from each other even though they live in the same town and run into each other almost every day. There were no romantic interactions between the two except for one very invigorating “nipple” scene that brought to light Trevor’s obvious attraction towards Chastity. I was disappointed because for the whole duration of the novel, Chastity and Trevor both date other people, sleep with other people and Chastity gets ready to even say her I-do’s before she comes to her senses and stops herself from settling for the second best. 

Trevor was delicious, as delicious as everyone raves him to be. And I loved him. I truly did. Kristan managed to do a mighty fine job of bringing him to life through Chastity’s eyes, and I loved how his character turned out to be. But I did want to slap him a time or two because he seemed to stubbornly hold on to his belief that if he and Chastity were ever to get together, he might lose her and that is one moment in time that he doesn’t ever want to face.

The reason why I hesitate to read books written in first person is the fact that the reader misses out a lot on the point of view of the other characters involved in the story. I especially missed having Trevor’s take on things, his feelings or non-feelings towards Chastity and what makes him so hesitant to stake his claim on a woman he seems to look out for in all the little ways that matter.

As always, Kristan gives the reader a healthy amount of laughter, the antics that Chastity gets involved in being moments that still bring a smile to my face. Just One of the Guys is the story of how Chastity as a character grows and becomes more, how she learns to face the truth in the light of the day, regardless of whether she might or might not like what she sees. And I loved the story of how Chastity’s mother moves on, against all odds and against all the stonewalling she receives from both her ex-husband and her children for whom their mother moving on is something of an alien concept.

There were so many emotional moments in the story, some of them rendering me to tears and other times I seriously had a lump the size of an island in my throat. Those were the moments that defined the story for me and I had a hell of an enjoyable time reading Just One of the Guys.

Just One of the Guys is a book that can make you laugh, bawl your eyes out and smile through your tears because Kristan is an author who demands no less, and if you are a fan, I cannot recommend it to you highly enough!

Favorite Quotes

Then before he could break the moment, before he could turn away, I kissed him, and he didn’t stop me. Instead, he pushed my hair out of my face, and he kissed me back, gently, sweetly, his hand slipping behind my head, his lips moving just right against mine, smooth and warm. I gripped his shirt and sighed against his mouth, and knew that as long as I lived, this would be the one perfect kiss that I’d remember forever.

“So you can’t marry Harry, Mom! Not if you still love Daddy!” I sound like a ten-year-old, but I can’t help it. Buttercup comes over to me and puts her head on my lap.
“Love gets used up, Chastity,” Mom says gently, reaching up to smooth my hair. “If it’s not returned, it gets used up.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BoB | Book Depository

[xrr rating=4/5]

Caliber Seal: GREAT READ!

Requested ARC Review + Interview & Giveaway: Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Liam Declan Murphy
Heroine: Cordelia Wilhelmina Osterhagen
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 25, 2011
Started On: October 17, 2011
Finished On: October 19, 2011

Though I am no writer and don’t think I ever will rise up to that standard, I too have had my share of English assignments during which painstaking hour after the other, I have tried to give life to my words so that those who read it would feel the same set of emotions that I was going through as I was writing it. And with Kristan Higgins I think that’s exactly what she achieves with her novels, the laughter that comes with such ease as do the tears of the happy and sad variety together with those sheer moments of perfection that just makes her stories so entertaining.

Until There Was You is my second novel by Kristan Higgins and I am mighty happy that this was in fact not written in the first person. According to the author’s note, this is a first for the author because she has written the story from the male lead’s point of view as well, for the very first time in a novel of hers.

Liam Declan Murphy, the first man Cordelia Wilhelmina Osterhagen (Posey) had fallen in love with, the first man to ever break her heart is back in town, now a widower with his teenage daughter Nicole in tow. The significant role which Liam had unknowingly played in Posey’s life the night of her prom which had changed something deep inside of her, Posey never thought that her girl parts would sing & rejoice at the sight of the sexy as sin Liam who still manages to take her breathe away by just strolling into a room.

Circumstances find both Liam and Posey in each other’s company, more than once until the one sided awareness and attraction that Posey has had since forever for Liam suddenly ceases to be on her side alone. With kisses of the knee weakening variety, Liam and Posey find themselves in a friends with benefits sort of relationship that reaches its conclusion when Liam is forced to face the consequences of his relationship with a woman who really sees him for who he is, and makes him believe in his self worth for the very first time in his life.

Until There Was You is just more than a simple love story. Yes, there is a hero who can fulfill any woman’s fantasies and there is a heroine who just clutches at your heartstrings with the turn of the very first page. But, with a Kristan Higgins you don’t get the instant attraction turning into lust and love story. Rather you get to experience the journey that the hero and heroine embark upon in their joint quest towards a happily ever after, one that seems a very unlikely possibility when the story first kicks off.

As I have said earlier, Liam is the sort of man that we all base our naughtiest fantasies on. With the bad boy persona down to a fine art, looks good enough to have women practically hurling themselves at him and the way he can focus his smoky green eyes in that special way that makes a woman go weak at the knees, needless to say my hormornes were doing their happy dance throughout the story. But Liam is not just a pretty face, neither is he just the bad boy who fell in love with the kindest and most popular girl in high school. There is a depth to his character that bit by bit when revealed you can’t help but fall that much harder for him because his character demands nothing less.

The fears that Liam battles after the death of his wife, the way he is completely and utterly devoted towards ensuring that his daughter would never want for anything is one of the many reasons why I fell so hard for his character.

Posey, the adopted daughter of German parents is no traffic stopping beauty. But there is an inner beauty that shines through her right from the very start, the way she lusts after and loves Liam with everything she has got which turned out to be such a refreshing aspect to the story. The way Posey seems to understand Liam, see him for who he is and know his worth even when everyone else expected the worst from him was one of the reasons why Posey’s character endeared to me so much. The relationships that she has with her adopted parents, her gay brother and her brother in law together and that with her co-workers, all lend the story that extra fodder that made this novel an instant page-turner for me.

I swear that this is the very first time that I have practically questioned my sanity by laughing out so loud and laughing so hard at the way that Kristan seems to hit all the right spots with the humorous aspect of the story. I was thanking my lucky stars for the fact that I was alone when I was reading what follows the scene in the elevator because I’m afraid that otherwise someone might have reported me to the looney authorities.

There were moments in the story that were seriously deep, moments that I cried sad and joyous tears, moments that pretty much made it the 5-star read that this turned out to be. The moments towards the end of the novel, where Liam finally gets the courage to stand up for himself in front of his in-laws, the ‘speech’ that he gave at that moment practically had me bawling my eyes out.

Though I felt that Liam fell a bit short on the love-o-metre when compared to Posey, since I didn’t get the “to-hell-with-everything-else-I-love-this-woman-with-everything-I-am” vibe that I was expecting, I still managed to brush aside my misgivings because Liam does make up for most of it with the sweetest gestures ever!

A story that tickles your funny bones, tugs at your heartstrings and delivers one of the most wickedly sinful heroes ever, Until There Was You is a novel that comes highly recommended from the sunny side of life!

Favorite Quotes:

The simmering lust, the raging interest exploded into love. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a man who took the time to feed a homeless kitty? She held that image against her heart like a secret jewel. Only she knew about it, she was sure. Those girls Liam might’ve slept with, girls who left their panties in his locker or wrote things about him on the bathroom walls…they didn’t know what Posey knew—
Liam Declan Murphy was not just the hottest thing ever to grace Bellsford High…he was a softy, too.

That moment when she’d crouched behind the tree…it did something to her, something that made her grow up and toughen up. But one question throbbed in her brain for a long, long time. Why? Why would Liam say something so hateful? How could he—who had tamed a stray and starving cat—be so cruel to a girl who had only ever wanted to be his friend?

“OH!” KATE GRUNTED as she sat down behind her desk.
“My side is killing me. I’m ovulating, I think. That sucker must be huge.”
“Must we discuss?” Jon asked.
“Man up, weenie boy,” Kate said.
“You man up, Venus Williams,” Jon replied. “I’m a gay home-ec teacher. I never have to man up. I never will man up. As God is my witness, I’ll never man up again.”

“You want to go to the movies tomorrow night?” he asked, and Posey was so shocked she actually choked.
“What?” she managed.
“The movies? Tomorrow?”
“Um…I, uh…um…what movie?”
He narrowed his eyes just a little, and Posey’s nether parts gave a long, happy squeeze. Get his clothes off, those parts advised. We’re lonely.

There was a little smile on his mouth—the mouth that had been kissing hers. Otherwise, he was incommunicado.
“Liam?” she said again, more loudly this time.
Nada. He was out cold. Down for the count.
She straightened abruptly. Face was burning, joints buzzing with adrenaline, chest filled with helium.
Liam Murphy had kissed her.
And he’d fallen asleep in the middle of it. She didn’t know whether to burst into song or kick something.

Then she smiled, just a flash, and something moved in Liam’s chest. Something warm, and something he hadn’t felt in a long time.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BarnesandNoble | BooksOnBoard

[xrr rating=5/5]

Caliber Seal: OUTSTANDING READ!

Kristan’s Interview on Until There Was You

So I managed to find just a bit more about this fabulous book from Kristan who was kind enough to answer a couple of questions about the characters and the writing process which makes this book such a perfect addition to your must-read pile.

MBR: Underneath all the humor and laugh out loud moments, you have created a story of healing, love and second chances. How did you come up with Until There Was You? Did the story end as you envisioned it at the beginning or did Liam and Posey stumble through their own paths towards happily ever after?

Kristan: Oh, thank you so much! I wanted to write what’s a classic theme in romance—the return of the bad boy. You’re right, the book is absolutely about second chances…for Liam, Posey and everyone else. I did have a plan for how the book would go, and generally, it did follow the path I’d envisioned, but you know how it is. The characters would occasionally veer off and do something I didn’t expect, and those are usually the best moments.

MBR: What would you say was the most difficult aspect of this story to write?

Kristan: You know, writing Posey was tricky. I am neither small nor skinny nor adopted, and it took me a while to get into her vibe. Once I did, I absolutely loved her.

MBR: There isn’t even one side character that I would do away with in the story. And though I am not one to enjoy gay romances I found myself totally charmed with Jon and Henry’s characters. How do you manage to so effortlessly weave all these characters and their traits together? As a writer do you find it challenging to juggle all the characters and their nuances together in a story?

Kristan: Thank you so much! Jon and Henry were among my faves, too, but there’s no effortlessly about it. I take a long hard look at all the secondary characters and make sure that in addition to providing color and richness, they actually serve a purpose in the story. I do find it a challenge, but it’s my favorite kind. I love writing secondary characters!

MBR: Would you ever consider writing a sequel to Until There Was You? Maybe a story featuring Kate, Posey’s best friend or maybe even Brianna and James?

Kristan: For now, no. I love where the story ended. Kate was so supremely happy with life, I don’t think she needs her own story. As for Brianna and James…I picture them happy already.

GIVEAWAY!! GIVEAWAY!!

There are two copies of Until There Was You up for grabs. A paperback copy open for US residents only & an e-copy open for everyone else!

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment behind sharing with us your favorite Kristan Higgin’s romance. If you haven’t read any romances by her just share with us your favorite romance that made you laugh out loud and cry happy tears at the same time. Easy right?

And don’t forget to leave behind a valid e-mail address for a way to contact you.

The giveaway will end at 12:00 hours Maldivian time on the 27th of October 2011.

Winners will be randomly chosen and announced soon after.

Good luck & don’t forget to spread the good news either via Twitter or via Facebook by recommending this post.