|After a slight misstep with her last novel, Until There Was You, Kristan Higgins is back in fine form, reminding me of why she is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. All of the problems I encountered in Until are fixed here: the heroine has a backbone, the hero isn’t surly, the humor is natural and unforced, and the romance is luscious.
James Cahill has always been “Thing One” to Parker Welles –her wealthy, distant father’s favorite minion. But James has carried a torch for the woman he refers to as “Princess” for years. So when Parker’s father is convicted of inside trading, and Parker is forced out of the family mansion, James insists on accompanying her to Maine, and the cottage once owned by her great-aunt that is her only hope for financial stability.
Parker has enjoyed considerable success as the author of a series of children’s books, but their proceeds have always been donated to charity because she had her family fortune to live on. Now she has run out of ideas for a new book, she’s almost broke, and her father’s annoying attorney is witness to her humiliation. As a single mom to a six-year old son, Parker is determined to make the best of a bad situation, even when she realizes her great-aunt was a hoarder and her new home is little more than a shack. Her best friend Lucy thinks that Parker should have a fling up in Maine, but Parker finds few prospects, with the exception of James, who turns out to be hard-working, loyal, a good listener, and sexy. But is he interested in her, or is he doing a favor for his boss?
I was not a big fan of the “return of the high school crush” plot used in Until There Was You, but I am a sucker for the “guy has crushed on girl for years, finally gets a chance to prove himself” story that this novel employs. Unlike some of Higgins’ taciturn heroes, James is charming. From the moment the story reveals that six years ago he bought Parker a stuffed animal for her new baby because he knew her father would forget, he won me over, and he only grew more wonderful as the story evolved. Parker is a bit prickly, but some of her behavior is protectiveness towards her son, so it’s understandable. Both James and Parker have had difficult childhood experiences that make them wary, but they don’t use their pasts as an excuse for cruel behavior (I hate when surly alpha heroes are given a pass because they had a bad childhood).
Much of the book’s humor revolves around the “Holy Rollers,” the roller-skating aspiring little angels who starred in Parker’s children’s books, which were written as a joke and then became surprisingly successful. Parker imagines the Rollers talk to her like a Greek Chorus, and their conversations are hilarious. Her desperate and horrible ideas for her next book are entertaining as well. For the most part Higgins avoids the cutesy expressions she sometimes forces her heroines to utter, although I had to wince every time Parker referred to her nether regions as “Lady Land.”
Starting the story in Rhode Island and then moving it to Maine provides Higgins the opportunity to utilize characters from two previous novels, Catch of the Day and The Next Best Thing. I had read one but not the other and found their appearances to be natural and not too distracting.
When Higgins is on her game, nobody can match her combination of humor, character development and romance. Someone to Love is an example of Higgins at her best.