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REVIEW: My One and Only by Kristan Higgins

Dear Ms. Higgins:

Let me try to articulate in the beginning what I liked about this book because most of the review is going to be what I didn’t like. After I finished the book, I emailed a friend of mine and said that this book really disappointed me.   It’s like everything I love about your books got turned around and made into a bad caricature.   What I did like is that I felt the heroine’s position as an attorney was rendered authentically; that she was independent; and goal oriented.   I kind of liked her sister but she isn’t given much screen time. I really like reconciliation stories and this is about a divorce attorney and her former husband getting back together. Yay! Right? Only not so much.

 My One and Only      by     Kristan HigginsMaybe you haven’t heard but some people complain that your books aren’t very feminist in that they portray only one type of woman and that is a woman who seeks fulfillment and completion by becoming a pair.   I haven’t agreed with these past complaints because there is nothing anti feminist with wanting to share your life with someone special but this book kind of puts some credence into those complaints.

It is about a divorce attorney, Harper James, who hates marriage and believes that every marriage will ultimately end in divorce.   She even goes about interjecting herself into strangers’ conversations to tell them how doomed their marriage is.   But the book starts out with Harper trying to convince her firefighter boyfriend to marry her.   This is the first of many internal character inconsistencies.   What am I supposed to take from this? That the heroine doesn’t practice what she preaches?   It may have made sense if she actually loved her firefighter boyfriend, but she doesn’t.   In fact, she only likes how he looks (hot) and how she feels when she’s with him (self important).   She views him as beneath her (because she is so much smarter than he is).   If anything, these actions show me that Harper is a shallow woman who is emotionally insecure.   Even that would be okay if that was her character arc.   Instead, her character arc is to come to grips with the fact she doesn’t like commitment.   The reason she is anti commitment is because her mother abandoned the her when she was a child.   Since then Harper James has convinced herself she doesn’t believe in love, marriage and happy ever after.

Of course, the perfect conflict for this book is to make the divorce attorney who doesn’t believe in marriage to fall in love and get married which she did twelve years ago to Nick Lowery.   Nick swept Harper off her feet and convinced her that marriage would work for the two of them.   Within six months, however, Harper had given up on the marriage and filed for divorce.   Nick blames her for the decline of their marriage.   The entire book is spent trying to convince us that Harper was pretty much solely responsible for the downfall of the marriage.   It is this characterization, this message, that drove me completely nuts in this book.   Nick was a new architect. He spent every waking minute of his day working.   He misses birthdays, dates, special events.   He has moved Harper from Boston to New York and she knows no one.   She puts off going to law school for a year.   Her entire world changes for him yet he makes no concessions for that. Instead, he expects her to understand that he is trying to build a career and she should have been supportive.   Instead, Harper gets a job waitressing and she never tells her co workers that she is married.    He caught her getting kissed by one of the co workers, none of whom he had ever met because he was working 24 hours a day 7 days a week and packs up his things and leaves.

They meet again when Nick’s brother marries Harper’s sister and this is the path of their reconciliation.   We get pages of pages of how she ruined the marriage, how she cheated on him, how she’s emotionally stunted and it’s never his fault.     Toward the end, he says that he should have spent more time with her, but it felt like a half assed attempt, at best, to save face for Nick.   I could not stand the hero in this book.   I was reading a paper ARC and wanted to rip the pages out at some points.

I wasn’t ever convinced that Harper was the evil witch that it seemed I was supposed to think she was.   Instead I saw her as a lonely, heartsick young woman whose love never got any sun.   She matured into a cynical woman but part of her change was caused by Nick and the story’s glorification of Nick’s character juxtaposed with the villification of Harper’s character was very offensive to me.     In fact, part of the character change that I wanted to see in Nick occurred in the frigging epilogue.   To have that was like rubbing salt in my exposed wound.   D

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

36 Comments

  1. may
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 14:25:25

    ouch!

    First off, great review.

    I’ve heard so much positive about this book… but between the exerpts, descriptions, and then this morning looking at it in-store (Congrats to KH for having her book in Target!!) I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that this would NOT be a book I would like, despite my deep love of Kristan Higgins novels.

    I am glad I avoided it! Thanks for the honesty – I’ll hope Higgins will write something wildly different next time!!

  2. Sarah
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 14:31:37

    YES YES AND YES! This is exactly how I felt about this book. Nick was an arrogant and controlling jerk who basically said, if I can’t have it my way, then there is no other way. I could not understand at all how Harper fell in love with him again. Even his more “vulnerable” moments (used very loosely, vulernable I mean) felt fake and contrived, like he was trying to play on any positive memories these two may have had.

    I liked Harper more than you it seems but even still, I wanted her to be more resolute in her decisions. To say no, not again to Nick’s behavior, but she never did. For all the control she finally showed in her job, she left her personal life up to Nick in the end. It was as if she was so worn down from his constant aggravations and grievances that she just capitulated and that was the “happily ever after.” Only not.

  3. Meoskop
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 14:56:36

    Interesting, because I liked this one more than other Higgins books. I thought Nick was an ass, but Harper allowed him to be one, she had to take charge of her issues before she could stand up to him. My problems with the book were all in the final 1/4. I found it pat, contrived and predictable. I hated her career shift especially. All that said, Higgins does write fairly anti feminist books. I don’t fault her for that, any more than I fault an inspirational writer for doing inspirational books.

  4. Jennifer
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 15:00:07

    Thank you for the review! I wanted to like this book, but Harper was so off-putting, that I didn't care what happened to her. She was so negative on love and seemed to lack the ability to communicate like an adult, that I couldn’t understand her…nor, could I get the “hero” who waited (not really/sort of) for her. So, we’ve got these two people who are “meant to be” but are completely passive about their love– They simply failed once at it because couldn’t sit down and have a conversation, and we’ve got to cheer them on? Higgins’ other leading ladies have hang-ups and problems, but they are people you want to root for their happy ending. These two, meh. Plus, all the “quirky-for-quirky’s sake” bits (like the “I'm a divorce lawyer who has drinks with a priest,” har-har) got to me.

  5. LizC
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 15:28:19

    Hmm. Maybe I’ll reconsider buying this book right away. I’ve quite enjoyed (and own) all of Higgins’ previous books so I was looking forward to this one but I think I’ll see if I can read a bit in-store before buying.

  6. Jane
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 17:17:16

    @may: I think she tends to write the same type of story over and over and I love her voice. This time, though, the characterizations just drove me crazy.

    @Sarah: I didn’t mind her. In fact, I think that Higgins tried to villify her in order to make Nick more palatable.

    @Meoskop: I thought the career shift was disappointing but at that point, everything was a disappointment.

    @Jennifer: Good insight. It was very passive. And I disliked that she was the one that did the groveling. I mean, what did she have to grovel for?

    @LizC: You might enjoy it more than I did. I know that it has gotten good reviews from others.

  7. Liz M
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 17:37:01

    I have enjoyed most of Higgins’ books, but she often comes close to pushing my buttons, and it sounds like this one might push too hard. I wish her heroines were a bit less passive in general.

    I just finished Kimberly Lang’s Girl’s Guide to Flirting with Danger (a recent Harlequin Presents) which has some of the same plot elements–he’s the divorce lawyer, she’s a marriage counselor, they divorced partly because he was obsessed with work–but resolves them in a different way. You’ve actually made me curious to read Higgins’ novel and compare, as well as dubious about how much I’ll enjoy this one.

  8. Jane
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 17:39:29

    @Liz M: I have read Girl’s Guide and the dynamic is much better because both parties had problems communicating early on and had to work through them. Both accepted blame for the fallout and I liked the way in which it was resolved.

    This book placed the blame squarely on her shoulders (even when she tried to point out that he was emotionally absent he kept returning with “you cheated on me”) and she had to do the big grovel and beg to keep him in her life.

  9. Eliza Evans
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 17:41:27

    Thanks for the review, Jane! I’m a little worried now, but I’m going to read the book anyway. I am a huge fan of her voice and I love reunited marriage stories. We’ll see if that can carry me through the problematic bits.

  10. lucy
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 18:27:19

    I was dying to read this book, but now I’m a bit worried. I don’t want to waste my money on a book that I might hate.

    I guess I’ll have to wait either for my library to get it, or for my resistance to break down and buy it.

  11. Sarah W
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 19:01:09

    This was the first Kristin Higgins book I ever read, and while I didn’t love it, I liked it enough. I think that for me I kept expecting the relationship issue to be something else. The way they play it out and the way they don’t tell you what it is until you are most of the way in the book. Having read this book I went and read some of her other books and found that I couldn’t stand how the heroines seemed determined to throw away their relationships with a nice guy in order to get some other guy. This came up in all three books I read, and I think I couldn’t get through One of the Guys because it drove me crazy.

  12. colleen
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 19:34:22

    I liked the book. But I found Harper’s harping on divorce (yet still wanting to marry Dennis) more annoying than the character of Nick. Though his inability to take some blame for the relationship was a bit much. As was the repeated use of crotch instead of a curse word.

    I think I thought more highly of it because I compared it to my reaction to The Next Best Thing where I literally wanted to throw the book out the window and than set fire to it.

  13. Kaetrin
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 20:53:25

    Well I liked it more than you did Jane but I agree with most of your criticisms of the book. I didn’t like Harper much in the beginning and it took me quite a while to warm to her – her hot firefighter boyfriend deserved better and I wondered what she was doing with him in the first place because she seemed so contemptuous of him (which is not attractive). I did quite like BeverLee but I thought the conflict between her and Harper’s dad was contrived and unrealistic (once the mystery of it was revealed). As for Nick, I thought he was an ass at the beginning and he only marginally redeemed himself. I wasn’t convinced by the HEA – what had really changed? I needed more of how it was going to work out or better yet, showing me how it was actually working out to convince me that Nick had really changed. To be honest, I don’t know how Nick had managed to delude himself that their marriage breakup was all Harper’s fault and I agree that his “apology” when it came wasn’t really good enough. I gave it a C- because the style and the voice are really good, but maybe I’m just soft! :)

    All I Ever Wanted was a great book (IMO) – my favourite of Higgins’ so far – for those who read this one first and thought it was okay, I’d encourage you to give that one a go. Very likeable characters and a much more convincing HEA.

  14. Jane
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 21:00:37

    @Kaetrin: I agree that her voice is fantastic and I wavered over the grade, but in the end, I thought she really failed in making me believe in the reconciliation and the growth of the characters and thus the D grade.

  15. sarah mayberry
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 21:14:55

    I love One of the Guys. It has so much yearning in it. Chastity, for me, is a really likeable, can do heroine without being overly chirpy or perky. Her decision to get on with her life and get over the past love was sensible and rational – I liked that she had A Plan. Not a great plan, it turned out in the end, but that is still one of my faves. I think Ms. Higgans is ridiculously talented so I will probably give this one a shot some time. Although I will admit to being a bit worried about the asshat ex. I quite like the idea of the heroine having to grovel, however. It’s a nice turn of the tables. But then again, if it’s not justified… I’m just gonna have to read it, aren’t I?

  16. Kaetrin
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 21:26:34

    @ Sarah Mayberry – she is very talented isn’t she? I feel sad (and a bit guilty) when I don’t love a book by a favourite author – which is what happened this time. I’ll still pick up her next book because her track record for me is very good.

  17. liz talley
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 21:32:19

    LOL, Sarah M. I feel the same way. I love Kristan Higgins so I’ll likely give it a shot one day too.

    And as to Nick, I think this is where the fine line between romance and realism (not in the classical sense) is hard to walk. Let’s face it. Guys are asses and clueless. Nick actually reminds me of my husband when we first married. My hubs was in professional school. We were newly married in a new city. And I was very lonely. I hung out with a girl I worked with and we went out all the time. I never told people we met at clubs that I was married because it made me feel weird and for a moment in time, I wasn’t that pathetic wife that sat around sad-eyed waiting for a pat on the head from my new husband. So, yeah, I get it.

    Guys can be jerks and totally oblivious about things. So I can forgive someone for being an ass. I guess the growth thing bothers me because the dude would have to see his fault in the relationship too. Obviously, you didn’t feel he had.

    So, yeah, I’m going to have to check this one out when I get more reading time. I’ve loved her other ones, so I’ll be a good girl and not judge a book by its review. But as always, I appreciate the honesty that comes with the reviews here.

  18. peggy h
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 22:14:53

    Thanks for the review, Jane. Though I’ve read every one of Kristan’s books, there’s always been an element of hit-or-miss for me with most of them.

    Just One of the Guys was the first Higgins I read, and remains my favorite, partly because this had (for me) the most likeable protagonists, especially the hero.

    I think I may pass on this one.

  19. SonomaLass
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 23:01:02

    This book made me mad, as did The Next Best Thing, but I loved All I Ever Wanted, so I’m not completely down on Higgins. She does write well, which is part of why I get mad when the characters’ happy ending seems to send a message that rubs me the wrong way. I love a good reconciliation story, but it has to include working out the issues that were problems the first time around, and I didn’t believe that happened here. Until the epilogue, as Jane says, where suddenly the concessions Nick needed to make are made — but after Harper begs him to take her back, so they were not really part of the reconciliation itself.

    And can we talk about secondary characters, speaking of questionable messages? SPOILER ALERT because I can’t think of how to express this without revealing more plot points…

    Harper’s sister marries Nick’s brother, and Harper (as is her pattern) tries to talk her out of the wedding because the sister has two previous failed marriages, both resulting from marrying too soon (this couple has been together a very short time). Nick is angry with Harper for interfering. Then after the wedding, Harper finds out that Nick’s brother is a recovering alcoholic, which her sister DIDN’T KNOW when she married him — Nick knew, and kept it from the bride and from Harper, and he thinks it’s okay for his brother to marry a woman who doesn’t know this about him. And Harper ends up being wrong, because it looks like the marriage is going to work out. Which is great, if he gets help and goes to meetings, but in what universe is it wrong to suggest that your twice-divorced sister should reconsider her pattern with men, or that expecting honesty before marriage about a problem like addiction is unreasonable? /rant /spoiler

    So yeah, I’m with Jane on this one, and from this thread a few others as well. I do think it’s a sign of Higgins’ compelling voice that I had such a strong reaction to the two books of hers I didn’t enjoy — I bought into them, or else the disappointment would not have been so keen.

  20. Ros
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 03:07:57

    Hmm. I’ve only read one of Higgins’ books (and I can’t remember which) but the thing I didn’t love was the first person voice. Not because I don’t love first person, but because the character narrating the book irritated me. A lot.

    Are all her books written in first person? Was this one? Did that contribute – or not – to your dissatisfaction with it?

  21. FD
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 06:01:34

    Ha. Thank you Jane – I couldn’t work out why I was holding off on buying this one and you put your finger squarely on the reason – I’ve read a couple of really positive reviews and the antifeminist slant wasn’t mentioned. Yet despite been keen on reconciliation contemps, I hadn’t gotten around to buying it – I was dithering, because I know I sometimes disagree with the reviewers (who shall go nameless) because they tend to be far harder on the heroines than they are the heroes.
    Now that you’ve mentioned it, Kristen Higgins’ books, are like the Robyn Carr Virgin River series for me, in that some of the (what I find less savoury) common themes are beginning to show through, and they’ve become authors I approach with caution rather than glomming on.
    I loathe picking up a book that’s supposedly reconciliation and finding it’s a redemption story instead, especially when the redemption arc is (in my opinion of course) anti feminist bullshit.
    Maybe I’ll try the newest Jill Shalvis instead – that’s a reconciliation themed book and she’s yet to twang on my small minded meter.

  22. Tara Marie
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 07:51:47

    This is sitting on my wish list at Amazon. I enjoy Kristen Higgins’ books and was looking forward to this one, but like FD something was holding me back. I’ll probably order it, but I won’t rush to read it.

  23. BethanyA
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 08:09:52

    @SonomaLass:

    I adore Kristan Higgins’s work before The Next Best Thing. For me that book was a DNF and I know I will not be able to get through this.

    But in a way, Jane’s review made me realize I am very thankful for both books. Strange, right? I am a 27-year old single, rather unfeminist (I remember calling out in the middle of class that I thought the spanking scene in Taming of the Shrew was hot) who has never been married and I often have identified with Kristan Higgins previous heroines. I don’t like reading about widows and divorcees. I now know to stop wasting my time trying to muddle through books with these types of characters and spend my time reading what I like.

    So this was kind of breakthrough for me. At least for now.

  24. SarahT
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 09:25:40

    I’m on the fence about this one, but thanks very much to @Liz M: and @Jane: for the mention of the Kimberly Lang book. I’ve read all her others, but I somehow missed ‘Girl’s Guide to Flirting with Danger’.

  25. Chicklet
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 09:33:45

    Yeah, all of the books I’ve read by Higgins have been right on the edge with me, because of the I must, must, MUST get a man or I’m subhuman! subtext, but the issues you bring up in the review guarantee I’ll be skipping this one and saving myself the aggravation. I hate when authors let one character get away with egregious behavior in order to punish the other character for behaviors the author is creating. In other words, it was completely within Higgins’ power to have Nick realize earlier in the book that his behavior contributed to the breakdown of their first marriage, but she chose to keep all of the blame on Harper. That gets a red card from me. [/random football metaphor]

  26. FD
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 11:58:31

    @SarahT: I’ve read Flirting With Danger, and I’d third the rec; it is what this book might have been – both parties genuinely previously made bad mistakes and both grow and learn and compromise.

    @BethanyA: Hey, enjoyment of BDSM does not automatically make you an antifeminist, thankyou very much.

  27. MB
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 11:59:06

    Yikes! I was just getting ready to read this. It sounds like it would really hit my hot buttons too.

    I really think Kristin Higgins is amazingly talented, but her books and her characters SO annoy me! As a reader, I feel like I’m being manipulated into a happy ending that just doesn’t sit well with my own character and worldview.

    I REALLY hated the last one, this one really sounds like I will hate it too.

  28. sula
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 20:32:27

    Life is too short to waste on anti-feminist books, and my precious dollars are better spent elsewhere. Thanks for the warning. If the review makes me want to bang the wall, the book certainly would. lol.

  29. Kaetrin
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 22:02:02

    @ Ros. Yes all of Higgins’ books are in 1st person POV. I don’t mind it – in some of the books that has meant that (for me) there hasn’t been enough of the hero but I had quite enough of the hero in this one (!) and in All I Ever Wanted I thought the mix was much better. However, if you really don’t like 1st person books, then Higgins is not the author for you.

  30. Eileen
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 07:45:22

    I’ve only recently read a few of Higgins’ books and most of those I’ve taken out from the library. I may read this one if I see it in the library, but I won’t buy it.

    What is interesting to me from all the comments is how out of step I am with everyone else’s opinions–LOL. I quite liked The Next Best Thing which seems to be unpopular, and I HATED All I Ever Wanted. The “hero” in All I Ever Wanted was such a non-entity. He had no personality and no passion. He was just so blah. He came across to me like someone with some sort of mental/social impairment.

  31. AMG
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 09:47:51

    Thanks to this review, I won’t be reading this book. When I read the blurb a couple of months ago, I had a bad feeling. The divorced characters remarrying is not a favourite theme of mine anyway. Her previous book (Next Best?) bothered me too.

    I had enjoyed her other books as sweet treacle to enjoy on a rainy day. But there is only so much family love/quirkiness I can take. I wish she’d change up the plots, and keep the writing. And keep the animals.

  32. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 12:11:52

    I’m with just about everyone. I love, love, love Higgins’ voice. She is fresh and amazing in terms of the words on the page, time after time. But I think she’s totally Chick Lit, which is no longer what you would call a viable form. So they have her in Romance, where she doesn’t really fit.

  33. Alex/AnimeGirl
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 18:47:42

    I read an egalley of this and I didn’t like it.
    I’m pretty hit and miss when it comes to Ms Higgins books, I loved All I Ever Wanted and completely hated The Next Best Thing and so on.

    But this one… well, I really liked the first half, while I was trying to figure out how things went sour between Nick and Harper but once I found out I had a moment of “Duh, I would dump a guy in under a month if he had behaved like Nick did.” And from them on, Nick just became this annoying whiny character that couldn’t see he was dragging Harper down the same path he had twelve years ago -the path that ended in divorce.

    *sigh*

    The only character I liked in this book, was Harper’s step mom – which was utterly surprising since I ALWAYS hate Ms Higgins’ Mom-figures.

  34. Neena
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 21:15:38

    I loved this book! It was one of my favorite Kristan Higgins novels and I hated for it to end. To those on the fence, read it. Don’t rely on other people’s opinions. It’s like movie critics. To each his own. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

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