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REVIEW: All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

Dear Ms. Higgins:

I was fairly lukewarm on your last release. I never warmed up to your heroine and I thought your hero was a bit of a milquetoast. Your stories are all told in the first person, from the female protagonist’s point of view and if the reader doesn’t like the female protag, I have doubts that particular story will work for the reader.

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins
Callie Grey has been working as an ad executive for a small marketing firm in northern Vermont. She is in love with her boss and believes, based on a short affair a eleven months ago, that he is about to propose marriage to her. At. Any. Moment. (For four years). Unfortunately, Callie’s dreams are brought to an abrupt halt when Mark, her boss, announces his engagement to Muriel, the daughter of one of their biggest accounts.

When the new gorgeous, but not very warm vetinarian, Ian McFarland moves in town, Callie thinks maybe she can mend her broken heart on Ian’s sleeve even if their first meeting was inauspicious.

Where Callie’s moping and seemingly endless pining for Mark would ordinarily grate on my nerves, her self acknowledgement that Mark was her one weakness helped to take the sting away. We the readers were clued in that she was mostly “Michelle Obama” and only weak spined, emotional mooner “Bettie Boop” around Mark. Eventually, Callie has to take control of her life and her emotions but it’s a journey.

At times I felt impatient (because, of course, I knew that Ian was perfect for her but she needed to make a clean emotional break from Mark) but in a shelf full of books with instant lust, instant love, instant marriage, I really appreciated at the way in which Callie fell out of love and into love again, on her own time and in her own way. And truthfully, haven’t we all obsessed over one guy and made fool’s of ourselves at least once? I could cut Callie some slack when she was, well, a more of a take charge and competent kind of girl in most areas of her life.

Probably what helps is that the book is darn funny. Take, for example, Callie at the DMV renewing her license and talking and crying on the phone with her sister about Mark’s faithlessness:

“I ovahheard you, you poah thing,” she said. “Men can be such ahssholes. My husband, Nahman we’re talkin’ about, he sits down to dinnah one day and says he wants a d’vorce on account a’ he’s been banging the secretary down at the cremery. And this when we’ve been married fahty-two yeahs.”

“Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry,” I said, reaching out to hold her hand. She was right. Men were assholes. Mark was an asshole. I shouldn’t be heartbroken over him. Except I loved the rat bastard. Oh, blerk!

A sob squeaked out, and Mr. Intolerant behind me grumbled. That was it. I whirled around. “Look, mister, I’m sorry if I’m bothering you, but I’m having a really shitty day, okay? Is that okay with you? My heart is breaking, okay, pal?”

“By all means,” he said coolly. “Please continue with your emotional diarrhea.”

I also felt like I understand the hero better in this book. Yes, he was the strong, silent, emotionally adverse type like so many of the past Higgins heroes (Catch of the Day, frex), but he wasn’t perfect in his silence. Ian was curt, abrupt and hard to get along with. He was actually losing business for lacking a good bedside manner. Part of it was because he was wounded by his own recent divorce to a woman he had known all of his life (and it made sense that Ian, who had a hard time making friends, would marry someone he had known for a long time).

The secondary characters were great. The secondary romance that takes place is between Callie’s mother and father who have been estranged since Callie’s father slept with three different women while her mother was pregnant with Callie’s brother.

At first, I was like Callie’s mother.   “In this house, your father was synonymous with that shithead.”   I mean, she was pregnant!   But Callie’s father was determined to win Callie’s mother back even going so far as to agree to set up meetings between the three women with whom he cheated and Callie’s mom.   Those meetings were two parts hilarious and two parts poignant.

Even a blind person can see that Ian and Callie are exactly the types of opposites that belong together. Ian needs a bit of lively color in his life, someone to draw him out of his shell and connect him to other people. (His silence in the result of shyness). Callie, on the other hand, could use someone to anchor her and she kind of pushed her way into his life. He wasn’t the type to pursue anyone, not because he was too good for women, but because he didn’t feel comfortable doing it. For all her Michelle Obama toughness, Callie’s a dreamer which fits perfectly with her chosen profession of marketing and sometimes, she would just need Ian to help her bring it down a notch.   Further, Ian wasn’t so different than Callie’s grandfather Noah, a curmudgeonly old man who made Ian look like   a charmer at times. You might say that Callie married a younger version of her grandfather, whom she loved most in the world.   (and by saying this, it would be meant in the most romantic and non incestual way possible.   Get your heads out of the gutter, DA readers!).

I actually thought the ending was both romantic and weak. Romantic in the gestures that were made, but weak in the way in which Callie and Ian’s hands were forced by contrived circumstances by Mark whose actions at the end were so out of character for him and so clearly written to provoke misunderstanding and then reconciliation. It was too cliched an ending for such a nuanced book, when so much time was given over to Callie recovering from her adoration Mark. The characters were allowed to be vulnerable and emotional and I responded to that very well. Despite some of the drawbacks, All I Ever Wanted might be my favorite Higgins book yet. B

Best regards,

Jane

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Published by Harlequin, not one of the Agency pubs and available worldwide?

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

14 Comments

  1. Jen
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 11:24:41

    I too was lukewarm on her previous release THE NEXT BEST THING, for the same reasons you cited. I have adored all her other books, but only liked that one.

    I agree also that ALL I EVER WANTED is one her best. I didn’t experience any of your frustrations though. I laughed hysterically through many scenes. Loved all of the secondary characters(grandpa,parents,siblings, best friend, co-workers,) and was highly amused by her friend/co-worker Fleur who spent 3 weeks in England during college and came back with an accent and named her dog Tony Blair. Kristan excels at developing all characters in a book.I really feel as if they exist somewhere in the world. I could relate to Callie and loved how she and Ian came together.

    This book is a keeper for me. If this what you give a B then I’ll need to go check out all your other B grades too! :)

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  2. Helen
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 11:30:15

    Only a B??? I loved this book so much. What I loved most was how she perfectly captured Vermont. I grew up there in a rural area where new and old did NOT mix well. “Flaaat landa’s, leaf peepers, and autsiders” were treated pretty badly by the old timers. The book subtly brings to life the dichotomy between wanting and needing to make a living and at the same time hating the changes that tourists and outsiders bring to the community (From Noah’s boat making to the furniture maker) I laughed so hard my family thought I was nuts, and I have to admit to crying a bit too. This is hand’s down my favorite Higgins book and perhaps my favorite book for the year so far.

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  3. Sarah
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 12:26:23

    This has been my favorite of her books since Catch of the Day. I don’t think I even finished The Next Best THing which was just not at all very good, for me.

    Great review! I agree in particular about the rather abrupt ending. However, the epilogue made me happy because well, it just did. Not too over the top, roses and hearts.

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  4. May
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 13:22:58

    I was actually not surprised by Mark’s actions – it seemed fitting in his ‘world revolves around me and OOPS! I need this good thing back’ way.

    I *LOVED* this book so very much – from the supporting cast of fabulous characters to the pacing to the way it made me laugh AND cry and then laugh again… It was an A and is joining my faves/keeper shelf for sure.

    thanks for the great review!

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  5. sarah mayberry
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 18:43:39

    I is excited about this book!!! Can’t wait to get my greedy little mitts on it!!! Higgins is an absolute auto-buy for me. One of the funniest writers I’ve ever read. Ta for great review.

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  6. Kaetrin
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 18:51:56

    I didn’t read Higgins’ previous release – it felt too “samey” and I was a bit squicked out by the relationships – I think she ended up with her dead husband’s brother?? – but this one – I lapped it up with a big honking grin on my face – except for the parts where I was laughing or the bit where I cried.

    I would still like more of the hero – in part that is a bit of a drawback from a first person book (Although, I felt like I knew Jamie pretty well by the end of Outlander…) but in part it’s because Higgins’ heroes tend to be the silent type – in a 1st person POV book the only way to get to know other characters is their dialogue – when they’re quiet, they don’t have much to say and so are hard to get a handle on. I felt I got to know Ian more in this book than the heroes in other books but I would still want more.

    I don’t recall having the same issues with the ending – I felt that was just like Mark – selfish much? – and I understood Ian’s reaction given what had happened with his ex-wife.

    I would have like more of Ale!!! *fans self*

    I also liked how we got (just a little) further into the bedroom than I recall from previous books.

    I think I graded it a B+ but I haven’t written my review yet (slacker!) – but I do agree with above commenters – this one just might be my favourite KH yet.

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  7. Miki S
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 19:53:47

    What? Is this actually written is past tense? Do I get to finally try a Kristan Higgins??

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  8. Janine
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 02:07:57

    Despite some of the drawbacks, All I Ever Wanted might be my favorite Higgins book yet. B

    Hmm. But I’m pretty sure you gave Just One of the Guys an A-.

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  9. Jane
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 09:48:15

    Yep. I was aware I gave the first Higgins book I read a very high grade and I don’t regret it. Maybe I have become a more critical reader and thus certain things will bother me more or it could be that while I truly enjoyed this book and laughed and was moved to sadness, I couldn’t ignore what I perceived as contrivances and inconsistencies.

    I think it’s hard to give grades, one of the hardest tasks we do here, and because we are merely people with varying tastes, moods, responses, the grades will vary from book to book.

    In the end, I felt great when I closed the book and it was such an improvement over the last one, that I felt like it might be my favorite Higgins book ever.

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    Jul 28, 2010 @ 12:12:26

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  11. Bev Stephans
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 15:47:28

    I just received the book today. I hope it lives up to your review!

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  12. Shannon Stacey
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 11:03:18

    I just finished this one about five minutes ago and the book itself is probably my favorite of hers yet.

    I don’t, however, have words to express my dislike of the epilogue. I’m not much of a re-reader, but if I do re-read this one, I’ll stop at the end of the story proper and not read the epilogue.

    Loved the book (minus the last few pages), though!

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  13. Diana
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 23:37:49

    Really enjoyed this book! Kristan Higgins is one of my favorite authors. Catch of the Day is still my favorite, though.

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  14. Kim
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 12:24:02

    Dear Jane, I just finished All I Ever Wanted and felt that your review was absolutely accurate. It was a fun read, the family interaction was WONDERFUL, loved Noah and Ian, and the secondary characters were well done. However, for me, there was just something about Callie, even with her big heart, that was off-putting in her male relationships. It might have helped had there been a little more time between Mark and Ian so that a reader would feel that she totally loved Ian and was not being driven by her need for a significant other due to age concerns. Also, I didn’t care very much for the Betty Boob/Michelle Obama musings. It was a good read and I am a fan of KH, but I liked the love aspect better in some of her other works.

    ReplyReply

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