Dear Ms. Higgins:
Congratulations on winning the RITA for best contemporary. I’ll confess that I’ve been a skeptic of RITA winners in the past, but as I was lost in the world of Eaton Falls, I thought yours was well deserved. Just One of the Guys (link to excerpt) is a book that sells itself. The voice of the narrator is so captivating that no summary could adequately convey the charm of Chastity, tall, broad-shouldered, Amazon of a woman. For example, the story opens with Chastity getting dumped by her latest companion. She asks him for the reason he is breaking up with her.
"Fine," he acquiesces, leaving whatever morsel lurks at the back of his mouth for later enjoyment. "You want to hear the reason? I just don’t find you attractive enough. Sorry."
My mouth drops open yet again. "Not attractive! Not attract-‘I’m very attractive!"
Jason rolls his eyes. "Sure. A handsome woman. Whatever. And with shoulders like those, you could find work down on the docks."
"I row!" I protest. "I’m strong! That’s supposed to be sexy."
"Yes, well, proving that you could pick me up didn’t exactly set my libido on fire."
"We were horsing around!" I cry. It was, in fact, the one lighthearted moment in our courtship-we’d been hiking, he complained that he was tired, I took over. End of story.
"You gave me a piggyback ride for a mile and a half, Chastity. That’s something a Sherpa should do, not a girlfriend."
"It wasn’t my fault that you couldn’t manage a measly twelve-mile trail!"
Chastity is a good hearted soul. Yes, she’s a bit loud and a bit muscular but she comes from big loud stock and with four brothers, you have to speak up to be heard. It’s like life has conspired to keep Chastity single. She’s not a lithe young thing. She’s aggressive. Worse, she’s got four firefighter/rescue brothers and a dad who all could break a guy with a look. What she would really like is to settle down and have a family. She’s surrounded by happiness (except for her one brother’s marriage that fell apart when he cheated on his wife which happens to be Chastity’s best friend) and fecundity and she wants some of that for herself.
"Is it from the-‘" god "-‘man at that table?" I ask, gesturing in his general direction.
"No. From the-person? Over there," the waitress says. "At the bar."
Heart thumping, I crane my neck to see who it is. Trevor does the same.
Sitting at the bar, looking at me with a smile, is a woman. She lifts her beer glass-‘I’m guessing Miller-‘and salutes me. Because I don’t know what else to do, I wave back weakly. She’s fairly attractive, with short dark hair and a pleasant plumpness to her, and she seems to have a nice face. However, this doesn’t erase the fact that I’m not a lesbian. Trevor covers his eyes with one hand. I suspect he is laughing. His mouth twitches. Yes. Bastard.
"Could you-could you tell her-I-it’s just that-" My face is flaming.
"She’s spoken for," Trevor manages to say somberly. "Thanks anyway. You can take the drink back."
The waitress nods, takes the glass away and undulates her ass inches from Trevor’s shoulder. I put my head on the table.
"Oh, Chas," Trevor laughs. Without lifting my head, I give him the finger.
He gets out of his seat and comes to sit next to me, putting a brotherly arm around my shoulders. "Don’t be glum, Chas. Things will work out."
"Blah blah bleeping blah," I mutter, resisting the urge to punch him in the kidney. Such platitudes are as about as helpful as tossing a bowling ball to a drowning man. I hate the fact that I put up with the tepid and freckled Jason, even for a few weeks. Hate it that Mr. New York Times is miles out of my league. Hate the fact that I’ve just been mistaken for a lesbian.
It’s not fair. Here’s Trevor, the vagina magnet, able to seduce in ninety seconds. My brothers, ranging in age from thirty-eight to thirty-two, have to fight women off with a Taser and a sturdy chair. Yet somehow, at just past thirty, I’ve become a pariah. Mention my age to a man and he looks stricken, as if I’ve just told him exactly how many viable eggs I have sitting in my ovaries and how very much I’d like them to be fertilized. It’s not fair.
But the reality isn’t that everyone is happy. Her mother and father got divorced a few years ago after her mother got tired of being second fiddle to the firehouse. But their divorce has been completely amicable until her mother decides dating. Initially it seems that her mother is just trying to wave the jealousy bone in front of Chastity’s father but when her mother gets serious, questions about love, fulfillment and the happy ever after, don’t seem so concrete and understandable.
Chastity’s heart longs for Trevor Meade, her unofficial fifth brother, good friend, and one time, long long ago lover. But the short love affair ended with Trevor making sure that she understood that they were friends and that they both shouldn’t jeopardize their friendship. Chastity’s heart goes one way but her head goes another. She recognizes that Trevor doesn’t want her that way and so she finds Mr. Perfect, a trauma surgeon who is taller than her and finds her very attractive and one that wants a family. She even enjoys good sex with Mr. Perfect, but in the end, Chastity has to figure out whether being with someone, even if it isn’t the one you love, is better than being alone. Her mother faces the same decision because while she loves Chastity’s father, she’s tired of being the forgotten wife to the firehouse mistress.
This story made me laugh out loud several times and tear up at the end, and best of all, it made me rush out to buy the backlist. A-