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REVIEW: Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Dear Ms. Higgins:

book reviewCongratulations 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-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

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

43 Comments

  1. Sarah
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 15:07:22

    I couldn’t agree more with this review. Chastity made this book for me. It was great that she wasn’t embarrassed to be herself and I liked seeing the glimpses into other areas of her life (her hobbies, dog, EMT training). I felt it just really brought her to life.

  2. Keri M
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 15:26:33

    Oh I can’t wait to get this book! It sounds awesome!

  3. che
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 15:54:54

    I’m also skeptical of RITA winners, but I’m so going to read this. Is this part of a series- i.e. the other brothers having their own book?

  4. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 16:01:45

    So it comes across as narrated by someone who’s actually of Amazonian proportions? Yea! That alone makes me want to buy it (tall girls unite). The last book I read about a 6' tall heroine was clearly written by someone who, well, isn't.

  5. Marg
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 16:18:10

    I haven’t read any Higgins books before, but I have heard such good things. I think I am going to have to give her a go.

  6. Tabitha
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 16:22:38

    This sounds really good. Now I really want it…

  7. Nicole
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 16:43:46

    Oh, I want this one. I loved the one other Higgins book I read (the Rita winner) and need to read her others.

  8. JenB
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 16:48:48

    I bought Catch of the Day and Fools Rush In earlier in the week based on the RITA win. Wish I’d seen this one at the bookstore.

    Weird question…but is the entire book written in 1st person present POV?

    I have no problem with 1st person, but I’ve only ever read present tense in porn (shame on me, I know), so it’s hard for me to imagine it in romancey chick-lit books.

  9. vanessa jaye
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 16:56:36

    I loved Catch of the Day, so I’ll have to look this one up.

  10. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 17:23:55

    it's hard for me to imagine it in romancey chick-lit books.

    Isn’t first person POV one of the major trends in “romancey chick-lit books”? I tend to avoid first person POV, and this was a factor that steered me away from a lot of chick-lit.

  11. Alison Kent
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 17:33:37

    I pimp Kristan’s work every chance I get, and have given away a least a half dozen copies of CATCH OF THE DAY. She’s amazing. I’m such a fan.

  12. Bev Stephans
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 18:04:53

    Jane, You are in for a treat when you read “Catch of the Day” & “Fools Rush In”. They are both terrific. I have “Just One of the Guys” on order and can’t wait for it to get here.

    I discovered Kristan Higgins last year when I was surfing the Harlequin website. They looked interesting and I took a chance. Best damn chance I ever took.

  13. MaryKate
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 18:17:03

    I picked this one up today because Jane and I tend to have remarkably similar taste and I’d seen she liked it. Plus I like the storyline.

    I can’t wait to dive in at the beach next week. And the good news is, Hilton Head Island has a B&N, so if I love it, I can run out and grab the rest.

  14. Kate
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 18:46:21

    I’m so glad you loved this too!!!! I picked it up last weekend and read it in one night! It was hilarious and so sweet

  15. JenB
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 19:28:42

    Isn't first person POV one of the major trends in “romancey chick-lit books”? I tend to avoid first person POV, and this was a factor that steered me away from a lot of chick-lit.

    Yes, but it’s usually 1st person PAST tense, not present. Present tense is really unusual in novel, mostly because it feels awkward to be inside someone’s head while the story is taking place.

    Heh…actually…the weirdness of being in someone’s head while the action is taking place is the very reason 1st person present tense is so often used in porn and hardcore erotica.

    But it’s tough to make it work in a full-length novel with an involved plot. That’s why I wondered if this entire book is 1st person present tense. The fact that no one has called it awkward says a lot about the author’s ability to tell a story. That’s a good sign.

  16. Keishon
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 19:38:47

    Just downloaded it.

  17. Shanna
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 20:29:37

    I’ve loved all of her books including this one. The thing that first attracted me were the adorable dogs on the covers. If you go to Kristan’s website she has more info on the dogs that inspired the dog characters in her novels. She does such a great job writing contemporary romance and is definitely on my auto-buy list. In regards to the first person POV I was wishing at times to know what was going on in Trevors head, because I had not a clue. It didn’t prevent my enjoyment of the book however.

  18. Jane
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 20:30:50

    I am not a fan of first person present tense and I definitely had a pause when I started but once you are within the book, you don’t even notice anymore.

    che – I don’t know if this is part of a series. I don’t think so, though.

  19. Leeann Burke
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 20:57:50

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. I loved her other two books so I know I’m going to enjoy this one as well.

  20. Robin
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 20:59:17

    Just downloaded it.

    Me, too. The Hardy book is next. Thank goodness for Jane and Jayne, because I get the majority of my recs from their reviews.

  21. Kristan Higgins
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 22:00:18

    Holy guacamole,you guys! Thanks a million! I love this book too (obviously)but wasn’t quite sure how it would go over with romance readers. So glad you liked it! And thanks for the good words on the other books. Rita (who seems to be permanently welded to my hand) and I are so grateful!

  22. Karen Templeton
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 22:37:27

    FYI, first person present tense is used a lot in chick lit — I thought I was being such a maverick when I wrote my RDIs that way, only to then read a slew of the suckers right after. You really don’t notice it if the author’s done it right (and boy, does it look as though this one has, can’t wait to get my hands on her books!), but if you’re not used to it, it might take a bit of getting used to. However, I found it a very natural way to write — something about the immediacy of the narrative really lends itself to narrator-driven stories!

    (Okay, just noticed who wrote the post right above mine, LOL — I’m so looking for your books, girl! They sound like exactly the ticket for jolting me out of a prolonged reading slump! ;-)

  23. Kaitlin
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 22:45:39

    Okay, now I KNOW I have to read this story. The heroine sounds very much (too much?) like me. I’ve got to see how we mesh. :) Thanks for the great review!

  24. Rita
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 10:01:37

    Great review of a great book! I am a major fan of Kristan Higgins. Love her voice, style, and quirky but lovable characters. I’m already getting antsy for her next release!

  25. Kelly
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 17:15:00

    Based on your review I purchased the ebook and I really loved the story. I laughed so hard and got a little weepy at the end. I went back and purchased her previous book and can’t wait to read it. I would never have found this wonderful author without your review. Thank you.

  26. Diana
    Aug 08, 2008 @ 17:33:55

    I’m currently reading Just One of the Guys and am absolutely loving it. So glad it received a great review here. I think everyone should check out Kristan Higgins’s books. That’s not too bossy, is it? :P I also loved her two previous books, Fools Rush In and Catch of the Day, especially the latter. Oh, Catch of the Day. Such a deserved Rita win for Kristan. There aren’t enough positive words to describe that book. Try it out and see for yourselves.

  27. Claudia
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 12:23:32

    I have to credit DA with another great review because the type of heroine, cover, and back blurb would have normally caused me to give this kind of a book a pass.

    I got the last copy at my nearest Borders and will egt the others online.

  28. Jane
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 12:46:42

    yeah Kelly. I am glad it wasn’t a waste of time or money. And I hope that the rest of you enjoy it. I read Catch of the Day. It was good but this one is more romantic.

  29. Sweet
    Aug 09, 2008 @ 13:12:02

    It’s good to see there are still some good contemporary romances out there. It seems like they’ve become a dying breed. I’m really starved for them right now.

    I’m waiting impatiently for “Catch of the Day” & “Fools Rush In” to arrive at my door. I’ve heard such good things about Higgins’ writing, that I decided to start with her back list first.

  30. Janine
    Aug 10, 2008 @ 11:17:35

    I ordered this one last night, and am really looking forward to reading it.

  31. Carol
    Aug 10, 2008 @ 13:26:16

    loved it! The best one yet – and the others were damn good!

  32. cecilia
    Aug 10, 2008 @ 16:50:02

    I downloaded Catch of the Day and this one this past week because of the RITA and the raving. I really enjoyed both of them (actually doing the wheezing snorting church laugh that Higgins descrbes, while waiting in the car dealership) and they completely derailed the gloms I’ve been doing in SF and mystery; I just want hilarious and sweet contemporaries. The one thing I’m not wild about is how fast the end of Catch of the Day came – not just because I was enjoying it, but because too little of the hero’s perspective was revealed. I mean, I know he’s not much of a talker, but some kind of detail/epilogue would have been nice. Anyway, I’m with everyone who’s been demanding an electronic version of Fools Rush In. And anyone know whose books are comparable?

  33. Miki
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 22:38:22

    Crap! I bought both of her ebooks before I noticed she writes in First Person Present tense. Why, oh, why, didn’t I read the rest of the comments?!

    I can get past the first six paragraphs. It’s already driving me crazy!

    @#!*(%

  34. MoJo
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 22:49:30

    I can’t get past the first six paragraphs. It's already driving me crazy!

    Please do try, though. It’s so worth it. At first I was thinking, “Oh, how refreshing,” and then it sucked me in better than third person past could have done. I was there, in her head, in her body, seeing it through her eyes and feeling it through her soul.

    Which, naturally, made me a basketcase weepy wreck all day with my kids going, “Mommy, whassa matter? You got owwies?”

    The one thing I'm not wild about is how fast the end of Catch of the Day came – not just because I was enjoying it, but because too little of the hero's perspective was revealed. I mean, I know he's not much of a talker, but some kind of detail/epilogue would have been nice.

    Yes, ditto.

  35. Robin
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 23:09:09

    I. Loved. This. Book.

    Effortlessly funny, perfectly balanced on the knife’s edge between Romance and chick lit, romantic but not in the way you’d always expect. Loved it. Laughed so hard at one point I was crying. And I can’t imagine this book in anything but first person present, because IMO you need to understand Chastity from the inside out to make her story so compelling and fulfilling. And I did not feel like the limitations in POV for other characters limited the romantic aspects of the book. In some ways, I think it heightened the romantic tension. And did I say funny? This book reminded me of the critical difference between a book that has funny elements and a book that’s truly funny without feeling forced or appearing artificial or relying on exploitive tricks. The ending felt a bit like the book just dropped off a cliff (thus I agree with the A-), and there’s a time frame problem for me in the Epilogue (something happens that really shouldn’t happen for about six more weeks), but overall, it was a thoroughly entertaining and often poignant read.

  36. Miki
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 23:40:42

    Please do try, though. It's so worth it. At first I was thinking, “Oh, how refreshing,”

    I can try, but my first thought when I started reading wasn’t “how refreshing”, it was “how immature”! To me – and quite obviously from this review, not every has the same feeling for this voice ;-) – First Person Present reads like a high-school bubblehead telling the story of her day.

    “Then, like, we go to the mall, and then I say, ‘Hey, do you think I’ll look good in this dress?’ And she goes, ‘Definitely!’ And then I see Justin, and I say ‘Dude! I thought you were grounded.’ And he laughs and tells me he snuck out.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

    It pulls me out of the story. And if I forget for a second, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for me to get pulled right back out again. It’s my own fault for not reading the sample quote included with this review. The story appealed to me on its own merit, and I’ve been in the mood for something contemporary and sweet, so I headed over to Fictionwise without finishing the review.

    And I guess I don’t see how you can’t get the same sense of the character from the inside with First Person Past tense. I still think love scenes written in First Person (Past) sound a little silly, but overall, I enjoy First Person Past tense just as well as Third Person Past tense. It’s the Present tense that makes me crazy!

  37. Robin
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 23:57:34

    And I guess I don't see how you can't get the same sense of the character from the inside with First Person Past tense. I still think love scenes written in First Person (Past) sound a little silly, but overall, I enjoy First Person Past tense just as well as Third Person Past tense. It's the Present tense that makes me crazy!

    I think this is where the skill of the author comes in. Because first person present is an artifice, as the author is ultimately writing the story and has the entirety of the book and the character’s growth plotted out. So it comes down to how to balance that sense of immediacy and limited POV that one would have in the present with another level of awareness and significance that moves the character forward in a way that makes her story compelling and allows the reader to put together inferences that exceed what’s actually on the page. It also helps, IMO, when you have a character like Chastity who is self-aware enough to escape inanity but not so omniscient that she seems to have complete control over every element of her story.

  38. BookBoor
    Aug 15, 2008 @ 08:21:15

    I just finished this one and it was a slump-breaker. I really enjoyed the characters, especially the family interactions. I was surprised by the number of times I laughed out loud. Not a chuckle, but genuine guffawing. I did want to shake Chastity a few times, but her character was exceptionally likeable. I kept expecting to become annoyed with her pining over Trevor (and I did), but the character was written well enough that it didn’t turn me off. I’m good friends with a few tall athletic girls like Chastity and the author really captured the power and confidence that my friends exude because they feel comfortable in their own skin and really enjoy how capable their bodies are and use them accordingly. I also liked Chastity because even though she was capable, she was vulnerable. There were a number of juxtapositions with her–she was self-aware, but totally blinded herself to other things. I borrowed this from the public library, but will definitely pick up a personal copy because I could see this becoming a comforting reread. I’ve already started on another Higgins book. Thanks for the review DA.

  39. Tabitha
    Aug 15, 2008 @ 23:08:57

    I loved this book! I’ve not been a fan of chick lit before but after finishing Just One of the Guys, I went out and bought Catch of the Day which was good as well. I am looking forward to reading her debut book, Fools Rush In but the book isn’t available in any of the 5 stores I contacted. Thank you for reviewing her book! I would never have picked this book out otherwise…on a similar note, is there another author that is comparable?

    Anyone know what her next release is about? I was on her website but didn’t read anything on it…

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  42. Claudia
    Jun 17, 2009 @ 20:56:54

    I thought I’d like this book, but unfortunately I just never warmed up to Trevor and so it wasn’t a HEA for me. On the other hand, the substory with her mother was terrific; angsty yet realistic, it ended up touching me more than the so-called love story of the two main characters.

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