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REVIEW: Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins

Dear Ms. Higgins:

037377355201lzzzzzzzFor longtime readers of Kristan Higgans (which I suppose is only a few years), Too Good to Be True represents an interesting flip on the plot of Fools Rush In which appears to be your debut book with Harlequin.

Fools Rush In is the story of a girl who falls in love with her sister’s ex husband and, of course, is beset by guilt and insecurity as their relationship blossoms. Too Good to Be True is the story of a sister who’s sister and fiance fell in love.

Grace Emerson, a high school teacher at a local private school, is tired of the pitying glances and the sympathetic murmurs and the just all the talk that has enveloped her life ever since her ex-fiance, Andrew, started daing her younger sister. So she makes up a boyfriend, a perfect pediatric surgeon who is so devoted to his practice that he can’t make it to Grace’s frequent family get togethers where she has to endure the furtive glances and pained looks as Andrew and her sister try to hide their attraction.

Complicating the matter is Grace’s attraction to her new next door neighbor Callahan O’Shea. Grace, I think, although it is never expressly stated, is ashamed of her attraction to Callahan. He has a disreputable past, one that Grace has no compunction about sharing to one and all in order to save themselves from him.

Grace’s lie takes on new import, though, when she falls for Callahan and he falls for her (although sometimes I wondered why because Grace was particularly rude to him at times). Grace’s lie about a boyfriend might not ordinarily matter to a man, but it matters to Callahan because it says something to Callahan about how Grace perceives him.

Grace is a charming narrator who describes her relationship with her family as loving but complicated. Grace is close with her father and they go to Gettysburg reenactments together. These scenes were hysterical because they show the devotion to the enactment and the seriousness in which the participants view the enactments and manage to poke fun at both the enactments and those who don’t take the enactments seriously.  ¬†Grace’s longing for love and companionship is one that is recognizable to many individuals, married or single.

One real problem I had with the story was that through Grace’s mother, sister and herself, it presented three distinct stages in a woman’s life and her relationships with men. Grace’s mother and father fought constantly but their marriage was quite strong. The sister moves in with Grace at some point because her marriage is struggling. Grace, of course, is single, but desparate to be part of the married crowd.

The problem isn’t the deft representation of the stages of life and love but that no other alternative but love and marriage was ever presented as a valid choice. There was never even one character who decided living by herself was a legitimate life choice and it would have been nice to have that alternative point of view represented in this discussion about whether the pursuit of a man was worth all the hassle and the lies.

The good thing is that this book is fun with a great modern tone and that the Higgins books are consistent. The bad thing is that you can’t read too many of the Higgins books in a row because there is homogenity of voice of the characters. There’s nothing that distinguishes Grace, as a narrator, from previous narrators of past stories (the pursuit for togetherness is unrelenting in all the stories). Perhaps this is a by product of the first person narrative.

I will say that there is a fabulous scene at the end of the book where I practically stood up and cheered. There are great moments of dialogue and I enjoyed my time with the book. You are compulsively readable and I look forward to your next release. B-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers on February 1. Will update link (if I forget, someone remind me).

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

30 Comments

  1. MoJo
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 14:05:44

    Thank you.

    I’m a Higgins fan, but I just finished Fools Rush In earlier in the month and I learned by sad experience you simply can’t glom this author.

  2. Bev Stephans
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 14:11:59

    I finished this book the other night and I completely agree with the grade that you gave it! Yes, you’re right about the scene near the end of the book. It was
    hysterical and probably the best part of the book.

    My favorite Kristan Higgins book still remains, “Catch Of The Day”. I keep hoping that her next book will top that one.

  3. Marcie
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 15:19:09

    I tried reading one of her books, but I didn’t expect the first person POV and I really wanted to know what the hero was thinking. Unfortunately, I did not finish the book.

  4. Jane
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 15:23:32

    @Marcie All Higgins books are in first person. It’s not a favorite point of view voice for alot of people.

  5. Tabitha
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 16:03:49

    Only for Kristin Higgins would I read a book in 1st person POV. I can’t wait to get my copy!

  6. karmelrio
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 16:38:47

    First person POV is definitely a roadblock for me…

  7. Leeann Burke
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 16:45:00

    I’m with you Tabitha. I’m not a huge fan of 1st person POV, but done like Ms Higgins does and I’m hooked. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it at my local bookstore. It wasn’t there during my last visit.

  8. Miki
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 18:29:48

    I wanted to ask if this book was still in the present tense as her last two had been. I don’t mind the 1st person, but I cannot read present tense.

    It’s why I can’t pick up Grimspace either, even though I generally pick up anything with a science fiction flavor.

  9. Jane
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 18:52:53

    @Miki No, it’s first person past tense, I believe. There’s an excerpt at Higgins website.

  10. Eva_baby
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 20:03:07

    I totally glommed Kristan Higgins a few months ago. I was upset at the time that she only had three books out. I got this one and finished it in one sitting.

    First person is jarring when you are so used to reading third person. But some authors make your forget they’re writing in first person. K. Higgins does that for me.

  11. Diana
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 20:39:45

    I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend Kristan Higgins’s books to people who want to try a new author. Catch of the Day is especially good.

  12. Kaetrin
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 23:36:26

    I’ve read Fools Rush in and Just One of the Guys and have Catch of the Day on order. I will definitely get this book but probably electronically (I just bought a Sony Reader via eBay which is on its way to me – *happy dance!*). I have really enjoyed Kristan Higgins’ books and have recommended them to friends who have also enjoyed them, even though they don’t usually read contemporary romance at all.

    I don’t normally like the first person, so it has to be an exceptional book for me to be interested. The only ones so far I can think of are Linda Howard (To Die For, Drop Dead Gorgeous) and Ms. Higgins.

    One question though Jane, what did you mean by:-

    Grace's lie about a boyfriend might not ordinarily matter to a man, but it matters to Callahan because it says something to Callahan about how Grace perceives him.

    Could you clarify?

    thanks!
    Kaetrin

  13. Jane
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 11:45:36

    @Kaetrin hmm. I feel like if I did I might give too much away but suffice to say that Callahan has a sketchy background and that Grace’s lie makes him feel like he did not want to be with someone who didn’t trust him.

  14. MoJo
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 12:23:56

    I think I might be in the minority in that I can read third person and first person interchangeably. Present tense doesn’t bother me a bit, either.

  15. MB
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 13:34:15

    You have pointed out exactly what bothers me about Kristin Higgins’ books.

    Here:

    The problem isn't the deft representation of the stages of life and love but that no other alternative but love and marriage was ever presented as a valid choice. There was never even one character who decided living by herself was a legitimate life choice and it would have been nice to have that alternative point of view represented in this discussion about whether the pursuit of a man was worth all the hassle and the lies.

    And here:

    The bad thing is that you can't read too many of the Higgins books in a row because there is homogenity of voice of the characters.

    All of the protagonists have had such a desperation to be wed to the point that they can’t enjoy and celebrate their success and stability. They don’t seem to feel complete in themselves or happy without that ring. They embarass themselves (usually publicly) and whine and pity themselves. This really annoys me about their characters.

    Her books are wonderful, BUT… And that BUT is what keeps me from loving them.

    However, I will be reading this one. Just “annoyedly” at times.

  16. eliz.s
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 14:25:22

    @MB: AMEN to both your comments and Jane’s review. I love the humor of Higgins’ books, but I had a hard time even getting through the excerpt of this new book because it stressed so strongly that marriage is the be-all and end-all (and the female is incomplete w/o a hubby). It’s a tired, tired theme. Why can’t a Higgins heroine be happy in her solitude and THEN find a guy?

    I may check this out from the library, but given the unevenness in quality I’ve noticed in Higgins’ books so far, I’m gonna pass on buying this one.

  17. MB
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 16:28:46

    Exactly. Her characters are so 1950’s in their outlook towards life. And they have great lives already! They shouldn’t need a man to “complete” them!

    Aargh! Well, thanks so much for responding Eliz. S. I am glad I’m not the only one noticing this. Jane’s review made me feel validated. :-)

  18. valor
    Jan 31, 2009 @ 19:46:27

    This comment has a spoiler about Just one of the Guys, but I wanted to say it anyway….

    I had that problem with Catch of the Day (the desperation), because the main character seemed willing to switch focus (even obsession) from one guy to the other with very little motivation, which told me she cared more about being together anyone than being with someone special. On the other hand, I loved Just One of the Guys because it was about being together with your one true love or being alone. The main character in that book (it’s hard to remember her name when she thinks of herself as ‘I’) had made her decision to be alone rather than marry the wrong guy, and that’s when she gets her HEA.

  19. Jane
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 09:16:43

    @valor Such a great point valor. The heroine in Just One of the Guys did make that choice of rather being alone than with the wrong guy and that was great. I wish that pov would have been presented in this book.

  20. Kaetrin
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 19:27:41

    At the risk of being showerered with rotten fruit, can I make the point that this is a romance novel? Isn’t the point of romance to have a HEA with another person.

    (It may well be that there are ladies out there who are alone and happy about it but I wasn’t one of them. I was desperately single for a long time and always had the sense of “waiting” for my life partner. When I finally met him 12 years ago, I was so terrified I was “wasting time” with the wrong guy, that I almost missed that he was Mr. Right!)

    I read romance for a happy ending and personally, as much as I could achieve things and do things and be (relatively) content alone (well, sort of…), I wanted someone to share my life with. Why is Ms. Higgins being criticised for writing about characters who also feel that way?

  21. cecilia
    Feb 01, 2009 @ 20:06:23

    Kaetrin, I haven’t read this book yet, but it seems like what people are saying is that just because we expect a HEA for the characters doesn’t mean we necessarily want to see them moping around and languishing in want of it.

  22. MB
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 14:19:15

    Kaetrin, I think you have a point–these ARE romances.

    But, for me, Kristin Higgins’ books annoy me because the characters have good successful lives. Yet their outlook is so “I’m not complete without a man” that it is as if the books were set in the 1950’s or earlier. I’m embarassed and discomforted by them. It’s like the 1960’s and consciousness raising and woman power never happened.

    Yes, many of us readers (including me) are still looking for a good man. (That’s one reason why I read romances). BUT, in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my life and my successes and rewards and not put it off hoping for Prince Charming to magically appear and solve all my problems–and BIG POINT HERE–make me happy! My happiness is up to me. And although a good man would be nice, he’d be like icing. Not the full meal. I’m pretty complete and happy already.

  23. Janine
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 14:47:24

    @Jane

    @Miki No, it's first person past tense, I believe. There's an excerpt at Higgins website.

    The excerpt is in present tense, but with big chunks of flashbacks which are in past tense.

    @MoJo

    I think I might be in the minority in that I can read third person and first person interchangeably. Present tense doesn't bother me a bit, either.

    I can love all of these too, but it depends on execution. I think third person is more forgiving so if the writing is weak it is less glaring in third person. When the writing is strong (and Higgins’ writing is very strong, IMO) first person can be wonderful.

    The present tense doesn’t bother me at all, especially in first person. I’ve always loved the immediacy of first person present tense, the way it puts you right where and when the action takes place. The Time Traveler’s Wife (great book) is written in first person present tense as well.

  24. Miki
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 21:27:21

    The present tense doesn't bother me at all, especially in first person. I've always loved the immediacy of first person present tense, the way it puts you right where and when the action takes place. The Time Traveler's Wife (great book) is written in first person present tense as well.

    My jaw is absolutely dragging the floor. I have tried to start Higgins books 3 times, and each time, the present tense was just too distracting.

    But I absolutely loved Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife! I remember that it took me a while to get into it. I just thought it was the jumping back and forth between the two POV.

    I had to open TTW to see if you were right (sorry, but I so much hate present tense, I had a hard time believing I got through a tome the length of TTW without noticing!) It is, mostly. I did notice that for the most part, each section starts with the name of the person whose POV it was from – it almost was like a script. Maybe putting it in that format made it easier for me to read the present tense.

    I’m going to have to try to slog through Higgins again…okay, that sounds bad. Already judging it! But I’m going to have to try for a longer period, to see if I can turn off my awareness of the present tense.

  25. Janine
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 21:42:10

    My jaw is absolutely dragging the floor. I have tried to start Higgins books 3 times, and each time, the present tense was just too distracting.

    But I absolutely loved Niffenegger's The Time-Traveler's Wife! I remember that it took me a while to get into it. I just thought it was the jumping back and forth between the two POV.

    I had to open TTW to see if you were right (sorry, but I so much hate present tense, I had a hard time believing I got through a tome the length of TTW without noticing!)

    LOL, Miki. Audrey Niffnegger is a virtuouso, so I can believe you didn’t notice it. I was just saying to a friend of mine the other day that for every rule I try to come up with about my likes and dislikes when it comes to reading, there is almost always an exception or two. A talented enough author can make me enjoy almost anything.

  26. Kaetrin
    Feb 03, 2009 @ 19:07:58

    At the risk of labouring my point, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was “desperately seeking”. I had career success and was relatively okay financially, buying my own house etc, but personally, I was not successful (in my eyes). I was lonely and wanted a relationship to invest in and for me to be invested in right back.

    My husband and my son are not the “icing” for me, they are the whole cake. (I have a successful career but when it comes to a choice it’s a no-brainer, my family wins.) For me, being with him and creating our family is my raison d’etre. What is wrong with that?

    The characters in Ms. Higgins’ books are being criticised because they are the kind of people who want to be in a relationship. They know this is what will make them truly happy. Yet, they seem to be criticised for being “weak” and “dependent”.

    My husband depends on me much the same way I depend on him. In each other we have found that “number one cheerleader” that neither of us ever had before. I always knew I wanted it and I wasn’t going to be satisfied or happy until I got it. I don’t feel that I am weak to know what I want and what will make me happy.

    I “languished” in want of my man for a long time. You know what? When I got him it meant that I had a very clear understanding of what it’s like to be without and how much I was/am willing to work at making sure that doesn’t happen. He feels similarly and hence, we have a very good strong marriage.

    Some women are happily single and happily waiting and more power to them if that’s what floats their boat. I just don’t think that the other option is invalid or disempowering (is that a word?).

    I’m not stuck in the 50’s and I don’t think Ms. Higgins’ characters are either – they are like me and probably plenty of other women out there.

    PS
    (my thoughts above are not intended to offend any previous post-ers, but if I have inadvertently done so, my apologies in advance).

  27. MB
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 13:56:13

    Kaetrin,

    I’m happy for you and glad you found your wonderful husband. My comments were meant to show my viewpoint and my response to her books. I seem to have offended you with my comments, especially regarding a good man being “icing”. That was meant to describe my own feelings about being single–not anyone elses. I stand by my comments and my feelings are valid to me if to no one else. Yours are as well. I respect that.

    I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. It is interesting that we have such very different takes on Kristen Higgins’s books.

    The field of Romance is broad and there are a lot of books and authors out there for all of us. That is a good thing since we are all very different readers with very different reading tastes, likes, and dislikes!

  28. Kaetrin
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 16:05:20

    @ MB – nah, not offended.

    I just wanted to make the point, like you just did, that it’s a case of “different strokes”.

    I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong in wanting (desperately or otherwise) a husband/partner. Similarly, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to be single or being happily single but looking just in case or whatever other combination, depending on what floats your boat.

    I guess I just wanted to defend us previously desperate (and currently desperate) women too!

  29. Jinni
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 14:39:18

    I finally pulled this off the TBR pile this weekend. Although I think some points in the review are valid, I think the true weakness of this book is the romance. Sure the guy’s cute, but what’s there between them to warrant a HEA? The romance takes a backseat to the family drama that’s a bit one dimensional – man or no man? There’s more to family dynamics (I hope) than whether folks are paired up or not.

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