REVIEW: Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins
Note: This is a two for one. Janine read the book as well and her review follows Jayne’s.
Dear Ms. Higgins,
Jane has done a wonderful review of this book which I will link to so I don’t have to recap the plot. Love it when I can do that ’cause I’m really lazy.
Though I enjoyed it, I think I read it too closely after “Catch of the Day.” So many things were similar – not conventionally pretty “30 some year old” heroine who is (desperately) trying to find Mr. Right right now and who goes through a series of unsuitable men before finding her perfect hero who is right under her nose. A family with long time married parents who are having marital trouble. Siblings who are happy and (usually) married. Small town New England setting. Heroine has a dog. Blue collar workers except for one sibling. Heroine mooning over her nieces and nephews. I felt like I was reading a slightly different version of the same book but would have reacted the same way had I read the books in reverse.
The firefighter, paramedic family Chastity comes from is great. This is a nice change from the high profile professionals who populate so many contemporaries. And as with the lobstermen of “Catch,” you show the ups and downs, the tight bonding among the fraternity as well as the price they pay for doing this work.
I’m kind of with Chastity on blood and gore. I would hope that if I’m ever in a situation to render aid, I wouldn’t faint but who knows. With her EMT training and ability to relate to people, maybe she could work in an ER as a patient advocate. Kudos to her for at least trying to overcome her fear.
Ryan is, of course, not the right man for Chastity. We all know that. But you don’t have him suddenly turn out to be a schmuck. The problems are there all along and, for some wouldn’t be problems at all. This is a nice change. Two stand out parts of this book are the facts that Chastity has the maturity to admit that this isn’t the right man for her and she goes to the one she loves and tells him what’s in her heart. As she says, at least she tried and was honest.
But even at the end of the book, Trevor is still somewhat of an unknown to me. We know about how wonderful a firefighter he is, how kind and decent he is, how angst ridden he is about not losing Chastity and over his dead sister he is but about the man himself? I need more. I tend to agree with the reviews that list him as a cypher
All the Lord of the Rings stuff got to be a bit much though at least Chastity isn’t a fanatical Tolkeinista. Elaina is such a fun person. I guess you use her marriage to Chastity’s brother Mark as another lesson in the pitfalls of marrying a fireman. But I agree with Janine that their reconciliation was a gloss over of their problems.
What’s with the basset hound on the cover? Could this dog be any more different from Buttercup?
I wasn’t sure where you were going to take Mike and Betty. To be honest, I kept thinking, “Nah, she won’t.” But then you did. Though a hard pill to swallow, it again shows the downside to marrying a fireman and adds that extra note of caution to Chastity’s ultimate relationship. Will she end up happier than her mother? At least she goes into her marriage with totally open eyes. What’s with Betty’s sudden culinary skills?
Chastity’s advice from Scorpy is too funny and the mistaken lesbian scene is hilarious. The Proposal Scene is a wonderful payoff, even if I still don’t know Trevor, and their wedding sounds like a blast.
If I had read this book first or with a year between it and “Catch,” my grade would undoubtedly be higher. And make no mistake, I enjoyed reading it even with all my nitpicking. I breezed through it but my advice would be for other readers to space your books apart. I second Jane in wishing that your first book was out in eformat. Are you listening Harlequin? C+/B-
Dear Ms. Higgins,
In a post titled, “What is Wrong with the C Review?” Jane mentioned that she adored Just One of the Guys so much that she bought copies of the book for several friends. In the commenting on her post, I said that one person’s C is another’s keeper. Jane and my views on this book prove that point: Just One of the Guys, a C for me, was an A- for Jane.
Here’s the plot summary from Jane’s review:
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.
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.
I agree with Jane that the narrator’s voice is charming. Your writing style is wonderful and Chastity’s narration buoys the story. I also felt that the setting, a small town in the Adirondacks, was captured really well; there is good description and good dialogue, and the whole book benefits from the polished sheen of your words.
On the downside, though the book is labeled as a romance on the spine, it reads more like a cross between romance, chick lit and women’s fiction. The romantic plot takes a while to get going, and since I was expecting a romance, I was frustrated by that. I wasn’t really caught up in the story until over a hundred pages in. Before that, much of the book did not engage me, partly because I didn’t feel that Trevor had romantic feelings for Chastity in the present day.
As nice as it is to have the hero’s POV, I’m not one of those readers who feels it’s absolutely necessary. If the hero’s feelings are conveyed in his dialogue and his actions, a book can be just as romantic to me. But in this book, Trevor didn’t have much to say about how he felt for Chastity until quite late in the book, and his actions led me to wonder whether his feelings for her were serious.
It wasn’t until Trevor ran alongside Chastity during a race when she was trying to outrun her brother Mark, a scene that took place nearly a third of the way through the book, that I started to feel there might still be something there. I did become more involved in the story at that point, but even then, other things kept me from enjoying it too deeply.
One of the problems for me was that nearly all the characters’ behavior was often exaggerated for humor, to a point where they often stopped being believable, and I found this somewhat distancing. I like for humor to stem from the characters’ flaws and foibles, but without those flaws and foibles being so pronounced that the characters no longer seem real to me. I suspect this is a very difficult balance to strike, and that the point where the characters’ actions are too silly to be believable differs for each reader, so not every reader would have this problem. Several scenes in Just One of the Guys reminded me of sitcoms, which are generally not my cup of tea, but I do think readers who like sitcoms might enjoy them better than I did.
Another problem was a scene that really threw me. Chastity and Trevor both date other people, Ryan and Hayden respectively. I didn’t have a problem with that, or even that much of an issue with the fact that when Ryan and Hayden first met at Chastity’s mother’s house for dinner with the family, Chastity and Trevor spent the whole evening trying to make each other jealous with public displays of affection toward their dates.
No, the scene that threw me was on p.297, when Ryan is giving Chastity a bracelet in front of Trevor and Hayden shows up. Hayden then introduces herself to Ryan, and he says “Nice to meet you, Hayden,” as though they had never met before. I think I must have blinked several times when I read and reread that, trying to figure out if it was a continuity error or a bit of humor that went over my head. I came to the conclusion that it was an error, but it was a very strange moment.
I was also thrown by a scene in which Chastity’s dog Buttercup went into heat, since I would have preferred that some of the details of the physical effects this had on Buttercup be left to my imagination.
A bigger issue for me was the way a few subplots and even an important turning point in the main plot seemed glossed over. The most interesting characters in the book to me were Chastity’s brother Mark and his wife Elaina, so I felt deprived when their reconciliation took place offstage after their estrangement was shown in enough detail to make me care and want to follow the relationship.
Something similar happened with a subplot in which a mysterious someone played mean pranks on Chastity and she feared she was being stalked. When the identity of the prankster was revealed, I was never convinced that this person had sufficient motivation for hating Chastity enough to do all the things he or she did, and I was also frustrated that there was no follow-up — the prankster was neither punished for the cruel actions nor did he or she apologize.
Late in the story, Chastity does something that in my opinion is kind of wrong. Since I like flawed characters, I did not mind this in itself, but it did bother me that she didn’t give much thought to whether or not she should confess her actions. This, along with her determination to view one man as “the one” when he so clearly wasn’t the right person for her for so much of the story, and some other actions that made me feel she lacked self-knowledge, made me wonder if Chastity had really matured enough for the commitment she makes at the end of the book.
I wondered the same thing about Trevor, who had blown so many chances with the person he loved. When he finally professed his feelings, I didn’t completely buy it.
The resolution of the subplot about Chastity’s mom also made me wonder if this character, too, was ready for the commitment that she makes at the end of the book, and if she would be truly happy.
Some of the plot turns in the final quarter of the book were unexpected, and this did give me brief moments of delight, but ultimately so many of the characters seemed like they hadn’t grown up enough by the end of the book, and so many of the plots and subplots felt glossed over, that I wondered if this wasn’t simply a case of there being too many characters and subplots for the length of this book.
Three of my fellow reviewers here at Dear Author, Jane, Jayne and Janet/Robin, all liked this book enough to rate it higher than I did, and I wish I had enjoyed it as much. While there were amusing moments in Just One of the Guys, and the writing was much above average, on the whole I was left dissatisfied. C for Just One of the Guys.