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REVIEW: Too Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins

Too Good to Be True by Kristan HigginsDear Ms. Higgins,

When Grace Emerson’s ex-fiancé starts dating her younger sister, extreme measures are called for. To keep everyone from obsessing about her love life, Grace announces that she’s seeing someone. Someone wonderful. Someone handsome. Someone completely made up. Who is this Mr. Right? Someone…exactly unlike her renegade neighbor Callahan O’Shea. Well, someone with his looks, maybe. His hot body. His knife-sharp sense of humor. His smarts and big heart.

Whoa. No. Callahan O’Shea is not her perfect man! Not with his unsavory past. So why does Mr. Wrong feel so…right?

When I start one of your books I know I’m going to get a few things in it. It will have memorable (at least to me) characters. It will be humorous. There will be at least one dog. It will be first person POV from the heroine. The hero will [probably] not initially appear to be her best romantic choice. The dialogue will be wonderful. The heroine, and often the hero’s, occupation will be central to her/him and presented as an integral part of her/him. The fact that true love never runs smooth will be shown through the relationships of the secondary characters. The heroine will be somewhat martyrish in her relations with her family. The heroine will be flawed in how she views the men she meets in her book long search for love.

I think that covers most of what I expect to find. And most of it I’m looking forward too since you handle these things so well. But the last two issues….well, sometimes they can drive me nuts.

I love your characterizations even if sometimes I don’t care for some of the characters. But then I’m not meant to care for them all, so that’s okay. But they’re definitely not cookie cutter people who feel as if they’re pulled from any of the previous romance books I just read last month. From Grace’s father, who shares Grace’s passion for Civil War reenacting, to her mother who creates, um, interesting blown glass sculpture, to some of the teachers with whom Grace attempts to instill knowledge in the heads of today’s youth, to Grace’s terror of a grandmother, they remained unique over the course of the book. Never did I have to stop and think back, “now, who is this character again?” The one exception would be Julien who I wish hadn’t been such a stereotyped Gay Best Friend.

The humor and dialogue of your books go hand in hand for me. As I read yesterday, I startled my own dog and cat several times by clutching my sides and laughing out loud. Humor is an individual thing, I know, but yours works for me just about all the time. Even when it does tend to stray in the direction of slapstick. I especially like the fact that the humor doesn’t seem cruel – if that makes sense. And you know when to turn it down or cut it off instead of milking it past the point of funny.

I love books in which the characters have pets and obviously love them – even if the people might appear a little foolish about it at times. My pets are my children and I talk to them all the time. Yeah, cleaning up hairballs and the occasional mistake isn’t fun but like Angus McFangus, Kitty and Puppy are worth it. If a hero doesn’t like his heroine’s pets, he’s not a keeper IMO, so Cal’s willingness to deal with the Westie goes a long way with me.

Grace’s profession is such a part of her. She lives and breaths history, literally in the case of her weekend reenacting, and finds fun ways to try and get her students to realize the importance of the past. I enjoy watching her at work and the passion she shows for it in her presentation when applying for the Department Head job. As for Cal, well, let’s just say that ex-cons generally don’t work so well for me because they’re usually dripping with angst and eager to act like asses. But here you have him keep his cards close to his chest until the revelation of his past will have the most impact. Kudos for having him insist on not hiding it either.

The fact that not every couple in the book has a “fluffy bunnies” marriage is a plus for me. Because let’s face it, that’s usually how real life is. But you also let us glimpse that no one who’s not in the relationship knows everything that goes on in it or how a couple has chosen to make it work. I also like that the final conflict between Cal and Grace is the result of what’s gone on in the whole book and of their respective pasts, not something cooked up at the last minute to get those last 20 pages of story length.

All good things must come to an end and here’s where I start in on the things that don’t work so well for me. Your heroines usually seem to have willingness to put up with demands from their family that exceeds my tolerance. Sure, be a good sister/aunt/daughter/whatever but don’t be a doormat. This is a constant issue for me with a lot of romance heroines so maybe I’m the one who’s out of step but I wish it hadn’t taken until the showdown at Soleil for Grace to stand up for herself. And while her procession of blind dates is an improvement on those in “Catch of the Day,” do all your heroines have to endure “Dates from Hell” on their way to wedded bliss? But at least Grace seems a bit more toned down about why she is searching for “Mr. Right.”

So, I’m still looking to give you that “A” that I so desperately want to. But in the meantime, I’ll laugh my way through your books and enjoy the ride. B

~Jayne

This book can be purchased at Amazon, Kindle, eHarlequin in print, eHarlequin in ebook, or other etailers.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

18 Comments

  1. Kim
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 13:24:38

    Thanks for the review! I have not read the book yet, but have given several copies away in promotions to military spouses. They were skeptical at first with preconceived ideas about romance. But Kristin’s book opened their minds to a new genre.

    And I so agree with your statement, “If a hero doesn't like his heroine's pets, he's not a keeper IMO”. That’s how I met (and married) my real life romantic hero – we both had rescued cats!

  2. Bianca
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 13:49:41

    Good review. Don’t know if I’ll pick this up, as a wimpy heroine really, really isn’t my cup of tea. :/

    I have to wonder, though, why authors continue to write heroines as doormats or slaves to familial/societal expectations. Is this supposed to make them more likeable? Why? I just don’t get it! Being sans backbone isn’t a good thing, in my opinion.

  3. brooksse
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 14:13:26

    Funny, I just downloaded this book after reading a post at mobileread that this ebook is free on Harlequin’s website.

  4. Estara
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 17:00:42

    @brooksse: Thanks for the tip! It’s a Valentine’s Special, so it’s open til Sunday.

  5. Sally
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 17:17:08

    I love Kristan Higgin’s books. What I love about her characters is they are people that you would run into at the grocery store. They aren’t mega -wealthy or fabulously glamorous and yet I really care what happens to her characters. Yes, her books make me laugh.

  6. Abby
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 17:59:36

    I adore Kristan’s books. Her characters are so relatable, the stories sweet and funny, and once I pick one up I have a hard time putting it down. Rarely do I want to read books more than once. Kristan’s are all on my short list of ones I can read over and over.

    I find her books to be true love stories. They don’t rely on explicit sex scenes to convey the attraction between the hero and heroine. And while I like a good steamy/raunchy scene as much as the next girl, it’s refreshing to find I don’t miss them in her books. The stories are romantic enough on their own that I still get that wistful, love story sigh feeling where I find myself clutching the book after the last page and wishing it hadn’t ended. I can’t wait for her next book and the last one just came out!

  7. Jayne
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 19:16:22

    @Kim: Sounds like you did get a keeper yourself. Good onya!

  8. Jayne
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 19:20:41

    @Bianca: Higgins’ heroines aren’t wimpy in their jobs – just with their families. I really get tired of this “I’ll just lay down on this railroad track merely because my family said so” mentality that is seen in too many romance heroines. So if that’s what you mean by wimpy, you might want to skim a Higgins book before buying.

  9. Jayne
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 19:22:25

    What I love about her characters is they are people that you would run into at the grocery store. They aren't mega -wealthy or fabulously glamorous and yet I really care what happens to her characters.

    What you said, Sally. I do like this aspect of her books too.

  10. Jayne
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 19:24:20

    They don't rely on explicit sex scenes to convey the attraction between the hero and heroine. And while I like a good steamy/raunchy scene as much as the next girl, it's refreshing to find I don't miss them in her books. The stories are romantic enough on their own

    Again, good point. I don’t mind the wait until her characters know each other before they hop into bed.

  11. JB Hunt
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 20:42:35

    Is it just me or are her books getting less “steamy” these days?

  12. Bianca
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 22:55:00

    @Jayne: Thanks for the clarification. I really agree with you on how playing the martyr for one’s family is crazy annoying in a heroine… So, I think I’ll take your advice and skim before buying. :)

  13. Danielle
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 10:01:07

    This is a free ebook over at eHarlequin.com.

  14. Susan/DC
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 16:30:42

    I’m another Higgins fangirl. Even though I generally hate the martyr heroine, for whatever reason in Higgins’ books I find that aspect a minor annoyance rather than a reason to turn the book into a wallbanger. It’s also more of an issue in some of her books than in others. One of the reasons is that in so many other ways her heroines are so self-reliant and self-aware. I love that they don’t throw over their careers the minute they meet the hero and start popping out babies — they are lucky enough to like their jobs, they are good at them, and they see no reason to stop. It also helps that, even though humor is so individual (as you note), hers definitely resonates with me. And as for lack of reliance on steamy sex scenes, she somehow manages to keep the steam in even without a lot of explicit description.

  15. Mari
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 18:30:23

    Eh, this one did not work so well for me. She literally “meet cutes” with the hero like three times and all those bad dates with other men while VERY funny got annoying. There was too much stuff with her family, too much stuff with the reenactments and not enough of what I read a romance for -the romance. There just wasn’t enough of the hero/heroin interaction that I longed for and I don’t mean the bumpin’and grindin.’ Wanted more of them and less of the “chick lit’ stuff.

  16. RITA Open Thread | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 14:03:13

    [...] Elizabeth Phillips’ book, It Had to Be You, down to the heroine’s little white dog.  Too Good to Be True (review) wasn’t my favorite Higgins but she is a good writer.  Higgins’ last RITA win [...]

  17. Stephanie Draven
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 21:25:30

    This was my first, but not my only Kristin Higgins book, and it made me a lifelong fan. I adored everything about this heroine, even her martyrdom. ;)

  18. Elizabeth
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 17:08:17

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