You know the feeling—you've been waiting forever for Kristan Higgins's new book. You buy it on the release date, read it immediately, and then find it impossible to move on to another book because her style of writing and her characters have hold on you. You want more of the same, but you have already re-read her backlist so many times that you can almost repeat the dialogue from memory. You’re afraid you are turning into your child, with her nightly request of Stellaluna. Where do you turn next?
That all depends on what you like about her books. Ms. Higgins utilizes first person narrative most of the time, usually from the heroine’s point of view. She is also not afraid to push the envelope a little. Who can forget Catch of the Day's Maggie Beaumont, and her unrequited love for the town’s priest?
Falling in love with a Catholic priest was not my smartest move.
Obviously, I’m well aware of the whole vow-of-chastity, married-to-the-church thing. I realize that yearning for a priest doesn’t exactly further the cause of meeting my future husband. And in case I might have overlooked those little facts, I have an entire town pointing them out to me.
Or the sharklike divorce attorney, Harper James from My One and Only, whose biased view of love and her profession prompted her priest to assign her a daily task:
Father Bruce, viewing my soul as a personal campaign, had challenged me to, in his words, “offset the evil of your profession” by doing at least one random act of kindness each day.
Of course, Harper’s opinion of love doesn’t prevent her from making colossal mistakes like when she decides to propose to her boyfriend. Not that she is madly in love with him, but he is such good husband material.
“Dennis, I think it’s time for us to take things to the next level, you know? We’ve been together awhile, we have a very solid relationship, I’ll be thirty-four in a few weeks, next year is advanced maternal age, medically speaking, so let’s get married.”
Then there is Grace from Too Good to be True as she selflessly turns the other cheek, when her sister falls for her fiancé, plus Lucy from The Next Best Thing who sleeps with her deceased husband’s brother.
So a heroine facing a somewhat unique situation, presented in a zany combination of women’s fiction and humor with a dollop of poignancy is Ms. Higgins’s M.O. The setting is typically a small town where “Everyone knows your name.”
I have to be honest. No one is going to have the same mixture of wackiness, interpersonal problems, character growth and comedy because that is unique to Kristan Higgins’ voice. However, there are authors that have their own unique spin that is somewhat similar.
If you have been reading contemporary books for a while, then you probably know many authors that I could mention like Susan Andersen, Christie Craig, Victoria Dahl, Jane Graves, Julie James, Robin Kaye, Deirdre Martin, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Sey, and Jill Shalvis. These authors write humorous contemporary romance books. But I hope to talk about some authors that you might not read.
Writing in first person, like Ms. Higgins, Sophie Kinsella is one of the first authors that came to mind. I know that many of you think, “Oh, chick lit—no thanks.” And to be honest, the Shopaholic books, although very popular, are not my favorite, but I have truly enjoyed many of her single titles. Of course Ms. Kinsella brings her innate British point of view to her books. But her characters always seem to get into some type of unconventional situation. Like Samantha Sweeting from The Undomestic Goddess, as her career pathway spirals down from a high powered position as an attorney to an lowly housekeeper, a job that she is clearly unqualified to assume.
“Thank you Samantha .” Trish inclines her head graciously as I pour out the coffee. “That will be all for the moment.”
I feel as though I’ve stumbled into some bizarre Merchant Ivory costume drama, except the costumes are pink yoga wear and golfing sweaters.
“Er… very good madam,“ I say, playing my part. Then, without meaning to, I bob a curtsy.
There’s a staggered pause. Both Geigers just gape at me in astonishment.
“Samantha … did you just curtsy?” says Trish at last.
I stare back, frozen.
What was I thinking? Why did I curtsy? Housekeepers don’t bloody curtsy. This isn’t Gosford Park.
They’re still goggling at me. I have to say something.
“The Edgerlys liked me to . . . curtsy.” My face is prickling all over. “It’s a habit I got into. I’m sorry madam, I won’t do it again.”
Trish is squinting at me as though she’s trying to make me out. She must realize I’m a fake, she must . . .
“I like it,” she pronounces at last, and nods her head in satisfaction.
Yes, I like it. You can curtsy here too.”
Or Poppy Wyatt from I’ve Got Your Number, as she deals with intimating future parents-in-laws, and the loss of her engagement ring. Only Poppy could try to stop a Japanese businessman from leaving a contentious business meeting by announcing that she is a “singing telegram”, and then proceeds to wonder how she got herself in this situation:
Some people nearby have turned to watch. Oh God. How did I get myself into this? Number one, I can’t sing. Number two, what do I sing to a Japanese businessman I’ve never met before? Number three, why did I say singing Telegram? . . .
I take a deep breath. Come on. It doesn’t matter what I do. I only have to last half a minute. Then I Can run away and they’ll never see me again.
“Mr. Yamasaki ...?? I begin cautiously, to the tune of “Single Ladies.” Mr. Yamasaki. Mr. Yamasaki, Mr. Yamasaki.” I shimmy my hips and shoulders at him, just like Beyoncé.
Another British author that writes about unusual situations in a very humorous way is Jill Mansell. Both Ms. Higgins and Ms. Mansell sometimes have their heroines confused about who is the right guy for them for a good portion of the book. But their misadventures in love are both comical and amusing.
Nadia Kinsella (ironic that the name is similar to Sophie’s) from Nadia Knows Best has a dilemma. She has a boyfriend, but he is been away for a while, and now she is stranded with Jay Tiernan, after a freak storm hit England. Of course there is only one room, with one bed available.
”We could both sleep in the bed," said Jay.
Nadia hesitated. It was the most practical solution, of course. It was just a shame he couldn’t have been nice-but-comfortingly-ugly, rather than nice-and-definitely-attractive.
Dangerously attractive, in fact. . .
“I have a boyfriend,” Nadia explained firmly, “and we really love each other.”
Jay nodded, to show he understood. “Me too.”
Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners is my big discovery from 2012. While the humor is on the subtle side, it is there, along with tenderness and poignancy. The lessons of Grace Barnum’s childhood taught her to value security but she has surrounded herself with so much fortification against hurt and disappointment that she doesn’t realize that she has forgotten how to live and enjoy life until Tyler Wilkie drops into her life.
“You know a lot of big words. What are you, an English teacher?”
“Close. I edit textbooks and reference materials.”
“No Shit!” He laid an arm across the back of my seat. “So there’s a gigantic brain hiding behind that lovely face.”
I gave him what I hoped was a rather dry look.
“What?” He laughed.
“See, the words gigantic brain pretty much destroy your intended effect. I picture nineteen–fifties sci-fi, The Woman With the Gigantic Brain. That kind of thing.”
Now for your input. What author do you reach for after reading a Kristan Higgins book?
Leigh Davis, Blogger