On Second Thought
HQN Books / January 31, 2017 / $15.99 print, $7.99 digital
It has been a little over ten years since Kristan Higgins released her first book, Fools Rush In. Readers were charmed with its keen and humorous insights about the complexities of finding true love.
Higgins is still writing about love’s travails—lucky for us. In addition, over the years her books have become even more perceptive, and On Second Thought is one of most thoughtful, touching books about the process of finding love that I’ve read in a long time. It made me cry—in good way. The characterization is perfect. The scenarios are both genuine and realistic. And the humor is spot-on.
In romance, there is this whole mythology or truth depending on your view and experience, about people finding the perfect one—that when we meet that person we’ll just know that it’s right. For some, that might happen, but for others, it is not so simple and that is the concept that Higgins explores in On Second Thought. It’s a story of two sisters, one who found “the one” her senior year of college, and one who had resigned herself to singlehood.
Kate had been single for twenty years. And she went through all the stages. She dated through high school and college but never really found someone that seemed important. After college, she did have three serious relationships—that didn’t work out. During her thirties, having to treat dating like a second job and a bad case of baby-itis caused desperation to set in, sending Kate on a five-year odyssey of online dating. As the years passed and the closer Kate got to forty, the more anxious she felt to find the “one.” But magically at thirty-nine these feeling disappeared. Finally, Kate can appreciate what she does have—a great apartment; a successful career as a photographer; supportive friends, and a loving if slightly dysfunctional family. So, when she does meet someone she’s caught off-guard:
Imagine my shock, then, when the garter-catcher left the niece at the end of the song and came right over to me. Asked about my camera. Listened as I described it, then admitted he only took pictures with his phone. Further admitted he was only talking about cameras to see if I was single and might want to have a drink with him.
“If that’s code for ‘I have a room here, want to hook up?’” I said, “then sadly, the answer is no.”
“There’s a code?” he asked grinning.
“Well, what code for ‘Will you have a drink with me after the wedding? Or sometime this week?’”
It’s ‘Hi I’m an alien, I thought. Because good-looking age-appropriate men didn’t date thirty-nine-year-olds
But Nathan Vance Coburn III does want to date her. And thus, begins a lovely old-fashioned courtship. Their relationship is so easy. No drama. No ups and downs. They agree on all the major issues—both want the same thing. So, approximately five months after their first meeting Nathan proposes and Kate says yes, although she sometimes has doubts:
If I’d been even a few years younger, I would’ve waited. There was a small, annoying voice—my mother’s—telling me that a reason not to marry him didn’t mean a good reason to marry him. That you can’t really love someone you’ve known for five months.
But as suddenly as Kate found Nathan, she loses him. He dies in a freak accident four months after their wedding.
Ainsley, Kate’s half-sister has had a completely different experience. She knew the minute she saw Eric Fisher that this was the man she was going to marry. Only the third boy she kissed, and the first she slept with, she and Eric have been together for eleven years. And even though she has been waiting for a ring and a proposal for ten, she can’t imagine loving anyone else. She loves Eric’s attributes, and even his little foibles— like his over-exaggeration of his supposedly brush with death:
But Eric’s cancer journey had been...well, it had been easy.
Easy as cancer journeys go, that is. No hair loss (although he did shave his head). Only two days of puking and diarrhea that might’ve been caused by some iffy sushi. He lost fifteen pounds, but then again, he needed to, and it was more through our new macrobiotic diet than because of chemo. There was one week where he took a nap every day.
So what Rob’s wife had said was true. If there was a cancer you had to have, testicular was the way to go. And Eric had sailed through it like a champ.
I knew he exaggerated on his blog, but I didn’t bring it up. He had cancer, for the love of God. And he won. Maybe his battle wasn’t as tough as other people’s but he won.
So, when she finds a diamond engagement ring, the day of Eric’s celebratory “To Life” party, his official cancer free celebration—eighteen months after his diagnosis of testicular cancer, life couldn’t be more perfect. But it’s at their party, that Nathan has his accident and dies. Three weeks later Eric informs her that this was a sign:
“Ains, look. You’re right. I did want to marry. There I was at the party, about to propose, you’re right. And then the universe literally stops me by killing a guy.”
Now Kate and Ainsley are single...both struggling to find their way through their grief, heartache, and yes, anger at life for dealing them this hand.
If you’ve read any of Higgins’ books, then you know that she has this wonderful ability to mix heartbreak with humor. She writes scenarios that are so poignant that your heart wants to break and then in the next paragraph she has you laughing. Plus, her stories, especially this one, reinforce that joy does follow sorrow. That even though bad things happen, just around the corner something wonderful is waiting too.
In addition, the yin and yang is flawless. Kate, a professional career woman spent years being single, and her younger sister spent years in a relationship, becoming more and more like a moon orbiting around the wants and needs of a man. So while Kate’s and Ainsley’s journey is similar it’s is uniquely different too, as both struggle to move forward.
On Second Thought is a wonderful addition to the already fabulous collection of books that Higgins has written. It is one that you won’t want to miss.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins, available January 31, 2017:
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