The Best Man
Sometimes while reading a flawed review book, I take copious notes of the problems I encounter. Other times, I’m so captured by the story that despite its flaws, I just read. The latter happened with The Best Man. Despite problems with plot and characters, I enjoyed this story of a couple from opposite sides of the track who met – and disliked each other – as children, and come to fall in love after years apart.
The plot is hard to summarize in a few short paragraphs. There’s an overabundance of characters and they all have their own stories. To complicate things further, much of the story is told in flashbacks to key moments in the heroine’s and hero’s lives.
Faith Holland grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where her family runs a vineyard. Despite coming from a prominent family, Faith’s life hasn’t always been easy. Her mother died in a car accident, which the young Faith survived, leading to numerous problems for Faith with her siblings. Faith met the boy she thought she was destined to be with forever in high school when he carried her to the nurse’s office after she had an epileptic seizure. They were virtually inseparable until Jeremy jilted Faith at the altar, in front of their friends and family, when he “came out of the closet.” Faith moved to San Francisco to recover and established a successful landscape design firm, but never managed to forget or replace Jeremy. Instead, she has a series of horrible dating experiences with men who also turn out to be gay or already married.
Faith has no intention of returning to New York until one of her sisters asks her to help stop their father from marrying a gold digger. Faith’s extended visit begins terribly, when she’s pulled over for speeding by Levi Cooper, the town’s Chief of Police, and the man Faith blames for Jeremy outing himself at their wedding.
Jeremy, the rich new-boy, and Levi, the bad boy who lived in a trailer on the wrong side of town with his mother and little sister, became unlikely friends in high school. Their friendship repeatedly threw Levi together with Faith, whom he thought was a princess and a snob. From their first meeting Levi sensed Jeremy was gay, and ultimately prompted Jeremy to admit to Faith that he was gay at their wedding.
I adore Levi, and enjoyed learning he’s so much more than the former bad boy. He’s been looking for a solid family of his own for years, but the woman he married while in the military left him, and his mother died soon afterwards. He’s struggling to do what’s right for his sister, now a college freshman, but it isn’t easy. His relationship with his sister is complex and admirable, and his longing for a real relationship heartwarming.
Things don’t seem promising for a relationship between Levi and Faith, but there’s been a strong sexual spark between them for years, and they’re repeatedly thrown together. Their relationship takes time to build, and Jeremy, now the town’s perfect doctor, is a constant reminder to Faith of her bad judgment about men, and to Levi that he’ll always be Faith’s second choice.
Levi and Faith’s relationship is only part of the story. There’s Faith’s father and the horrible woman who believes she’s dating him, Faith’s brother-in-law who suddenly wants an adventurous sex life with Faith’s sister, Faith’s arguing grandparents, and the concerns of numerous other family members. At times a lot of it felt over-the-top. I liked Faith and Levi, and could have done with a bit less of some of the other characters. Still, a lot of the humor clicked with me, most notably the scene where Faith loses her sweater in a bar toilet had me laughing aloud.
I struggled with my grade for this book. I can look at it analytically and pick it apart. Jeremy is too perfect; Faith should have recognized something was wrong with Jeremy years earlier; some of the characters are too over-the-top. But I don’t experience romance novels in a purely analytical manner. Ms. Higgins captured my attention, made me care about Levi and Faith, as well most of their assorted family members. In the end I enjoyed it, despite its flaws, and will probably read parts of it again.