Too Good to be True
Shortly after Kristan Higgins debuted as a writer, I found her first novel at a book sale at my local library. The cover was cute, the description was cute, and – best part – it was only fifty cents. I felt like I found gold, though, when I read it. Since then I’ve felt a type of responsibility towards Kristan Higgins and her novels, almost as though I discovered her. Seeing how well she has been received in the ensuing years brings out the proud mama in me. While not always perfect, her books are like a little ray of sunshine that can penetrate the gloomiest day. Too Good to be True lives up to its name.
Meet Grace Emerson: High School history teacher; devoted daughter, sister, and Civil War buff. She also has a small tendency to fashion imaginary boyfriends when times are tough. It all started in grade school when Grace, hoping to fit in with the cooler girls, mentioned her awesome boyfriend from another school. The fake Tyler was so dreamy and awe inspiring, Grace was instantly welcomed into the inner circle. From there various boys and men were fished out of thin air for reasons that seemed perfectly sensible to Grace. It also became a comfort to her, something to take her mind away from the real hardships of her life.
Then Grace met Mr. Right. This time Andrew was real and things were winding their way to a happily ever after. With their wedding approaching, Grace finally gets to introduce her youngest sister Natalie to Andrew. Uh-oh. Grace tries to wear blinders, but it’s obvious that Andrew and Natalie are smitten and have been since they first clapped eyes on each other. So the is wedding called off, Andrew and Natalie are a couple and Grace is about to face the first family gathering alone with the happy couple in attendance, since the big breakup. It’s been years since she’s had to use her fail safe, but when the night just can’t get any more unbearable, Grace announces she’s seeing someone. Wyatt is a pediatric surgeon who came to Grace’s rescue when she blew out a tire. He’s handsome, kind, and completely made-up. Only Grace’s best friends and older sister know about the ruse. She keeps it up not only to stop the pitying glances and awkward questions, but also so her sweet, beautiful, perfect sister will stop feeling guilty about her relationship with Grace’s ex-fiancé.
Grace also has a new neighbor. He’s a sexy man with a very shady past and a great name: Callahan O’Shea. He’s doubtful of the perfect Wyatt from the get-go, but gives Grace the benefit of the doubt. She is extremely attracted to Cal, though she fights it. She thinks she isn’t pretty enough for him and she also has some issues regarding his past. After some initial squabbling, Grace and Cal really start to hit it off and it leads to a very romantic story. One of the ways he proves his feelings to her is just….well, I melted. Simply melted.
When I think of Kristan Higgins’ past books, what sticks out the most is the setting and the heroines. Grace is a terrific lead even if she gets treated like a doormat. It takes a little longer than I was comfortable with to get her to stand up for herself and see how people treat her, but she has a very kind heart and that is what shone through the most. Grace’s relationship with Natalie is complex in a way that might annoy the reader at first. I was almost there myself, but when I thought it over I realized it was probably more realistic than I first believed. Not the fiancé stealing part, but the dynamic behind how that all goes down and Grace’s selflessness.
As for the setting; I wasn’t feeling it. Set in New England, the small town feel that is as much a character in Higgins’s past books as the hero and heroine, isn’t present here. I missed that very much. The author did make up for it a bit with the tough older sister and her hilarious one liners and a mom who has a distinct artistic talent – I’ll let you find that one out on your own. Try to hold back your chuckles when mom shows up for an unexpected visit to Grace’s house, a house suspiciously devoid of dear mama’s artwork.
It will take a lot of wrong turns to get me not to buy Kristan Higgins’ books as soon as they hit the shelves. Too Good to be True might not be perfect, but it’s warm, funny and a true comfort read.