Title: All I Ever Wanted
Author: Kristin Higgins
Published: July 2010
Pages: 384 pages (mass market paperback)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Standalone or series: Standalone
Why I read it & source: I read my first, and only, Kristin Higgins book in April and really liked it so when FSB Associates contacted me with a review copy I jumped at the chance!
Callie Grey starts out in a tough spot, trying to stay positive long after her parents divorce and dealing with two siblings full of issues, pining for her boss who dumped her on her birthday for another woman, and dealing with the new dating life of her roommate, who also happens to be her crotchety grandfather. With the upheaval in her family, in her career, AND in her personal life Callie has got quite a journey ahead of her and it was awful fun to go along for the ride!
I really enjoyed how Ms. Higgins explored family issues in a previous book of hers and that theme definitely continued here. There is quite a bit of a character study here into Callie’s intrinsic nature to look on the positive side of things, what she calls her “Betty Boop” side. Even at 8 years old, when her parents divorced, it was important to her to not let her dad see her cry as he drove away, and her stoic facade continued to present day.
Callie’s pretty self aware about her nature, so even written in first person narrative we get a great sense for what makes her tick, why she’s such a romantic, and how she’s held on to her positively throughout the years, like in this quote:
The truth is, I believed in Love. After my father moved out, I resolved that Life Would Still Be Happy. I was helpful with my baby brother, cheerful in the mornings to counterbalance Hester. I made sure I always skipped out to my dad’s car when he came to pick us up for his nights and pretended to love bowling because he loved bowling. Made Mom tea when she came in from work. Always kept my room neat. Smiled when I felt like crying, and when I did cry, made sure I went into me closet so no one would hear.
Love would be my reward.
Unfortunately her love for her boss, Mark, was to go unrequited. Boy was he a jerk! There were many times when I wanted to strip away Callie’s Betty Boop side and give him a big ol’ slap upside the head, swear never to talk to him again, and make a grand exit, but she has a really hard time shaking her feelings and hopes about him.
Enter new love interest stage left – Ian MacFarland, new vet to the area whom Callie, and every other single woman in the small town, flock to meet with their pets in tow. Their first few meetings are a little rocky to say the least, and even as Callie warms up to Ian, he still remains fairly cool and aloof. We’re given tid-bits of insight into his past, and why he’s a tough nut to crack, so I had to admire Callie’s perseverance with him since he really didn’t give her much to go on.
For every difficult situation Callie was put in, there was always a good dose of humor to balance it out. Pleeeeeeeease believe me when I say this book is Laugh Out Loud Funny. No really, I’m not just saying that (these expressions are becoming so trite) but even just thinking back on a scene will STILL ellicit a chuckle, even though a read it a few weeks ago!
Part of this I think is because Ms. Higgins is a pretty humorous writer, but also Callie had such a funny inner monologue, even in not-so-fun circumstances, partly because she’s always making the best of things, but also because she’s just funny! Even when her hiking shorts won’t fit, when she’s buying embarrassing medicine, when she’s having some public digestive issues, when dealing with her grandfather’s prosthetic leg, when on a horrible internet date, or when she thinks she’s run over an animal.
Speaking of which – THE TURKEY SCENE. Oh my lord I had to catch my breath for laughing so hard during that one. Seriously one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while. Just trust me, if you read this you better be somewhere you’re comfortable LOL-ing when you get to that part.
Take this scene for instance, Callie’s just met the replacement in Mark’s affections, Muriel, who has also just been hired to work in their office:
I stood up, my legs unsteady and walked to the door, hoping not to look as shaken as I felt.
“Callie?” Muriel called, writing something on the pad.
She didn’t look up. “Don’t forget your snack.”
“They’re for everyone,” I said defensively. “I always bake on Mondays. Production meetings.” She didn’t answer, just shot me a dubious look, as if she knew I’d be galumphing across the hall with my scones and stuffing all twelve in my mouth.
Taking care not to accidentally let the tray, oh, I don’t know…hit her in the face, I picked it up and left, closing the door quietly behind me.
And as a lover of curvy heroines (*ahem* I’ve only mentioned this a time or two), and as I love my own curves, I absolutely adored seeing that side of Callie!
…but I looked pretty smokin’, if I did say so myself. Curvalicious even…If I was the equivalent of, oh, let’s say a really good hamburger, juicy, comforting, and delicious, Muriel was a rawhide shoelace.
I thought the writing had some really smart moments as well, which is why I can’t stop including quotes! Callie has a pretty good character arc of growth, even as self aware as she is, and seemingly happy with always looking on the positive side, this clever passage shows us how she’s changing:
I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the smooth maple [of my rocking chair]. Sometimes it seemed like my life was spent shoveling fog…trying so hard to be that adorable hedgehog everyone liked. Some days, optimism was an ill-fitting wool coat, heavy and uncomfortable.
Some things that didn’t quite work for me though were that I felt like the book concentrated equally on Callie’s family drama, her issues with her ex, and her new love interest Ian – I would have preferred more of an emphasis on Ian. I get that he was an enigmatic type of guy and that there was a lot going on in Callie’s life, but I wanted to see more of him, in page time, and a look into his character.
Also, while Callie referred to one side of her nature as Betty Boop, she always wished she were more practical and that part of her conscious tried to give her advice as if from Michelle Obama. I definitely see the analogies between the two characters rerferenced…but it jerked me out of the story a little bit because Mrs. Obama isn’t a fictional character, and frequently referencing what her advice would be threw me off a little.
Lastly, there were no lusty scenes. Not one, all off page with a few nice kisses here and there. So while this is absolutely a romance novel in the sense there are a H/H and a happy ending, since it’s set in first person from the heroine’s point of view, covers her many different relationships (not just with the hero) and with no love scenes I would say it’s not your “typical” romance novel. Which is certainly not a bad thing, as I greatly enjoyed it and can recommend it to my chick-lit loving friends who claim to dislike romance novels *rolls eyes at them*
So just a few minor little niggles. Like I said above, I would recommend this to a wide circle of readers looking for a good family drama, romance, laugh out loud fun, and a happy ending.
Now I just have to get my hands on some more Kristin Higgins books!
Filed under: Contemporary, Grade B | 4 Comments »