Title: The Best Man (Blue Heron, #1)
Author: Kristan Higgins
Rating: 4 Stars
It seems as if Kristan Higgins can do no wrong. Although Somebody to Love was a bump in the road, The Best Man certainly wasn't. From the beginning itself, it's difficult not to like Faith, the protagonist of this novel. After all, she's been dumped at the altar by her perfect boyfriend-of-eight-years, Jeremy, when he announces that he's gay. Thus, fleeing to San Francisco, Faith harbors a broken heart and a pool of hatred for Levi Cooper, Jeremy's best friend who convinced Jeremy to come out with the truth. Growing up, Levi never liked Faith. Not only was she extraordinarily rich, especially compared to his one-room house in a trailer, but she was Princess Super Cute - extra nice, extra peppy, all the time. Now, three years after her failed wedding, Faith is back home, still single and still detesting the very sight of Levi, now Chief Cooper. It seems fate, however, has slightly different plans for them...
I won't deny it - I struggled with the first third of this novel. I listened to The Best Man and while the audio book is good - not excellent, but still worth a listen - it tends to drag the break-up between Faith and Jeremy for too long. The Best Man switches between Faith and Levi's perspectives, one chapter in the present and one in the past, giving us a full overview of their lives. We grow to see Levi's difficult childhood - a father who abandons him, a life of scrounging for money, and the painful decision to join the army since he doesn't have $5,000 to pay for college even after a generous scholarship. We also see Faith's childhood, one that seems perfect on the outside but actually harbors a great deal of pain. Faith suffers from seizures and was in the car with her mother when she died. As such, Faith has spent her whole life attempting to atone for the fact that her mother was looking back at her, not the road. "Princess Super Cute" is all a facade to hide her pain and Jeremy - sweet, kind, perfect Jeremy - seems to be Faith's salvation. It takes a long while to reach this understanding, though. We are treated to pages upon pages of Faith remembering Jeremy with fondness, when, frankly, I would have kicked him if I was in her place. And yet, everything does make sense and Faith winds up being a much deeper character than we bargained for.
As always, The Best Man tackles a multitude of issues. Faith's family plays a huge role in this, particularly her widowed father, and Levi himself has an important family role as the sole caretaker of his younger sister, Sarah. If there is anything Higgins excels at, it is well-written family relationships. Levi and Sarah were my definite favorites, but Faith and her sisters, all going through different problems and at different stages in their lives, was utterly poignant as well. Furthermore, I loved how Levi and Faith's relationship developed oh-so-slowly. It's practically a tease - hell, it is! - and it was particularly interesting to see how Levi views Faith - as someone strong - compared to how Jeremy views her as vulnerable. And Jeremy. *sigh* You want to hate a guy for stringing a girl along for eight years and then leaving her at the altar, but you can't. Or, you can, but just not this guy. Jeremy and Faith's friendship was a highlight of this story as well and it was a refreshing change from the usual road of angst that many authors typically take. Higgins, however, is anything but typical. I love that her heroines have lives, are passionate about their careers and families, and even have pets (okay, DOGS) to keep away the loneliness. I love that her heroes are flawed - completely - and yet they are good men with good hearts. And I love these small towns. Not the vicious kind, but the sweet (but still annoying) type. All in all, The Best Man is yet another lovely romantic addition from Higgins. Needless to say, I cannot wait for the companion novel!
Title: A Certain Slant of Light (Light, #1)
Author: Laura Whitcomb
Rating: 3 Stars
On the other hand, though, I couldn't really connect with the characters. I liked them well enough and I especially enjoyed their depth, but I wasn't wholly invested in them for some reason. By the time this short volume was over, I was overjoyed. I couldn't wait to leave this narrative voice, despite having been stunned by it. I can't say where A Certain Slant of Light went wrong, but I doubt I'll be picking up the companion novel to this anytime soon. I would, however, highly recommend it for fans of romance, ambiguous morality, and ever-so-slightly open endings.
Summer Series Reading Challenge: 16
Title: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)
Author: Sarah MacLean
Rating: 4 Stars
Although I am a meticulous planner and organizer to boot, when it comes to books, I follow my gut. And when my emotions scream that they want light, escapist romance fiction, I nearly always turn to historical romance. I find there is something alluring about this genre that keeps me coming back for more, despite the horrendous covers, and I'm thrilled to have discovered another author I can pile up onto a pedestal next to Lisa Kleypas: Sarah MacLean.
Historical Romance falls into three categories. We have, first and foremost, the horrible kind where our heroes are raping our heroines but they fall in love anyway. We have the typical trysts and romances that are filled with unbelievable scenes. And then we have the truly good, deep and emotional yet extremely realistic and sensual love stories. Seeing as the latter is so hard to find, I don't fault many readers for avoiding this genre entirely. Yet, the feeling that can be found when you have a good historical romance novel in your hand is hard to recreate.
I love this book. Callie, our protagonist, is sick of being a spinster at just 28 years of age. Instead of throwing herself at the nearest suitor, though, she resolves to enjoy her life and accomplish all the scandalous tasks she's ever wanted to, such as gamble in a men's house. I love that Callie is so fed up with her role in society and life that she takes matters into her own hands and finds herself once again in her adventures. Along the way, the notorious rake Ralston becomes intrigued by Callie and their gradual romance is sizzling. While the love story in this is unparalleled with swoon, I enjoyed this book mostly for its hilarity, pure fun, and mainly Callie. There are few things I enjoy more in this world than strong female characters and Callie is the epitome of that and more. If you're looking for some pure, uninterrupted, and fiery amusement, this is the perfect read. I'd immerse myself back in Callie's world of wit and charm in a heartbeat.
Summer Series Reading Challenge: 17