July 21, 2015

Book Review: IF YOU ONLY KNEW by Kristan Higgins

Book:  If You Only Knew
Author:  Kristan Higgins
Publisher:  Harlequin
Genre:  Women’s Fiction;  Romance
Due Out:  August 25, 2015

Blurb via Goodreads:

Sisterhood in all its drama, hilarity and tears is at the heart ofNew York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins's thoroughly captivating new novel, featuring the wit and romance that readers have come to expect from the much-loved creator of the Blue Heron series... 
Wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate understands the happily-ever-after business, yet somehow she's still involved in her ex-husband's life. In fact, Owen's new wife may—inexplicably—be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this, well, relationship isn't helping her move on, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll be able to bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and hopefully make one of her own. 

Her timing couldn't be more perfect, since Rachel will need her younger sister. Her idyllic marriage has just fallen to pieces in spectacular fashion after she discovers her husband sexting with one of his colleagues. Second chances aren't in Rachel's nature, but the desire for an intact family has her rethinking her stance on adultery, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' "perfect" marriage as a shining example, but to protect her sister Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a secret about their family she's been keeping since childhood. 

During this summer of secrets and lies, temptation and revelation, Jenny and Rachel will rely on each other to find the humor in their personal catastrophes, the joy in their triumphs…and the strength to keep hanging on

My Review:

If you are still unfamiliar with author Kristan Higgins then this would be a good introduction to her talent.  Though it is unlike her other books which mostly centers on thrilling romances with funny heroines and wounded gentlemen, it is just as well written and interesting as her previous novels, one of which is a favorite of mine, the very hilarious Just One of the Guys. 

There are three basic storylines in If You Only Knew:  Jenny’s budding relationship with Leo (her building’s super), the breakdown of Rachel’s marriage to Adam and more importantly, Jenny’s relationship with her best friend and sister, Rachel.  The extra storylines:  Jenny’s unhealthy relationship with her ex husband Owen and his wife plus the siblings’ love/hate relationship with their mother.  Both extras are important parts that make the story whole but I’d rather put them in the backseat and focus on what I love most.

First, Jenny and Leo.  Jenny starts off as weak, as in her ex husband can use her as a dishtowel and she’d probably still thank him after.  She has an unhealthy attachment to Owen and his new family so she decides to move away from Manhattan and go back to her hometown.  There she finds her true self thanks to the new man in her life Leo, who refuses to be anything more than a “recreational tool” for Jenny.  She eventually breaks him down.  But like other Higgins characters, Leo has a deep dark stain in his life that he cannot let go of.  His secret is such that it has more than destroyed him.  So how can a lost man find new love with someone new?  Jenny….oh how I love her selflessness and kindness, that even when she felt herself falling apart, she still had the strength to let go with a smile.

Rachel finds herself in a spot where many have been before:  a seemingly happy housewife with 3 year old triplets who left everything to raise a family only to find out that her husband has been having an affair with a younger, beautiful, single successful woman.  Oh the dilemma!  Sure it is easy to say “let the bastard go, spend all his money, take his kids away from him and kick the crap out of him…plus spit in his breakfast!” but no.  Higgins tackled this topic with more sensitivity than I expected.  She kept me guessing if Rachel would stay and try to work it out or go build a new life without the familiar.  At one point I just wanted to smack her for (temporarily…and in the heat of the moment….BIG mistake) picking her cheating husband over her loyal sister, but then again, we can never judge a woman whose life is crumbling all around her can we?

Then the best part, Jenny and Rachel.  How does one love a sister?  With much compassion, loyalty, faith and trust.  That’s what these two have abundantly.  I love how, when all else fails, the first person they want to be with is the other.  More than romantic relationships, it is family that truly stays together and that is what Higgins points out here.  Their bond is strong, so much so that Jenny still keeps a secret so devastating from Rachel decades after the fact.  Plus Jenny’s fierce protectiveness over Rachel with Adam is delicious to read.  I was waiting for her to bite his ears off but alas, no such thing…..there is something about a finger, a fall and cops though so that’s good enough.

Normally I prefer pure romantic novels or science fiction, so for me to have enjoyed a sister relationship centered book is a testament to Higgins as a writer.  The romance is understated but nonetheless it was a book I could not put down.  I read it from cover to cover in a matter of hours.  You probably would too.  So read it with your sister, share a bottle of wine and make a toast to your fabulous selves.  Cheers!

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