The Next Best Thing. Kristan Higgins.
ARC supplied by Netgalley.
This sounded like an interesting romance, something a bit different. There’s so many romance novels around that I like to find the ones with a slightly different slant in them, one can only read so much standard man meets woman romance without stories blurring into one another, unless there’s something that sets the story apart from the thousands of others. This one I thought would be a good one, after all living up to the perfect but dead husband is a hard task for anyone. I liked Lucy, given her family history where the husbands dropped dead early – she was only 25 and Jimmy 28 (I think) when he died, and they’d only been married a few months, not long enough for the newness and gloss to wear thin, so I could see how she was afraid to step back into the dating game. Her sister ( neurotic about her husbands life – understandably) has just had a baby, and it brings home to Lucy that she’s young enough to find someone new and have her own family. Her mum and aunts have all embraced widowhood and almost made it into a sort of saintly state, but they were older when widowed and Lucy is still very young. She has a list of what she wants in a husband but Jimmys’ death left her so distraught she still counts the time since in years, months and days, she wants someone who she’ll like but not love so much she’ll fall apart when he dies. Sad isn’t it, but her family see it as inevitable that the husbands will die – They’re known collectively as The Black Widows.
She’s been friends with Ethan, Jimmys’ younger brother, since college. It was him that introduced them to each other, and he’s been a godsend to her since Jimmy’s death – and they’re friends with benefits. She decides that must stop now she’s on a search for a husband. Ethan takes the news calmly, though its clear to the reader that he doesn’t agree with her, and that he loves her. He has a young son Nicky, with Parker, from a short-lived fling. Parker is a really good friend to Lucy, and the four often spend time together. Lucy keeps suggesting that Parker and Ethan get back together as she wants Ethan to be happy, Parker says no and suggests Ethan is better suited to Lucy but she’s not receptive to that. She does miss him though once they’ve become conventional friends and not so closely linked, and finds sharp pangs of jealousy when he’s with other ladies.
Its a great book, full of love and emotion, some realism in that the characters aren’t perfect. It makes me think how hard it must be to live up to a spouse that’s died, and in Ethans case a brother that even his parents thought was perfect. He’s always felt second best and though he doesn’t show it outwardly its there in his behaviour and career direction.
The characters are fabulous, I felt like I was there with them in many scenes. The Black Widows and Friday pm cocktails, great 🙂 Grizelda (something like that ) the gypsy come fortune teller was terrific, Jimmy and Ethans parents who run the restaurant typical Italian family orientated foodies, Parker and Nicky and even Doral-Anne the “bad” girl were all so real to me and a great balance of characters. Its a well written tale, with lots of love (and a few hot sex scenes!!) laughter and tears, and plots that blend and weave through into a fabulous happy ending. The very best sort of romance where you’ve an interesting story, and that although we know the outcome the journey keeps us guessing how we reach it. I loved it.
Stars: full five, one I’d happily read again.