A tender, funny novel about divorce? Only Kristan Higgins could pull it off.
Harper James thinks she know what it takes to make a marriage work. After all, as a divorce attorney she’s seen plenty of evidence of what makes marriages fail; plus, her own brief but heart-shattering experience of marriage taught her that practicality, not passion, is the secret to success. She believes:
“Comfort, companionship and realistic expectations…they didn’t sound nearly as glam as undying passion, but they were worth a lot more than most people believed.”
And she thinks she’s found the man who’s her ideal mate—or, he will be, once he makes several changes in his life, like cutting off his rat-tail and getting a second job. Fortunately, Harper’s a very organized woman, so she’s made him a list of things he needs to do before they get married—which she hands to him when she proposes.
If you’re not familiar with Kristan Higgins’ novels, there are several things you’re guaranteed: 1) a kind, funny, mostly lovable heroine; 2) a wonderful but realistically flawed hero; 3) secondary characters who are so well drawn they never feel secondary; and 4) an adorable pet. My One and Only has all those elements, but there were times when the hero and heroine irked me and didn’t seem as realistic as I wanted them to be.
Because the novel’s written in first person exclusively from the heroine’s point of view, I really have to feel connected to the heroine in order to love the story. I also need to get enough insight through the heroine’s eyes of how the hero is feeling because I’m never once let into his head. This is where I had some issues.
Nick, the hero, is Harper’s ex-husband. They meet for the first time since their divorce at their siblings’ wedding, which brings back all the emotional trauma Harper suffered through their short marriage. These memory scenes are brilliantly written and really swept me away. But once we are back in the present, as Harper is stuck in a car with Nick for days, she keeps painting him as a sometimes insecure, slightly damaged man who’d been abandoned by everyone who should have loved him. She avoids the one word I started associating with Nick: needy. Even though he grows and develops by the end of the novel, I had trouble falling for him as a hero because he often seemed needy—not one of my favorite qualities in anyone.
I also found Harper problematic. She’s a divorce attorney who’s suffered a lot of heartbreak in her life. She’s supposed to have hard edges. But her voice and vocabulary often jarred. Sometimes it’s funny and slightly wicked; other times it’s just silly and juvenile.
Here’s the funny and wicked. When she proposes to her poor boyfriend Dennis in a café (with her friend and local priest Father Bruce sitting at the next table), she tells Dennis:
“This isn’t high school. We’re not kids. We’ve been together for the past two and a half years. I’m thirty-four next month. I don’t want to hang out indefinitely. If we’re not going to get married, we need to break up. So…shit or get off the pot, honey.”
“That was beautiful,” murmured Father Bruce as he opened a menu.
Shit or get off the pot immediately became one of my favorite expressions. But throughout the novel, Harper repeatedly says “Holy testicle Tuesday!” whenever something unexpected happens, which made me think she’d watched too much Ace Ventura.
That said, the emotion and tenderness of this story did draw me in, to the point that I stayed up way too late on a work night because I couldn’t put it down. Every couple in the novel comes close to divorce, and as their marriages hit the rocks the characters learn to be more honest with themselves and others. My annoyances with the hero and heroine meant this novel wasn’t quite perfection, but it’s still definitely a keeper.
Released March 29, 2011 by HQN
Originally posted at The Season