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Paideiamom

Always Another Book in the TBR

Love to read, but I love to also just buy. Sometimes I think my hobby is buying more than reading.
The Best Man - Kristan Higgins Hmmm. Like many others, I don't know how to review/rate this book because of one problematic scene. So I will skip that barrier for a bit and give a general feel.

First, I haven't enjoyed Ms. Higgins for a while. I read her stuff because I want to get back the loving feeling I once had. Do I buy her stuff new anymore? Um, no, sorry, I don't. Is this book enough to get me to buy her stuff new anymore? Um, no, sorry, it isn't.

Like (seemingly) all writers, Ms. Higgins has a niche, a clique, a group of characters in a pool that seems to be the only pool in which she fishes. This pool has interesting characters, some more interesting than others. This pool is invariably located in a quirky small town with quirky small-town characters and quirky small-town situations that would be highly suspect in a town of more than, say, 800 people.

The first character that seems to leap onto Ms. Higgins' pole and hook itself is the slightly needy, ever-insecure, not-quite-physically-perfect heroine. In this case, the character is a young woman who was left at the altar a few years before by her high school sweetheart. They had stayed together through those rough long-distance college relationship years and their relationship culminated in a walk down the aisle. That they didn't consummate their relationship on that altar at the end of the aisle (ewww, not that way) is the foundation on which this book is built.

I won't give any spoilers here, but I think within the first few paragraphs of the book you will figure out the reason for the nonstart, even before the big reveal.

So a few years ensue. There is personal and professional growth of the jilted bride, her erstwhile groom and the BFF/Best Man of the Groom. Circumstances conspire for our not-bride-to-be to come home. Let the cast of quirk begin. There are relatives who behave (the younger relatives), there are siblings who overshare and never share, and grandparents who absolutely, positively hate each other. Having grandparents who divorced after 52 years of matrimonial hell, I did a lot of wincing and had some serious flashbacks that required chocolate to soothe me. Not everyone will have that kind of chocolate-seeking reaction. Some might even find them funny.

Anyway, on with the story. Not spoiling anything for anybody but those who don't actually know the title of the book, it is soon evident that the new Hero (with a capital H) will be the former Best Man. Our heroine Faith has issues with the Best Man, not the least of which is she blames him for the nonstart at the altar.

He is now the chief of police in this small town o' quirk. They are thrown together often and longingly. They give in to this passion a time or two before consummation. There is angsting, some gnashing of teeth, a big MIS and some sex, most of it behind closed doors.

What makes this different from the last few Higgins' books for me? You actually get to know the Hero. He is introduced. His back story is given. He is allowed a voice in the book. When I think back on Ms. Higgins' books (and more than a bit of time has elapsed since I have read the others; these are not reread books for me), I remember distant heroes who seem to have no more history or back story or personality than a lamp bought at Pier 1. Attractive, can be used in a variety of settings, will last for the long run, but nothing to distinguish them from any variety of attractive, reasonably affordable inventory there for the picking and in danger of being quickly forgotten and discarded once your tastes change.

The other different positive is our Faith has experienced life outside of small town quirk and survived and thrived and if she wants, she can go back again to the big city. But she doesn't necessarily want to. She can leave, and does, but her heart is in the small town, her family is in the small town and now she wants to be there, relationship issues or no.

It was a fun book for me. I enjoyed it. I didn't set it down to go make a smoothie and then forget to pick it back up. I read it in one weekend that was interspersed with an out-of-town trek to a junior high quiz bowl national championship and didn't bother to hide it from all the smarty-pants junior high kids I was surrounded by reading their Deliriums and Perks and Eleanor and Parks and Lincoln bios.


So onto the "issue" with the book. SPOILER ALERT: This spoiler is a situational spoiler, not one having to do with the main characters' HEA so I am not hiding it.

The dad of Ms. Jilted is a widower. The circumstances of his widowerhood are important to the story. A long time has passed since he lost his beloved wife. The family is afraid his current single status may be detrimental to their bottom line if he goes for a golddigger. So Ms. Jilted decides (again, for reasons explained in the book) to set her dad up with various women she has vetted. One woman she picks for him turns out to be transgender (again, if you can't figure this out before the big reveal, you aren't paying attention to the setup). The transgender character is referred to as a "he-she" at one point and there is a lot of flapping of wings and squawking about the near miss.

Well, I knew as soon as I read it, this would become an issue. This is where I am having a hard time figuring out my feelings. I am not going to say that some of my best friends are transgendered. I am not going to say I have intimate knowledge of the transgender world. I am not even going to say I understand transgender. I will say I need a "Transgender for Dummies" book, though.
I know "he-she" is offensive without any knowledge base. I would think most would understand that. What I do have a hard time with is how some are so up in arms over the author's treatment of this matter.

I do know a transgender female through my work. I know it was a difficult decision. I know that it was not a decision made lightly. But I also know this person totally understands and has empathy toward those who don't "get it." She doesn't expect everyone to openly accept her and her physical being, especially upon initial knowledge. She gets that this affects how she is perceived and accepted in the everyday world. Heck, her children love her and accept her, but they don't "get it," either. They just let her be her.
She knows this decision to have this surgery has/will affect every relationship, whether it is a relationship that will mature or it is a relationship that will remain forever inchoate once information is shared.

All of the above is really no more than my writing down all the ways my brain went with this scene. I understand if a reader is offended by the words chosen in a scene that the book didn't necessarily need to have. I understand there are a lot of people more enlightened, sensitive, aware than I will ever be that find this totally unacceptalbe. But I also understand that there are people who need time to think about the circumstance. Need to investigate if they choose to. Even Cher has a hard time with Chaz's decision (yeah, I went there).

So don't let this one scene impact your decision on whether to read this book. This scene is fairly well telegraphed. You can easily skip this scene and not have to deal with it. Or if you feel so strongly, then don't read the book. You won't be missing anything. It is fun and frothy, but there is no dearth of fun and frothy available on the market today.