February 26, 2013

Review: The Best Man by Kristan Higgins


The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

Source: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I don’t know what to do with this book. It’s one of Ms. Higgins’ most entertaining, fun novels in a long while, especially since she made the transition from Chick-Lit to Romance, but it’s deeply flawed, and in many ways, unforgivably so. When I was done reading it, I was left with a bad aftertaste that did nothing but get worse the more I thought about it. 

Faith, as is the case with most of Higgins’ heroines, has the worse luck with men, which is unfortunate since all she wants to do is settle down, marry and have kids. She was in love --or at least thought she was-- with her high school sweetheart, Jeremy. They were the town’s golden couple; the prince and princess of their own perfect fairytale. But during their wedding ceremony they were interrupted by Levi, the Jeremy’s best friend and best man, who couldn’t let them get married, because he knew the groom was gay.

Two years later, she’s been living in another city, enjoying professional success, but unhappy because she can’t get a decent date. When a convenient excuse arises, she goes back to her hometown where she’s forced to confront her past, Levi and a mutual history that goes beyond what happened at the wedding. 

I found the romance so appealing and engrossing that it was hard for me to take a break from reading. It’s a love story we have read many times: the golden girl and the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks who never even dream of trying to make it work because they are so different. He doesn’t believe himself worth of someone like her, but instead of changing for her, he writes her off as an impossible, moves on with his life and discovers his own worth. She, on the other hand, thinks she has found the love of her life in another man, but is in for a rude awakening. So when they finally get a chance at love, it feels a lot like a second opportunity.

There were interesting class issues that gave the plot an underlying dark tone and the main characters, the hero in particular, depth and complexity. And the leading couple was likeable and had incredible chemistry. As I said before, it’s been years since Ms. Higgins delivered so much fun, entertainment and heart, which makes what I’m about to say even harder and more infuriating.

Higgins knows how to use over the top and trite plot devices and tropes for great effect, both comedic and dramatic. Her small towns are filled with quirky, lovable characters that facilitate all sort of ridiculous circumstances and infuse the book with a sweet miasma that permeates into every aspect of the story. But this has never bothered me before and it wouldn’t have bothered me here if not for the actions of some of the secondary characters in conjunction with the heroine’s.

Faith’s father has been widowed for years and years. He’s finally dating again, but unfortunately for him, the poor woman and the reader, he chooses someone his family vocally disapproves of. Her sin? Looking like a gold digger. And to these characters a gold digger looks like someone who dresses inappropriately for someone that age and has an exuberant personality. This was an indicative of the prejudice to come and I wish I would have paid more attention to it.

When Faith and the rest of the family arrange a blind date to rid their dad of the unwanted woman, they set him up with someone who ends up being --I quote-- a “she-male”. They wait until the woman leaves and then laugh and tease their dad. I had to read this scene twice to convince myself that I was reading it right. Using transsexual characters for the only purpose of getting a cheap laugh out of them is a deal breaker for me. I found the careless transphobia appalling, and I couldn’t believe that no one involved in the production of the book (author, beta readers, editors, etc.) noticed this. Maybe this comes from a place of ignorance and not real hatred, but that doesn’t make it fine. 

And then there are the small things, like lots of references to slutty shoes and slutty outfits. Or when a young Levi takes a look at Jarred and immediately knows he’s gay. And when the story begins, Faith goes on a date with a man whose wife confronts them and instead of calling him on his behavior, she attacks Faith and repeatedly calls her a whore. All these little things become jarring, disturbing and hard to ignore once we add them up.

I’m conflicted. I read the book in one sitting. Even after the incident with the father I decided to keep reading, because I wanted to know how it all ended. But as much as I enjoyed the novel, I was left with the uncomfortable and unhappy feeling of having read a book whose flaws irrevocably tainted the original enjoyment.  

Review by Brie
Grade: 2
Sensuality: McDreamy
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:
Sometimes the best man is the one you least expect… 
Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she's ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family's vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there's some great scenery there…. 
Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief—and best friend of her former fiancĂ©. There's a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it's not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she's having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosĂ©, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.
The Best Man by Kristan Higgins
HQN. February 26, 2013.

9 comments:

  1. I stopped reading the books by Kristan Higgins about two years ago because I couldn't relate to her kind of humour anymore, I love her older books, but the newer ones aren't for me. After I now know what happened with the "she-male" in this book and how the author made it a joke, I'm happy that I stopped reading her books. Because that kind of humour is not ok.

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    1. Yes, her humor can be uncomfortable at times and she has a tendency to abuse her heroines, but she crossed the line here and it's upsetting and offensive. And the worse thing is that if you strip those parts (and you could and still have the same book, which speaks volumes of just how important to the plot they were) the book would be one of her best in a long while.

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  2. Oh no!!! I'm so sad to read this. I really enjoy her books for exactly the reasons you name in the 5th paragraph of your review above, but really sad to read everything you pointed out after that part. :(

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    1. Reading the book made me sad! It's very disappointing.

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  3. I have always enjoyed her books; can you ladies tell you what exactly you mean by crossing the line and by author making fun of what happened to she-male. What is a she male?

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    1. Hi, Pat!

      She-male is an offensive and derogatory term used to describe transsexual and transvestite people. To me, that scene crossed the line because the author was using a character for comedic effect based on making fun and insulting her sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s also a scene that adds nothing to the plot.

      I've also always enjoyed her books, this one included, but what happened in that scene was unacceptable and almost ruined the book for me.

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  4. I'm in the midst of reading this one. I put it aside for a while because I wasn't comfortable with the... let's call it vague homophobia - in the first section of the book. She says she dated 3 gay guys but one was a first date and the other was a guy who she went out with and only she thought they were dating so I'm not sure that really qualifies. I felt like it was played for laughs and there was something about it which made me uncomfortable. I can't really articulate it any better I'm afraid.

    But, I read an excerpt of later in the book with Levi and Faith and it was so much fun, that I do intend to get back to it. I think I'm going to have similar issues as most of my GR friends seem to have though! Maybe I can just skim and only read the Levi/Faith bits?

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  5. I skipped the review and just looked at the grade, but awwww. I hope this one works out better for me!

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  6. Yeeeee-ikes. Good thing I read this review - THANK YOU! (Phobias as described above are a big no-no in book selection.)

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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.