On Second Thought- Kristan Higgins
Following in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed novel If You Only Knew, multi-bestselling author Kristan Higgins returns with a pitch-perfect look at the affection—and the acrimony—that binds sisters together.
Ainsley O'Leary is so ready to get married—she's even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn't anticipate is for Eric to blindside her with a tactless breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her half sister, Kate, who's already struggling after the sudden loss of her new husband.
Kate has always been so poised, so self-assured, but Nathan's death shatters everything she thought she knew—including her husband—and sometimes the people who step up aren't the ones you expect. With seven years and a murky blended-family dynamic between them, Ainsley and Kate have never been overly close, but their shared sorrow dovetails their faltering worlds into one.
Despite the lifetime of history between them, the sisters must learn to put their differences aside and open their hearts to the inevitable imperfection of family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.
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My Review - 4 Stars
I’ve always been drawn to stories about sisters, probably because I wished so badly I had one. Whether it was watching Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen sing Sisters on White Christmas or watching my mom and aunt interact, there was something so magical about that particular relationship.
And yet it can be a complicated relationship as well and that’s what we find in Kristan Higgins’s latest novel.
It started out a little slow- it takes about 10 chapters to move us through the synopsis- but once both Ainsley and Kate have experienced their respective losses, they find themselves looking at each other in a new light, in part because they need each other in ways they never have before.
I was mesmerized by Kate’s experience as a widow. She and Nathan hadn’t been married long before he died and I haven’t encountered this particular kind of grief in a novel before. There’s no one right way to grieve but it’s even murkier with a new marriage and a layer of fertility issues. (Kate is older when they marry so they start trying to get pregnant from the start.)
I didn’t know what to make of Ainsley at first, mostly because her boyfriend is so awful. Like douchecanoe awful. You cannot put lipstick on that particular pig and she couldn't see his very obvious true colors and that made me think much less of her. But once Eric breaks up with her, she has to figure out what to do with her life, both literally and figuratively, and this is when her character came alive. I loved watching her grow and take more ownership of her life decisions.
"For a second, I thought we might hug, but then the moment was gone.
We were still us, after all.
Us, but a little better." p. 399
At the center of the story is how Ainsley and Kate relate to each other. And how they don’t relate to each other. They never had a smooth relationship as sisters and it certainly isn’t smooth sailing at first. But I loved seeing them both try. Try to be vulnerable and take a risk on a closer relationship. It is hard won but this was the best part of the book for me. It was so true to life! Their efforts spilled over to their relationship with their parents as well and this made for some touching moments.
I also really enjoyed watching the sisters have a second chance at love, even if I was a little irked at first that Ainsley got a second chance when she’d picked such an awful person the first time around. In any case, Jonathan and Daniel were absolutely lovely to read about and I liked how well they took care of their women. Neither are perfect and there are obstacles to dating. I liked how the new relationship wasn't a magic cure-all for either woman.
This was different from what I expected. I’ve read Kristan Higgins’ contemporary romance Blue Heron series and this was firmly in the Women’s Fiction camp. I thoroughly appreciated her exploration of the ups and downs of being sisters, as well as how to move on after loss or the end of a relationship. I hope she’ll write more in this vein.
Disclosure: I was provided an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.