Thursday, February 4, 2016

Anything For You by Kristan Higgins

Anything for You (Blue Heron, #5)* * * 1/2

Before you get down on bended knee…

…you should be pretty darn sure the answer will be yes. For ten years, Connor O'Rourke has been waiting for Jessica Dunn to take their on-again, off-again relationship public, and he thinks the time has come. His restaurant is thriving, she's got her dream job at Blue Heron Vineyard—it's the perfect time to get married.

When he pops the question, however, her answer is a fond but firm no. If it ain't broke, why fix it? Jess has her hands full with her younger brother, who's now living with her full-time, and a great career after years of waitressing. What she and Connor have is perfect: friends with an excellent benefits package. Besides, with her difficult past (and reputation), she's positive married life isn't for her.

But this time, Connor says it's all or nothing. If she doesn't want to marry him, he'll find someone who does. Easier said than done, given that he's never loved anyone but her. And maybe Jessica isn't quite as sure as she thinks… 



Review:

I love a lot of romance tropes and Anything For You includes one of my favorites.  Falling-in-love-as-children/teens-then-finding-each-other-as-adults.   I’m sure there is a better way to describe it but we’ll just go with that for now.  Connor falls head over heels in love with Jessica Dunn when she not only saves him from a dog attack but also when he sees her usually hidden vulnerability after dealing with bullies all day at school.

Jessica Dunn is a wonderfully complicated heroine.  She learned in her teens to use sex as way to protect herself and her brother.  Yes, she had to deal with name calling (she lost count of how many times people have called her Jessica Does) but, to her, that was a small price to pay for safety.   After high school, she moved out to get away from her alcoholic parents and took her younger brother (who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) with her.  She worked multiple jobs to keep her brother safe and to give him every opportunity possible. She also busted her ass to work her way through school and earn a Master’s degree.  She proves she’s a fighter and survivor at every turn. 

Connor O’Rourke is a strange combination of simple and complicated. He’s really the ultimate introvert and I found him at turns to be frustrating (his relationship with Jess and his lack of understanding in regards to her brother) and completely loveable (his relationship with is sister and patient focus on the things he loves).

I understood their attraction to one another.  Connor is one of the few people that has seen Jess’s vulnerable side and he treats that with care (except for that one time but no spoilers – let’s just say I wanted to throw him through a window).   He also truly appreciates her dedication to her brother and her constant motivation to make a better life for them.  Jess sees Connor as one of the few people that treats her with respect and not just as someone that will easily agree to sex.  She stopped being that girl a long time ago and Connor is the one person that never saw her as that girl.  Match made in heaven right?  Of course not.

As amazing and strong as Jess is, you don’t walk away from a childhood like hers without scars.  Her need to care for her brother runs deeper than sibling devotion and she will do WHATEVER it takes in order to make her brother happy.  And, because of something that happened when her brother was small, her brother vehemently hates Connor.  To the point he becomes violent.   Rather than seeing if that is something that can be resolved therapeutically or medically, she decides that there can be no normal relationship for her and the one guy she’s ever been in love with.  But she’ll take what she can get with a secret relationship. 

Connor has his own set of parental issues.  Having a father that was not only unfaithful but also the kind of guy that would knock Connor down in order to put his twin sister on a pedestal.  Needless to say, Connor has some issues believing in his own self-worth when it comes to relationships. Which is why he puts up with Jess’ need for secrecy and their on-again, off-again relationship.   But after a decade he has to step back and decide if it’s worth the constant emotional strain and the sacrifice of his dreams of having his own family.   

But this isn’t just about their relationship.  Kristan Higgins does an amazing job of incorporating the growth and resolution of other relationships in Jess and Connor’s lives.  There is Connor’s attempt to forge a relationship with Davey which is sweet and sometimes alarming.  Jess and Davey’s dad shows up after being MIA for years.  He’s sober and wants to make amends.  Then there is Connor’s dad who is also looking to have a better relationship with his son.  None of these relationships are given quick fixes.  Each take work and they weave in perfectly with Connor and Jess’s romance.   

On top of that there are the positive relationships these two already have.  Between the Holland family and Connor’s twin sister, Colleen, these two main characters have an amazing and humorous support group.  Despite the heaviness of some of the story lines, there were some hilarious laugh out loud moments.  Higgins shows true adeptness at balancing comedy with serious situations in this novel.

I struggled with my rating on this book.  There was obviously a lot that I enjoyed.  But there was a lot that made me uncomfortable and/or annoyed.  Mostly in regards to Connor’s reaction to things.  His lack of confidence made him tactless and awkward to the point it was uncomfortable and not entirely forgivable.  In the end, he grows a backbone but until that point it could be difficult to read. 

That being said, I’ve read four out of the five Blue Heron books and this is my second favorite (it’s really hard to top Emmaline’s book, In Your Dreams).   If you are a Kristan Higgins fan, you won’t be disappointed one bit.  And if you enjoy your romance infused with the perfect mix of comedy and angst, I urge you to pick this one up.


Nat

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