Title: All I Ever Wanted
Author: Kristan Higgins
Release Date: 1 August 2011
Number of pages: 318 pages
Publisher: HQN Books
Source: review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon,
Grade: 5 stars
2011 Top read
One Happily-Ever-After Rocking Chair…
and no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol' Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company's new Miss Perfect. If that isn't bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a three-oh birthday bash in the family funeral home.
Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a crazy relationship with the town's not so warm and fuzzy veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark's attention. So Ian is more comfortable with animals…. So he's formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it's time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But dang, if he doesn't shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont's unlikeliest eligible bachelor…
My thoughts: All I Ever Wanted was my introduction to Kristan Higgins' writing and I fell utterly and irrevocably under her spell! Let me tell you why. (I'm sorry this is so long, I really tried to select between all my notes and highlights, but there are just so many great parts I wanted to share, and this way you'll see for yourself how wonderful All I Ever Wanted is.)
The characters in All I Ever Wanted are all real, ordinary people, like your neighbours or your friends. Having the same every day problems we do.
Callie (short for Calliope, Homer's muse as she often introduces herself ;-p), the heroine has been in love with her boss for a long time and when her eyes are opened to the fact that nothing romantic will happen between them anymore she has to try to cope with the heartache as well as the failure of not having a significant other at her age. Callie is your average sweet and nice girl next door, with the same insecurities, fears and hopes you and I do. (Though the way her imagination could run away sometimes was scary, entertaining but scary :-)
One of the things I enjoyed the most were Callie's mental schizophrenia: her inner dialogues between the Betty Boop and Michelle Obama sides of her personality kept clashing and giving her different advices, these debates were always entertaining and a hoot! :-D See for yourself:
“You can call me Callie,” I said, and my voice was a little breathy. “Short for Calliope. Homer’s muse.”
“Callie, then.” Your name! He said your name! Betty Boop’s eyelashes fluttered.
“Yes?” I sighed.
“I can’t hear your dog’s bowel sounds if you don’t stop talking.”
“Right! Bowel sounds. You keep going. Do what you need to do. You’re the doctor. Examine away. Good boy, Bowie.” I closed my eyes, closed my mouth and sat still, imagining the First Lady sighing yet again.
Callie's family is hilariously dysfunctional: Callie's mom is a mortician, her big sister is a fertilist specialist talking about sperm count and ovulation loud at any social events, and her little brother:
Freddie, my brother, who was taking a year off from Tufts University, where he seemed to be majoring in skipping classes and drinking.The family relationships constitute just as important part of the novel as the romance storyline. Though I usually prefer my romances to focus on the blossoming relationship between the hero and heroine, this wasn't the case here. All supporting characters were fully fleshed and I became instantly interested in them, not minding at all their getting some "screen time" too. To the contrary, the family interactions were priceless, alleviating the emotional depth of the story: Callie's 30th b-day is celebrated in her mom's funeral home, next door to a man's wake (imagine the scene of some grieving relatives wandering in seeing balloons and presents :-D lol)
Humour is present everywhere: in Callie's self-depracating ways, the family interactions:
“I had a fight with my boyfriend,” I said.
“What did you fight about?” Freddie asked.
“I had emotional diarrhea,” I said glumly.
“Now there’s a pretty image,” he muttered.
Our parents were wandering along the riverbank, holding hands.
“Are you glad they’re back together, Hes?” I asked. She sighed.
“Not sure if glad is the right word. But what the hell, right? Their lives to fuck up.”
“I guess we know who’ll be making the toast at the wedding,” I said. “That was beautiful.”
Callie's family fell apart when she was 8 years old: after her dad's infidelity her parents got divorced and of course this left its mark on every single member of the family. The parts where Kristan Higgins explores this fracture in their family life, showing the heartache their dad's infidelity caused the family, layering evereyone's (Callie's, her big sister Hester's, their dad's) loss and pain when Callie's dad had to leave was so emotional and moving, that even though I'm not the teary eyed reader type, this choked me up. It was done so realisticly, everyone felt so much love, grief and pain, and I saw how a divorce hurts every single person affected. The emotional depth Kristan Higgins conveyed in these scenes was poignant.
But then come the small rays of light to lighten the mood:
“Now that I’ve retired, I’m going to get your mother back,” [my dad] said.
“Get her back for what?” I asked, assuming this was a revenge thing.
“Get her back as in woo her. Court her. Seduce. [Can I count on you Callie to help me?]"
“Ooh. Not sure about that. The wrath of Mom…you know.” Having Mom mad at you was the emotional equivalent of standing in the path of a category five tornado…lots of big things flying around ripping great chunks out of you.
Dad used to call Mom Bluebird, because, he said, she made him so happy. At this moment, she was fingering her knife and looking at him with great speculation in her eyes.LMAO, priceless! :-D
While Callie is like a golden retriever: cute, fun and loveable, the hero Ian is her exact opposite: he is definitely not a people's person, he is quite the modern Mr. Darcy: being aloof and often rude (which often stem from his shyness and feeling awkward). According to Callie:
“Who wouldn’t?” she said. “He’s hot. All dangerous and growly.” “Like a Russian assassin,” I murmured. “Exactly,” she nodded. “I’ll bet he could kill you with one finger.” We were best friends for a reason.But you soon understand that Ian was deeply hurt and that despite him being quite awkward with people he has a warm and compassionate heart (the way he solved the situation with one little girl being mean to another and hurting her was wonderful: he was instinctive ans so warmhearted).
So of course to witness the clash of these two completely different personalities is quite the show and what entertainment! :-D
Like the love declaration for example:
My heart gave a nearly painful squeeze. Standing on tiptoe, I kissed his cheek. “I like you, Ian McFarland,” I said.
His eyes crinkled a little. “I hope so.”
“And you like me, too, of course,” I prodded.
“Yes,” he agreed. “You’re fun to look at.”
“Like a circus monkey?” “Exactly.”
The ending was done wonderfully: Ian's speech was so jumbled up and incoherent, it sounded just like an overwhelmed, emotionally agitated man might try to express himself. It sounded completely authentic. :-)
And besides all the above there are still so many things I loved about this novel:
- I loved reading about Callie's advertisement campaigns, it was interesting to get a glimpse of how it works and enjoyed reading all the truly creative and catchy slogans too.
- Besides all the wonderful and quirky supporting characters (and besides the cute 4legged pets) there is something else which became quite a character in this novel: Callie's happily-ever-after rocking chair. Kristan Higgins writes about the chair and what it symbolises to Callie so wonderfully, that the reader is transported to another dimension.
Verdict: When All I Ever Wanted was recommended to me (thanks so much Caro for praising Kristan Higgins' novels so much to me!), I was told it was a novel that would make me cry and smile, and I didn't really know what that would mean. Now I know. Kristan Higgins' writing is wonderful: alternating the emotional depth and heartache with chuckle out loud humour in just the perfect mixture. Kristan Higgins' novels are sweet, heartfelt, emotional and heartwarming romances infused with chuckle out loud humour and completely scandalous and out of the ordinary family members. Kristan's romances make you smile, sigh, laugh and tear up, and you wouldn't want it any other way!