Hmm, well. I waffled between really enjoying this book and being really exasperated by it.
I've read all of KH's books and all of her books generally contain all or some of the following:
- a first person POV by the heroine
- a heroine that is often funny, a little goofy and totally relatable
- humorous, light tone
- important family dynamics and well rounded supporting characters
- a non-Alpha hero who is often not truly 'seen' by the heroine until much later in the book.
This book actually contains most of these elements. And while these things work fantastically in, say, Catch Of The Day or Fools Rush In, they all did not come together quite as effectively in this book for me.
The strongest parts of this book, imo, were when it delved into the family dynamics especially with how their respective families shaped both Harper's and Nick's perception of what love and commitment was supposed to be like. Harper's backstory is especially affecting and wonderfully written. Her mother walked out without a backward glance and left her with her father on her 13th birthday. This had a profound effect on Harper and how she interrelated with almost everyone. I especially enjoyed how it worked in context with Harper's relationship with her stepmother and both those relationships were resolved in the end.
And speaking of Harper's stepmother, BeverLee, a Texan with a beehive and a big heart is really the stand out character in this book. She could have easily been a buffoonish caricature. But she wasn't. She was larger than life, to be sure, but she was tempered with some great moments of quiet vulnerability. I also thought Harper's step-sister Willa and boyfriend Dennis were wonderful supporting characters as well.
I also enjoyed Harper's reminiscences of her and Nick's courtship. These parts were strongly written and very affecting. At the beginning of the book Harper and Nick have been divorced for many years, so reading about how in love they were it makes you sad that they lost that.
But then there some things that didn't quite work for me.
First, the first person POV. Normally KH uses this quite effectively. Here I think it undermined the story for me. Harper and Nick's marriage dissolves spectacularly within months. But we only get Harper's take on what happened. According to Harper, Nick plopped her -- a newly graduated 21 year old -- in New York and left her alone all day and all night to work copious hours. He was barely ever home, worked until 10 pm most nights and every weekend. Nick does not validate this version of events preferring to largely blame Harper for the dissolution of the marriage.
The problem is, without his POV we are forced to believe every bit of Harper's version. But as anyone knows, two people can perceive the exact same set of events very differently. My siblings will remember entire events from our childhood that I completely forgot and vice versa. So in a sense, I can't find Harper a completely credible source.
Added to that she sees everything through a lens of complete pessimism. Throughout the book she makes pains to tell Nick that she is a realist. No honey, you are a pessimist. And this is where the light humor is somewhat lacking in this book, imo. Harper is just too cynical, too glass-half-empty. She has the personality of someone who doesn't want to lose something so they don't ever really want to try. Honestly, sometimes I wondered why Nick was so in love with her.
And that leads to the 'goofy, funny, relatable heroine' that usually populates KH's books. Harper was definitely not that. There were some smile out loud moments, and some moments that I just waned to hug her, but overall I found Harper a little
too hard to really like.
Nick, otoh, was a different kettle of fish. He had the same abandonment issues as Harper and yet he is a lot more optimistic about love and the future. He is head over heels in love with Harper even years later and he is not shy about telling her. He drops a few bombs through the course of the story that made me go 'well, huh.' and I could see some of the traits shining through that Harper had problems with in their marriage. But it isn't until Nick and Harper drive across country with each other that you get the feeling that she (and by extension we) is finally really seeing him. I liked Nick a little more than I did Harper, but his tunnel vision about some things were just as exasperating as Harper's pessimism,.
This is not my favorite KH by any means but in the end it was still a good story. I do recommend it to KH fans. It isn't as light and funny and some of her earlier stuff but I still think it is worth a read.