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All I Ever Wanted
by Kristan Higgins
(HQN, $7.99, G)  ISBN 978-0373-77458-6
**
This is my third Higgins book and not only did I not find it better than the other two, I was often bored and ready to quit reading. The ending of the story improved somewhat, but by then, I was lost and wishing for another book.  All I Ever Wanted did not fulfill that promise to me.

Callie (short for Calliope) Grey has been in love since the eighth grade with a man who sees her as a friend - mostly - and who only saw her as a lover for five short days on a business trip…a trip he later described as a “mistake” and something that happened at “a bad time.”  Callie is one of three children who have been messed up by divorce.  Her parents, who play a featured role in the tale, got divorced because her father slept around on her mother when she was pregnant with Callie’s younger brother, Freddie.  Freddie is a twenty-something freelancer, part time college student, and lost soul.  Meanwhile, her older sister Hester has hated men her whole life. She runs  a fertility clinic specializing in donor sperm and is raising two adopted daughters without a father. 

The love of Callie’s life is Mark, her boss at Green Mountain Media in scenic small-town Vermont.  Callie is the creative genius while Mark is the customer man.  They have been successful, even winning an award.  They went to Santa Fe to pick up the award and had a wild sexual fling… a fling Callie romanticized into happily-ever-after while Mark freaked out.  He withdrew, saying this was not in his plans at this time.  Like any self-respecting woman (tongue in cheek) Callie lets Mark walk all over her and wallows in her misery while panting after him in disbelief and unrequited love.   She finally comes to her senses about 200 pages into the book when Mark introduces her to his new fiancée, who happens to be the daughter of a new big account. She is also jealous and treats Callie very shabbily.

Callie also meets a new man, one who seems even more reclusive than the fairy tale mountain men of Vermont.  Ian McFarland is the new veterinarian in town.  Just after Mark dumps her, Callie fakes an illness with her dog in order to meet him.  Apparently every other single woman has played the same game and by the time Callie gets there, Ian confronts her and humiliates her about it. Callie comes up with an idea that he needs advertising and saves face a little.  But despite their less than stellar beginning Callie finds herself attracted to Ian.

The entire story follows their more off-than-on romance and Callie’s trials and tribulations with Ian, Mark and her rather bizarre family.  The most likable member is Noah, a boat builder and her grandfather.  Noah had been in an accident and is missing a leg, requiring help.  Callie moves in to provide support.  Noah is a great character and really the only one who seems half normal.

Ian is a shy, reclusive man with a weird family situation himself.  His aunt had raised him and she was disappointed he became a vet rather than a doctor.  His cousin, who is more than like a brother, is also a doctor.  Because the tale is told from Callie’s total point of view, Ian is a man who is not easily understood.  We learn what Callie assumes are his motivations, but he seems to have a lot of depth left unexplored.  Callie greatly overshadows him in the story. 

Higgins has given us a slow paced story with most of the action being inside Callie’s head.  I couldn’t really embrace her due to her vast insecurities, her often inane thoughts and her determination to hold onto Mark for way too long.  Without a strong hero, the reader is left with a less than satisfactory feeling about Ian and Callie’s romance.  If the story had been about 200 less pages and emphasized their romance more, I might have found it more palatable.  But as is,  All I Ever Wanted did not deliver.  

--Shirley Lyons


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