Catch of the Day
Fools Rush In

Just One of the Guys
by Kristan Higgins
(HQN, $4.99, PG)  ISBN 978-0373-77299-5
Higgins has written a real mixed bag, and it is a difficult story to categorize and rate.  There is romance and at times, rather sappy romance. There is heartache. There is humor. On the other hand, this book is a long internal reflection about the life and almost love life of one Chastity Virginia O’Neill. In Just One of the Guys, the reader will be treated to some stuff definitely deserving of a high rating and some that clearly is less than stellar.

The good stuff:

Chastity is a well-educated woman who has learned to stand on her own in a family of firefighters, consisting of four brothers and father. Her mother is a rock, and always been supportive. Chastity went away to school, earned her degree and even worked in New York (well Newark) for a time. She is a journalist and proud of it. She speaks her mind and is proud of who she is – a five foot 11-3/4 inch woman who is not fat but not a size 6, who loves the Yankees and keeps in shape by rowing across the lake almost every day.

Trevor, who is almost like an adopted brother, is the love of her life. She related their one weekend together and the subsequent heartbreak. But she still pines for him from afar, while keeping the illusion that they are friends and buddies up close.  Because the story is told in Chastity’s viewpoint, we only see Trevor as she sees him, making it a little hard to understand his full motivation. But he is a good guy and easy to like.

The family is a hodgepodge of brothers, sisters-in-laws, nieces and nephews and of course, mom and dad. There is a large side story about one brother Mark and his wife Elaina, who happens to be Chastity’s best friend. And another one about the divorce of Mike and Betty, otherwise known as mom and dad. These add to the tale, adding both insights on love and on heartbreak.

Humor abounds. Chastity is not what one would call lucky all the time and some of the scenes are downright hilarious. In many ways, these are a bit madcap and silly, so the reader needs to understand this is not subtle-humor nor is it intellectual humor. This is just fun amid antics meant to be serious. 

The not-so-good stuff:

There is some type of mystery going on at the paper that Chastity works for that appears as if there is someone stalking her and out to cause her personal grief.  But it is almost as if it is just put in there to add pages and really doesn’t impact the story.

The surgeon that Chastity starts to date and actually becomes engaged to is not someone that anyone would pick out in a romance story as the man who will win the heart of the heroine. It is so obvious that he is NOT the one; it is difficult to watch Chastity talk herself into it. Because the good doctor was so clearly wrong, it made me wonder what was wrong with Chastity’s head. This is one area she did not show her intelligence.

The tale pops back and forth between current day and the past, to help the reader understand her thinking. Since it is all from her standpoint, the motivations of the other characters are often lost and this causes some lack of understanding.

Finally, the sentimentality of the last 50 pages when things all came to a head was both nice, causing a few tears in my eyes, and ridiculous, causing me to roll my eyes. Because of the mixed bag, this story was a bit uneven and had some major starts and stops. If the reader is looking for a pure romance, this is not it. If one is looking for the lighthearted romp that is popular in chick lit today, this comes closer. If one is looking for a page-turner, this is not it, yet most of the time I was engaged in the story and easily picked the book back up.

Higgins is a stronger storyteller since Fools Rush In. Her heroine is much more likable and her hero is a good guy, even if he is a bit slow to know what he wants.  Overall, Just One of the Guys is good but not great. 

--Shirley Lyons

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