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Friday, January 10, 2014

‘Just One of the Guys’ by Kristan Higgins

From the BLURB:

Being one of the guys isn't all it's cracked up to be...So when journalist Chastity O'Neill returns to her hometown, she decides it's time to start working on some of those feminine wiles. Two tiny problems: #1--she's five feet eleven inches of rock-solid girl power, and #2--she's cursed with four alpha male older brothers.

While doing a story on local heroes, she meets a hunky doctor and things start to look up. Now there's only one problem: Trevor Meade, her first love and the one man she's never quite gotten over--although he seems to have gotten over her just fine.

Yet the more time she spends with Dr. Perfect, the better Trevor looks. But even with the in-your-face competition, the irresistible Trevor just can't seem to see Chastity as anything more than just one of the guys....

Chastity O'Neill has just been unceremoniously dumped by a too-skinny guy with freckled legs. His reason? She’s not “attractive” enough. The nerve! Just because Chastity is sportier, fitter and taller than him does not make her “unattractive” it makes him a pipsqueak, and not good enough for her. Unfortunately, now Chastity has absolutely zero dating prospects in the hometown she returned to six weeks ago. Even worse? The man she’s been in love with since adolescence is more handsome than ever, and attracting women left, right and centre.

Trevor Meade is an honorary O’Neill – practically a fourth brother to Chastity … or, at least, that’s what her family thinks. In actuality Trevor and Chastity shared an incredible two-night stand back in college, and Chastity has been in love with him ever since. Meanwhile Trevor never again mentioned their hook-up, and was even briefly engaged to another woman for a time. Now though, he seems annoyingly content to play the field.

“What’s your first name?” she asks. “Charity?” 
“Chastity,” I correct. One of my classmates smiles. “My father thought it was funny,” I explain. “My middle name’s Virginia.” 
“Ouch,” the woman says. 

‘Just One of the Guys’ was the 2008 contemporary romance novel from Kristan Higgins (who I’m currently obsessed with). 

So, I started reading this book and was a little concerned. This is now my 4th Higgins book I've read (in the post-Christmas break I gorged on two of her books in two days!) and I've noticed a theme in all so far – women with body issues. Or, rather, women whose bodies are a focus and commented on by others. In ‘The Best Man’ heroine Faith Holland was very voluptuous and sometimes self-conscious of her abundance. Posey Osterhagen in ‘Until There Was You’ was teased in high school for being a ‘bag of bones’ with the body of a ten-year-old boy and in ‘Just One of the Guys’ much is made of Chastity O’Neill’s broad shoulders and Amazonian stature. When she asks her long-time crush, Trevor Meade, if she’s conventionally pretty he counters with words like “striking” and “handsome”. I felt a bit uneasy at these heroines who have such backstory in their appearance, and initially worried that it was a bit of an over-emphasis. But Kristan Higgins writes these women with infinite care and tenderness, and pretty soon readers realise what it sometimes takes other characters the whole book to clue into – that these women are not defined by how they look, or their body-type. It’s refreshing, and even though it’s an obvious theme in all her books, Higgins eventually lets the body issues melt into the background as non-issues. 

Something I really love about all Higgin’s books thus far is the camaraderie. Family (both blood and friends) are a big focus for all her characters, never more so than in ‘Just One of the Guys’ when Chastity is the sole girl in a family of fire-fighting brothers, with her father as Captain. And the brothers O’Neill definitely steal the show in their scenes, sometimes causing belly-aching laughter; 

Mom leans over and snatches the cover off the platter, unveiling her creation. Calling it dinner would be inaccurate and somehow cruel. 
Jack stares at it despondently. “That pot roast will come out of me the same way it goes in,” he announces. “Stringy, gray and tough. And with a great deal of effort.” 

“John Michael O’Neill! Shame on you!” Mom sputters as the rest of us try unsuccessfully to hide our laughter.

But the real reason I loved the O’Neill clan was for the backstories. There’s eldest brother Mark, married to Chastity’s best friend and currently going through a messy divorce after he admitted to cheating on his wife. Mark and Elaina aren’t the only O’Neill’s going through a rocky patch – in one of the best secondary stories I've read lately, Chastity’s divorced (but still very much in love) parents are at a Mexican stand-off when Mama O’Neill announces she’s going to join Chastity in the world of online dating, as she’s sick and tired of waiting for her ex-husband to retire and leave his first love – firefighting – behind for her. 

Then there’s Chastity herself – in love with her ‘honorary’ brother, Trevor Meade, who looks upon her as his little sister and best friend and ‘just one of the guys’. If I had any complaints about this book, it’s perhaps that Trevor and Chastity spent a little too much time in the ‘will they?’ of the ‘will they or won’t they?’ portion of the plot. I'd have liked a bit more evidence of them being the perfect match, instead of the brief flashbacks to a two-day dating period in college that’s so defined Chastity’s feelings for Trevor.

Another reason I love Higgin’s books at the moment (and especially this one) is that they’re dogs in all of them. Yep, in 2013 I became a “dog person” and have since gravitated to any romance book cover with a pooch. And Higgins doesn’t just deliver the cute, but the laughs with her canine characters. In ‘Just One of the Guys’ there’s a menstruating bloodhound to guffaw over, in a scene that had me in stitches and glad I was reading in the privacy of my bedroom. 


1 comment:

  1. not my style, but you paint the cutest of pictures hehe

    lovely review hon!


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