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Saturday, November 16, 2013

'The Perfect Match' Blue Heron #2 by Kristan Higgins

From the BLURB:

What if the perfect match is a perfect surprise? 

Honor Holland has just been unceremoniously rejected by her lifelong crush. And now—a mere three weeks later—Mr. Perfect is engaged to her best friend. But resilient, reliable Honor is going to pick herself up, dust herself off and get back out there or she would if dating in Manningsport, New York, population 715, wasn't easier said than done. 

Charming, handsome British professor Tom Barlow just wants to do right by his unofficial stepson, Charlie, but his visa is about to expire. Now Tom must either get a green card or leave the States—and leave Charlie behind. 

In a moment of impulsiveness, Honor agrees to help Tom with a marriage of convenience—and make her ex jealous in the process. But juggling a fiancé, hiding out from her former best friend and managing her job at the family vineyard isn't easy. And as sparks start to fly between Honor and Tom, they might discover that their pretend relationship is far too perfect to be anything but true love.

Honor Holland has been ‘friends with benefits’ with her oldest school friend, Brogan, since they were both freshmen in college. Technically she’s been in love with him for some 17 years, but when her doctor has the ‘tick-tock, tick-tock’ talk with her, Honor decides it’s now or never to profess her love and suggest she and Brogan get hitched (they’re not getting any younger, after all). What follows her proposal is the worst ever let-down and simile in the history of language – whereby Brogan compares Honor to a favourite old baseball glove; one you pull out for a bit of good luck during a hard match, but that you don’t rely on all year round. 


Even worse is when Honor’s best friend, Dana, ends up with Brogan’s ring on her finger a few weeks later . . . apparently in a crazy, spontaneous ‘we-just-knew-it-was-right’ love match.

Honor is shattered, but resigned.

Tom Barlow is a British mechanical engineer and professor at a nearby college. He’s staying in Manningsport, California to be near his beleaguered almost-stepson. Tom was engaged to Charlie’s mother, before discovering that she was cheating on him . . .  then she got hit by a car and died. That was a few years ago, now Charlie is a sullen teenager dressed all in black who seemingly doesn’t care one way or the other if Tom’s university can’t renew his green card and he returns to the UK forever. 

Then Honor’s grandmother, Goggy, has the crazy idea to set these two up (arranged marriages have been known to work) and sparks might just fly.

‘The Perfect Match’ is the second book in Kristan Higgins’ contemporary romance ‘Blue Heron’ series. 

So, I loved first book ‘The Best Man’ (which was also my first ever Kristan Higgins book, leaving me to wonder what else of hers I'd been missing out on!). I went into this second novel full of high-hopes and prepared to swoon all over again . . .  but I came out a little “meh”. 

I initially said that I'd never read a Kristan Higgins book because they all seemed too sugary-sweet, with none of the meatier barbs I quite like to read in my romances. Now, ‘The Best Man’ was by no means ‘Anna Karenina’ on the beleaguered-romance scale – but heroine Faith Holland did have a rotten streak with men, and her hero Levi Cooper was definitely donning armour. Then Higgins offered up Honor Holland and Tom Barlow – two people with quadruple the number of prickly problems that Faith and Levi had.

For one thing, Honor is humiliated when her best friend, love of her life and no-strings-attached bedroom-partner calls her the equivalent of his favourite baseball glove (to get him out of a slump? I guess?) and then goes and gets engaged to her (back-stabbing) best friend – but still wants them to remain close and put the awkwardness of her proposal behind them and move on. Not to mention her doctor is telling her she’s got to get a move on if she wants babies, and online dating websites bring up no potential hunnys in the Manningsport area. Tom is just as damaged – cheated on by his fiancée before she died, leaving him in limbo with her son who he now sees when his guardian grandparents allow, but who is harbouring a deep-seated resentment towards Tom, blaming him for his mother’s death. Phew. I thought, surely, with that much heaped on these two characters Higgins would be pulling out all the lovey-dovey stops to counteract all that heavy stuff. Sadly, I never felt like ‘The Perfect Match’ reached any sort of desirable romantic heights.

Tom and Honor come together for a sort of contractual arrangement – he for a green card, she for the potential of marriage and babies. Though these two start out with sparks flying and heat simmering;

“You understand how things are built,” she said. It sounded vaguely dirty.  
“You know how to . . . get things going.” 
His eyes dropped to her mouth. “Mmm-hmm.” 
“You’re good with your hands.” 
He leaned forward. “Are you flirting with me, Miss Holland?” he asked, his voice low.

Tom’s guard goes up when Honor moves into his home and Charlie still proves a battling sullen and sad teenager. Not to mention, Tom already went through the heartache of loving one woman who cheated on him, he’s never thrilled to see Honor light up whenever she sees Brogan.

The thing is, I loved how much of a battle Faith and Levi had before them in ‘The Best Man’ – and Higgins certainly had them conquering their demons. But I don’t think she ever got there with Tom and Honor.

For one thing, the Brogan/Dana storyline drops off far too quickly. Even though it’s set up as the big heartache of Honor’s life, Dana and Brogan and their in-your-face happiness are sporadically mentioned in a few chapters and then hardly at all throughout the rest of the book. But that was a great set-up, I thought, and right up until the end I wanted to know what was happening with that story – especially as Honor’s potentially lingering feelings for Brogan were a concern for Tom.

For another, I think Honor was quite hard done by in this book, and her romance never turned into the sparkly fairytale I thought she deserved after such heartache. At one point, Tom has this to say about her: “She was lovely. She had no idea, did she? Granted, he hadn’t exactly been struck with lightning the first time he’d seen her . . ” and, look, that’s fine. Far be it from me to want all contemporary romance heroines to look like Scarlett Johansson or be the sort of Mary-Sue’s who every male character fall head-over-heels in love with. But after being compared to an old baseball glove, and after reading Tom’s recounting of how he met Charlie’s mother (that was a love-at-first-sight set up, it would seem, since she was absolutely beautiful) I felt really terrible for Honor. When even the guy she ends up with has this to say about her; “But hers were the type of looks that grew on a person.” Maybe it’s far truer, but for all that Honor had been put through I wanted her to have a real Cinderella moment. 

Maybe I also felt that way because I also didn’t think that Tom and Honor ever fell for one another on a more intimate, intellectual level . . . this, I felt, was proven by the slap-dash high-octane ending of the book that throws them together once and for all. 

This book didn’t work for me the same way that ‘The Best Man’ did. Sure, I’ll read the next ‘Blue Heron’ book (this time about Faith and Honor’s friend, bartender Colleen – though I would have appreciated even a little bit of set-up for her book #3). I think I just wanted either a more intimate romance for Tom and Honor, or for Honor to have a real fist-pumping Cinderella moment after the glove simile (seriously that was just . . . brutal).



  1. I read this one first (committed to review it and an emergency trip interstate meant that I didn't get a chance to read The Best Man before) and although I liked the humour I really, REALLY disliked Tom. The darlings, the assholishness .... he was just not what I was expecting from a contemporary romance novel. She took the British stereotype and turned him into a typical prick. However I loved the family so then after this, I read The Best Man when I returned home. So. Much. Better. Hopefully the rest of her books are more slanted towards that one than this one.

    1. I agree. I think all American romance writers who want to include a Brit in their book use Spike from Buffy as the archetype - and while it worked for him to be all condescending and constantly peppering his speech with "love", "crumpet" and "mate" it isn't actually all that endearing to read. 'The Best Man' was a gazillion times better - hopefully she gets back on track, or else this will be one of those series where I enjoy every second book rather than every book.


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