Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “This is so good. Thanks for making me shower.”
On the heels of Higgins’ entertaining and thought-provoking If You Only Knew, Higgins revisits her sleepy little town of Cambry-on-Hudson, New York in On Second Thought. Using the dysfunctional O’Leary family and the timeless topics of love, loss, family, and second chances, Higgins builds a story on the relationship between two half sisters who, despite their murky history, find themselves growing closer as they bond over their mutual losses and unknown future.
Kate O’Leary wasn’t looking for love when she met her husband. At 39 years old, Kate played the dating game for years only to discover as she got older being single wasn’t a death sentence. She meets her husband Nathan while photographing a wedding and after a brief courtship, they marry. Four months later, Nathan dies in a tragic accident. Kate is utterly shocked by how fast she found and lost at love and now is unsure where to go from here.
Ainsley O’Leary has been with her boyfriend, Eric Fisher, for eleven years. She has loved and cared for him through the good and bad times and fully expects him to finally pop the question at a party they are throwing to celebrate his being cancer free for 18 months. After her brother in law’s accident, she is stunned when Eric uses Nathan’s death as an excuse to move on. Without her.
Lost and homeless, Ainsley moves in with Kate and attempts to help her cope with losing Nathan while trying to understand herself how the man she loved for so long could toss her away like trash. As Ainsley and Kate both stagger through the stages of grief in their own way, they learn more about themselves, each other, and the people around them.
I have been a fan of Kristan Higgins’ writing for years. Her entertainingly flawed characters, small town eccentricity, complicated romances, and underlying base of realism provides a wonderful sense of escapism for those who enjoy a hearty laugh as they watch these characters navigate the pitfalls of love as they struggle to find their footing in the world. I like this new direction that Higgins’ is taking in her writing though I can’t place it firmly in one genre or the other. Higgins’ focus on Kate and Ainsley’s life learning journey together into the next period of their lives harkens to women’s fiction while the various romances that decorate the story are a nod to the contemporary. Either way you choose to view this story, it is a must read for all fans.
Alternating the narrative between Kate and Ainsley, we flash between the past and the present, gaining insight not only into their personal lives but also the relationships they have cultivated along the way. It’s interesting to see certain scenes from both perspectives and the different ways they chose to respond. Both have adopted certain coping mechanisms as adults in response to their chaotic childhood; Kate is somewhat reserved, using her camera as a shield while Ainsley is a people person who chooses to be as indispensable as she can in order to prove her worth.
Higgins layers Kate and Ainsley’s feelings with plenty of laughter, sorrow, pain, and honesty. You can feel the range of emotions these women are experiencing and share with them every step of the way. Kate is furious at Nathan for dying so suddenly and feels guilty for that anger. She’s not only mourning the loss of his life but also the loss of her own. She gave up almost everything tangible in order to be with him and now he’s left her alone in a life she only felt a part of because of him. She struggles to stay connected with his family only to realize that grief is the only thing they have left in common.
Ainsley’s is not only mourning the loss of her lover but also her relationship with his parents. Her own mother died young and she was raised by Kate’s mom and her dad. Her father was not around much due to his job, her siblings were much older, and she always felt like a burden to her stepmother so Eric’s parents became the family she always wanted. She is angry at all the time she invested into the relationship, the things she took for granted, but mostly with Eric’s careless treatment of her. He broke it off with no warning and then blogged about it for the whole world to see. She was humiliated and hurt by his actions.
Kate and Ainsley’s journey is bolstered by a strong and vibrant cast of secondary characters contributes their own stories, adding the necessary pieces to the puzzle until the full picture evolves. We meet friends, bosses, exes, and family members in casual, seeming innocuous settings only to be shown later their impact and how much the past can affect our futures. I loved meeting the people who had a hand in creating the women Kate and Ainsley are today and I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces from If You Only Knew.
Once again Higgins’ thoroughly entertains and delights while tugging at your heartstrings as she invites readers to share in her latest release, On Second Thought.
** I have a brand new print copy(arc) of this book to giveaway. Leave a comment and I’ll pick a random commenter on Wednesday.