Saturday, January 21, 2012

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

You never know what lurks in the shadows of an e-reader. Apparently a little while ago, I downloaded Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins, one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. I guess real life got in the way at the time and I didn’t get to it. Let me assure you, folks, had I known what I was missing, I would have cracked it open the minute it landed on my Kindle.

Cordelia Osterhagen, known to all as Posey, runs a salvage company, lives in an old church, owns three cats, a Great Dane and has been in love with one person since freshman year in high school. While her looks may have set her apart from her unusual but loving adoptive parents, her childhood was relatively normal and happy. That is until high school. Scrawny awkwardness doesn’t win teen popularity contests and Posey, given a choice between being the cool kids’ running joke or becoming invisible, chooses the latter and hopes no one notices.  Her plan to stay firmly on the fringe stays on course, even when the new, cool, straight out of juvenile detention kid in school takes a part time job in her parent’s kitschy German themed restaurant. Liam Declan Murphy is distant but cordial to Posey and this small amount of neutral attention thrown her way develops into a powerful one-sided teenaged crush. Posey painstakingly nurses her devotion to Liam – in fact, her entire existence revolves around him, even after he falls hard for another girl. But when Liam acts the bad boy toward Posey, proving he’s no different than any of the others at school, she is devastated. But she picks herself up and moves on, a little older in spirit and perhaps now a little wiser …

The decision to return to Bellsford, New Hampshire from San Diego isn’t an easy one for Liam, but as a widower, it seems the right decision to make for his teenaged daughter. The move will give her the chance to be closer to his late wife’s family. And being back will hopefully help him move past the painful, sometimes debilitating memories of his high school sweetheart’s death.  Liam is not surprised to find things haven’t changed very much. Guten Tag, the Osterhagen’s restaurant where he worked as a kid, is pretty much the same as is Cordelia (as he always called her). She’s still skinny, and still quirky. But as the weeks go by, he finds himself spending more and more time in her company – and surprisingly, enjoying it just a little too much… 

I’m a huge fan of all of Ms. Higgins’ work, but it’s the characters in this story that make it my favorite of hers. Both Posey and Liam are very unusual, Posey more for her looks than anything else. She is by far not a beauty, as the physical comparisons between her and her robust adoptive mother and cousin make obvious. But Posey’s personality is what makes her beautiful. At first Ms. Higgins administers only small doses of her character’s potential. But the fun is in watching Posey grow into herself, to finally fit into her huge personality – to be comfortable in her own skin.  Liam captured me in an entirely different way.  Appalled by his actions as a teen-aged boy, I was completely captivated by his behavior as a man. The author gives Liam touching humanity as the single father of a fifteen-year old daughter. The irony of this responsibility should not be lost on the reader as it is definitely not lost on Liam. And his struggles with OCD, panic attacks and general anxiety regarding his daughter's well being make this former bad boy motorcycle mechanic one of my favorite male protagonists.

As usual, Ms. Higgins scores huge. Until There Was You is most assuredly different and definitely divine. It's also very highly recommended. 

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