If my record keeping is correct, NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT is my first Kristan Higgins book. Fellow Nerd, Hope is a big fan and she is no pushover so, when this one came across my desk, I heard Hope’s voice in my head and picked it up. Higgins is known for her Women’s Fiction and this one definitely has that feel, but it ventures into the contemporary romance genre with the addition of some romance, some off page sex and of course, our favorite, an HEA. Let’s talk about our heroine, Nora and her journey.
Nora Stuart is from a small Maine island. That right there should tell you a lot. This isn’t just a small town, it’s a small island, escaping the toughness of small-town life is depressingly difficult. Like her Mom, Nora is beyond capable and sees an academic scholarship as her ticket to freedom. See, Nora’s young life was not just tough because of the unforgiving Maine weather, she was the kid everyone bullied in school. For her, overweight, acne-prone but exceptionally smart, nothing about her childhood was easy. Her Dad left when she was young, the bullies were relentless and her Mom, well, she’s a good woman but not the most motherly and affectionate of folks. Nora recognizes the golden ticket that is this scholarship to Tufts University and she grabs it, with both hands. Tragedy strikes the boy she was up against for the scholarship and small-town judgemental pitchforks immediately point her way. Needless to say, Nora gets the hell out of dodge and doesn’t look back…for 15 years.
Once at Tufts, Nora spreads her wings. Away from the pressures of home, she finds her groove and embraces it. Scratch that, she doesn’t just embrace it, she sheds her past and grows into the smart, confident Doctor, we all knew she could be. Once settled and on her way, a series of extremely tragic incidents happen. The first is referred to as her Big Bad Event. This is where I should tell you, NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT hits on several hot-button topics. From eating disorders to brutal physical assaults, Higgins leaves no stone unturned and has a special ability to place you, front and center, in the horrible scenes. Now, Nora is a fabulous heroine. As I mentioned, she’s smart and strong like her Mom. Even though Nora experiences some incredibly terrible situations, she is nobody’s victim. Yes, she has a vulnerable side and reacts appropriately but she has a good head on her shoulders. Nora is a very likable character throughout the entire book, even when and maybe especially when, she doesn’t like herself so much. I found her to be exceptionally relatable. After her second terrible event, she heads home to Scupper Island to recover. We all know you can’t always go home but dang it, sometimes you just need your Mom, even if she’s not warm and fuzzy.
Back on the island, Nora encounters a plethora of ghosts of Christmases past. Some better, some good, and some, sadly, never change. Higgins is popular for giving us richly detailed secondary characters. She does not let you down in this regard. From Nora’s moody, blue-haired teenage niece to the colorful ferry driver, each secondary character is a story in and of itself. Confronting her past, coming to terms with the things she can’t change, and embracing the beautiful opportunities presented to her, in a town she swore she’d never call home again…well, it just makes for a great story. NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT is perfectly paced. Nora’s journey to redemption, and mind you, she only needed redemption in her own eyes, is wonderfully explored. The reality is, life isn’t easy. No one is promised an easy go of things, you have to make your way. The ups and downs of getting on with living flows so easily in this story, you’ll fly through the pages. Her unexpected love interest, if you could see me right now, I’m giving the old chef’s kiss with my fingers. I love it. I love how it wasn’t rushed, I love how it didn’t really work at first, I love how good he is, all the time. I just love it, finally, Nora finds a man worthy of her love and lucky for us, the angst surrounding that revelation is nonexistent. Higgins takes a huge cast and somehow, effortlessly weaves a story that entwines different stories into each other while still keeping our eye on Nora’s journey. I mean, a lot happens, a whole lot happens along the way, more than one would think possible on such a small island! But, Higgins gets us there and for the reader, just like Nora, the reward is sweet.
I enjoyed this book so much. For me, I’m pleased to say, I think it busted the 3+ month long reading slump life has provided me. Because of Nora’s story, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get back to reading, so thank you Kristan Higgins, for that. Not having a desire to read is a scary prospect for a book blogger!
Smooches,Tags: 4.5 stars, Contemporary, Kristan Higgins, scandal, standalone, women's fiction