If You Only Knew is a little different from a “typical” Kristan Higgins book, but I liked it. It’s a more serious story than I am used to from this author, more women’s fiction than romance, but her flair for strong characters and exceptional storytelling shines through.
Jenny Tate is a fancy-schmancy wedding dress designer (she worked for Vera Wang! She’s met Tim Gunn!) who’s fairytale marriage ended suddenly (and surprisingly) in divorce. She’s stayed friends with her ex-husband Owen, and his new wife Ana-Sofia might be her current best friend. Jenny desperately wants a family of her own and being near Owen’s new family isn’t good for her, so she decides to move from Manhattan back to her nearby hometown of Cambry-on-Hudson.
Jenny’s sister Rachel is happily married to Adam, or at least she thinks she is. They have young triplet girls, so she stays at home with the girls while Adam works as an attorney. When Rachel finds a crotch shot on Adam’s phone, her world goes into a tailspin. Her parents had a seemingly perfect marriage before her father’s untimely death and Rachel was determined that she would too – now she must decide if she’s willing to work on her marriage to save it, or if it’s even worth saving.
As the sisters deal with their own dramas, and support each other through it all, they both navigate through it wondering if things in life are as straightforward as they appear, what’s important in life, and the importance of surrounding yourself with family and friends who stand by you.
I had a really hard time writing this review. I knew the book was going to be different and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I started reading on Saturday morning and by Saturday night I had finished the entire book. Kristan Higgins writes characters that I can relate to: their insecurities, their social awkwardness, their heartbreak, and their humor. If You Only Knew is no exception. We still get the Kristan Higgins attention to detail, just a little less humor and less focus on the romance. This would fall under women’s fiction instead of romance – the romance is not the focus of the story – it’s more Jenny and Rachel and their separate but concurrent journeys.
But as we read Jenny and Rachel’s stories, Ms. Higgins folds in the story of their parents’ (im)perfect marriage, which somewhat complicates the present, and also Jenny’s landlord, who’s story merges in with Jenny’s story. (Jenny’s new apartment is upstairs from her cantankerous landlord/superintendent, Leo Killian, who also gives piano lessons in his home. Leo’s a hottie, but he’s very firm in his stance that he’s “strictly for recreational purposes” and Jenny’s looking for husband/father material.) I could create a string diagram to show all the connections between the characters in this book and how their stories affect each other.
If You Only Knew is more of a “Happy For Now” than a “Happily Ever After”, and honestly, it’s good just like that. There’s some serious heartbreak, but it is redeemed. Ms. Higgins touches on some difficult subjects (infidelity, alzheimer’s, death, self-doubt) but intersperses it with humor and a cast of wonderful characters. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that although I normally hate kids in books, the triplets were adorable, and Leo’s piano students added to the story. There were a few scenes I kind of rolled my eyes at (I’m looking at you, blind date and fancy dinner party), but they didn’t dim my enjoyment of the book overall.
Fans of Jane Green, Debbie Macomber, and Emilie Richards will definitely want to pick this one up! If you’re already a Kristan Higgans fan, I’m going to recommend this – even though it’s different, it’s still good. Also, if you read and enjoyed Covet by Tracy Garvis-Graves, I think you’ll enjoy If You Only Knew.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
If You Only Knew by Kristan HigginsPublished by Harlequin, HQN on August 25, 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Girls & Women, Love & Romance
Also by this author: The Best Man, The Perfect Match, Waiting on You
Sisterhood in all its drama, hilarity and tears is at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins's thoroughly captivating new novel, featuring the wit and romance that readers have come to expect from the much-loved creator of the Blue Heron series...
Wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate understands the happily-ever-after business, yet somehow she's still involved in her ex-husband's life. In fact, Owen's new wife may—inexplicably—be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this, well, relationship isn't helping her move on, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll be able to bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and hopefully make one of her own.
Her timing couldn't be more perfect, since Rachel will need her younger sister. Her idyllic marriage has just fallen to pieces in spectacular fashion after she discovers her husband sexting with one of his colleagues. Second chances aren't in Rachel's nature, but the desire for an intact family has her rethinking her stance on adultery, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' "perfect" marriage as a shining example, but to protect her sister Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship—and reveal a secret about their family she's been keeping since childhood.
During this summer of secrets and lies, temptation and revelation, Jenny and Rachel will rely on each other to find the humor in their personal catastrophes, the joy in their triumphs…and the strength to keep hanging on.