Thursday, July 11, 2024

One Old, One New - Kristan Higgins

One Old, One New features two books – one old, one new, which are connected in some way. Today I am featuring two books by Kristan Higgins.

Look on the Bright Side
 by Kristan Higgins
Published by Berkley on May 28, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

From the author of Pack Up the Moon comes a funny, romantic, and deeply moving novel about the unexpected rewards that come from life’s detours.

Lark Smith has always had a plan for her life: find a fantastic guy, create a marriage as blissful as her parents’, pop out a couple of kids and build a rewarding career as an oncologist.

Things aren’t going so well.

For one, the guy didn’t work out. Theoretically, she’d love to find someone else, but it hasn’t happened. Two, she’s just been transferred out of oncology for being too emotional. (Is it her fault she’s a weeper?) Three, her parents just split up.

Deviating from the plan was…well, not in the plan. A potential solution comes from the foul-tempered and renowned surgeon Lorenzo Santini (aka Dr. Satan). He needs a date this summer for his sister’s wedding. His ancient Noni wants to see him settled. In exchange, he could make a few introductions and maybe get Lark back into the field of her choice.

As a sucker for old people and fake relationships, Lark agrees. Teeny problem—she instantly falls for his big, warm family. Especially his estranged brother.

Meanwhile, Lark’s mom has moved in with Lark’s flamboyant landlady, Joy, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. The three women have a long summer and a big beautiful house on the ocean to figure out what’s next…and quite possibly learn that the best things in life aren’t planned at all.

Confession - I did not read the synopsis before starting this audiobook. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was back in the world of the Smith Family. I have to admit, as with A Little Ray of Sunshine, I didn't quite understand the additional points of view, though I did enjoy their stories.

The main focus of this book was Lark. She was still reeling from the loss of her fiancee. They shared a long and beautiful love story that was unfortunately cut short. Let me tell you, the tears I cried were on the level of Pack Up the Moon, but Higgins interspersed that pain with lots of warmth and humor.

One source of those feelings was the fake dating plot. The interactions between Lark and Lorenzo and the way she (man) handled him were fantastic. These scenes never failed to make me laugh. I also adored the Santini family (well, maybe not Nonna). They embraced Lark as one of their own and really lifted her spirits as she struggled at this crossroads in her life.

The Smith family was just as wonderful though the rift between mom and dad stressed me out. I think the relationship between Joy and Ellie helped me with that subplot. Joy was a piece of work. One might have thought she was just some uppity rich lady, but beneath the make up and fancy clothes was a lonely woman who bore the scares of her past. I loved that her story led not only to a wonderful female friendship with Ellie but to also finding a better way than shopping and plastic surgery to fill her life.

I adore stories about human connection, and Higgins worked these connects in so many lovely ways. I especially liked one she wrote for Lark. It was so special, but that's all I am saying. What can I say, I laughed, I cried, I felt happiness and joy for everyone involved. The epilogue was stupendous, and I hope baby brother gets a book. It would be a thrill to see him and his lady love get their HEA.

A Little Ray of Sunshine
 by Kristan Higgins
Published by Berkley on June 6, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

An emotional and heart-warming novel from the bestselling author of TikTok sensation Pack up the Moon.

'A raw and genuine look at motherhood, A Little Ray of Sunshine is a lovely ode to love in all of its many forms, family lost and found' Ashley Poston, author of The Dead Romantics

A kid walks into your bookstore and... guess what? He's your son. The one you put up for adoption eighteen years ago. The one you never told anyone about. Surprise!

And a huge surprise it is.

It's a huge surprise to his adoptive mother, Monica, who thought she had a close relationship with Matthew, her nearly adult son. Until he secretly arranged a vacation to Cape Cod so he could meet his birth mother... without a word to her.

It's also a surprise to Harlow, the woman who secretly placed him for adoption so many years ago. She has built a quiet life, running a bookstore with her grandfather, and is happily single... though she can't help gravitating toward Grady Byrne, an old friend who has moved back to town, three-year-old daughter in tow, and no wife in the picture.

When Matthew walks into Harlow's store, she faints. Monica panics. And all their assumptions about what being a parent really means explode...

This summer will be full of more surprises as both their families are redefined...and as both women learn that for them, there's no limit to a mother's love.

I experienced so many emotions as I read this book. At 21, I found myself in a similar position as Harlow. Though I kept my child, I remember the deluge of emotions that I had to deal with, and Higgins did an incredible job capturing and conveying those feelings of loss and guilt and pain. I feel like Harlow punished herself for too long though, so I was overjoyed at the end of this book even if I found myself frustrated with her at times.

There were so many lovely characters in this book, too. Luna, Grady, Oliver, Robbie, and Grandpa were definite favorites while Higgins gave me some villains to hate as well. A few redeemed themselves while some never changed. The Smith family were something special, and I am adding them to my favorite fictional family list. I enjoyed every meal and interaction I shared with them, and also the way they immediately welcomed Matthew to their family. The entire situation could have played out in a very different way. 

There were two subplots that I thought we could have done without. I guess they were there for some contrast to Harlow's situation with the adoption and parenting. I just didn't think they were that important. Though, Cynthia's storyline grew on me.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this story. It really touched my heart and had me feeling all the feels.

Lobster or Crab?
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  1. Glad you enjoyed both of these. They look like great summer reads.

    1. Thank you! I am pretty sure Higgins is well known as a queen of the beach reads.

  2. Damn that Little Ray of Sunshine seems indeed a very emotional book! I will certainly try that author now!

    1. Both were emotional for different reasons. Higgins always seems to bring me to tears.