On Second Thought
By Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Kate’s half-sister Ainsley once had a successful career in television, but it evaporated amid a scandal. Currently, she works for a regional magazine where her abilities are underutilized. Ainsley believes that Eric Fisher, her boyfriend of eleven years, is on the verge of asking her to marry him. She has been in love with him since they were college students, she supported him through his battle with testicular cancer, and she enjoys a close, loving relationship with his parents. It is at a party celebrating Eric’s being declared cancer-free that Nathan’s accident occurs.
Kate and Ainsley have never had a close relationship, but Ainsley is at her sister’s side during the days after Nathan’s death. When shortly afterwards, Eric dumps Ainsley in a very public, humiliating manner, Kate opens her home to her sister. Both women are devastated by their losses, but as they deal with the changes in their lives, they grow as individuals and as sisters, sharing their lives as they never did growing up and discovering the jealousies and misperceptions that limited their relationship.
Both sisters discover they are stronger than they knew. Even broken hearts heal, and love can be found in unexpected ways. Kate finds a friend in a familiar face from her old Brooklyn neighborhood. Daniel Breton, aka Daniel the Hot Firefighter, proves that he is more than a pretty face and a swoon-inducing body. Jonathan Kent, Ainsley’s grumpy boss, proves that he is more than a wealthy magazine publisher and professional grouch.
Higgins returns to Cambry-on-Hudson, the setting of her earlier foray into women’s fiction, If You Only Knew (2015), for another tale of two sisters and their relationship with each other, with family members, and with the men in their lives. Although setting is the primary link between the two books, fans of the earlier book will doubtless be pleased to see Jenny and Leo make an appearance in this one.
The talented Higgins is at her best as she alternates point of view between Kate and Ainsley, allowing readers to understand these flawed, likable, complex characters. Fans of Higgins know that she is among the best at combining the funny and the poignant, sometimes in the same scene, and she does exactly that with great skill in this book. The wake scene is superb. Higgins captures the sense of unreality, the double-consciousness of being part of the experience but feeling as if you are also observing it, and the minutiae that intrude amid the shattering pain. Any woman who has ever worn Spanx will sympathize with Kate’s need to escape the receiving line with its endless parade of mourners to find a bathroom and get the rolled-up Spanx positioned properly.
Those who have known loss will understand the painful accuracy of these later observations:
It was funny how time is measured after you’ve lost someone. Everything relates back to that second your life swerved. The calendar isn’t measured by the names of the months or seasons anymore, but by those significant dates.”
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And every day takes you further from the time he was alive, slicing you with the razor-sharp realization that these days would never be celebrated again. . . . All those dates that held no meaning for anyone on the outside, but were slashed into the hearts of those of us who’d been left behind.
But On Second Thought is not just a book about grief. It is also about surviving and growing and loving. While I give it my highest, most enthusiastic recommendation, I also caution romance readers that this is women’s fiction, not romance. The romantic element is strong, but it is the relationship between the sisters and their individual journeys to self-knowledge and self-acceptance that is the core of the novel. If you like books that evoke a giggle one moment and leave you wiping away a tear the next, I think you will enjoy this book as much as I did. I loved it! It prompted me to start my Best of 2017 list and to hope I don’t have to wait long for the next great read from Kristan Higgins.