Lucy Lang’s life is not going to plan. Rocked by the death of her beloved husband Jimmy, she’s veered off the fast track to a promising career as a patissiere and fallen into the bosom of her boisterous mother and aunts- all widows themselves. Baking bread for her family’s business isn’t much of a life, but at least it fits in with Lucy’s erratic sleep schedule – a bi-product of her grief.
Ethan Mirabelli was the only person Lucy could bare to be around after the accident. As Jimmy’s younger brother, he understood her pain and always seemed to know the right things to do and say. Now, years later, she’s looking for another shot at having a family –all she has to do is stop sleeping with Ethan and find a husband. She’s looking for someone decent, who’s not too good looking and who she won’t fall in love with. After all, who could compete with Jimmy in her heart?
The Next Best Thing is less of a romance than many of Higgins’ other works. It’s more about a woman picking up the pieces of her life after suffering an awful tragedy. She’s sick of being pitied, but with a mile long list of neuroses, it’s easy to understand why her family and friends treat her with kid gloves.
As always, I enjoyed Higgins’ trademark animal sidekick. Fat Mikey didn’t have much to do with the narrative, but I liked his grumpy personality and the fact that he had been a gift from Ethan.
I loved that Lucy was a baker – I’m a baker myself, and I always love a heroine I can relate to. Word to the wise though; putting a hot loaf in a bread slicer is a recipe for disaster (Silly Lucy). For a similar reason – familiarity – I so enjoyed Higgins’ description of what I like to call Italian-isms. I could picture my own Nonno every time she mentions ‘Italian sign language’.
He sighs, looks at the floor and folds his arms, Italian sign language for we got a situation here.
Higgins seems to have quite a knack for creating believable and heart-warming family dynamics in her work, and The Next Best Thing is no different. As with her earlier book Just One of the Guys, ethnicity has a lot to do with this. Readers are given a taste of both an Italian and a Hungarian family, and it’s clear to see that both cultures have a predilection with family – something the author shares.
The only problem I had with this story would be that it seemed overly drawn out in the middle. I could have done with a less lengthy depiction of Lucy’s angst, and to the same effect. Admittedly, this may be by design – allowing for a more believable epiphany moment at the end.
The Next Best Thing wasn’t my favorite Kristan Higgins book. I’d advise starting on one of her other books – perhaps The Best Man or Too Good to Be True. Although I did enjoy this book, I’d hate readers to judge the entirety of Higgins’ work on this sample and not read her others.