If You Only Knew By Kristan Higgins

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Kristan Higgins is The New York Times best-selling author of more than a dozen novels and is a two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages. Kristan lives with her husband and two children in her hometown in Connecticut.

In this recent novel by Kristan Higgins, the bond of sisterhood is threatened when two sisters are forced to make difficult decisions about the men in their lives.

Jenny Tate is a wedding dress designer who can’t seem to get away from her ex-husband. She thought she had a good marriage with Dr. Owen Takahashi, a plastic surgeon with a social conscience, so it came as a shock when he calmly told her he no longer wanted to be married. She agreed to a divorce and quietly moved out of their New York City apartment. A few months later, Owen has married the beautiful Ana-Sofia and a baby girl is on the way, but he still calls Jenny several times a week to chat. “Being Owen’s ex-wife is still better than any relationship I’ve ever had,” admits Jenny, “except when I was his actual wife.”

Ana-Sofia considers Jenny to be a close friend and invites her to the baby shower, which is especially painful since Jenny had been desperate to have children with Owen. She finally is kicked into action and decides to move back to Cambry-on-Hudson, the small town in upstate New York where she grew up and where her beloved sister, Rachel, lives with her family. She decides that if she can’t have children of her own, she can at least be more involved in the lives of Charlotte, Rose and Grace, Rachel’s adorable toddler triplets,

Jenny prepares to open her own custom bridal shop named Bliss and finds a charming apartment in an older duplex. The apartment is managed by Leo, a talented pianist who gives music lessons to adults and children. Leo’s good looks and sense of humor start wedding bells pealing in Jenny’s head. Calling it an occupational hazard for those in the bridal industry, Jenny frequently fantasizes about finding her perfect mate. Leo, however, seems to have commitment issues and alternates between showing Jenny affection and keeping her at a distance.

As Jenny starts building her new business, Rachel finds herself in the midst of a marital crisis after intercepting a suggestive text message on her husband’s phone. She couldn’t believe her good fortune when Adam, her handsome and successful lawyer husband, showed an interest in her and proposed. After years of trying to start a family, the couple was blessed with triplets. Although Rachel’s days are exhausting, taking care of her children and managing the family home are all the career she ever wanted. Now, the perfect life she’s built for her family threatens to come crashing down when she begins to suspect that Adam is unfaithful. As Jenny starts a new life, Rachel wonders if it’s possible to pick up the pieces and move on with hers.

Rachel’s and Jenny’s mother lives in a nearby town, but she is not much help when it comes to emotional support. For the past two decades, she has devoted her life to the memory of her deceased husband. She remembers her marriage as perfect and never tires of comparing it to other marriages. Jenny loved her father, but she knows a secret about him that could change forever the way her mother and Rachel feel about him. She’d like to see her mother put the past to rest and enjoy the present, but she wonders if divulging her secret will help her mother accept. She also wonders if it would help Rachel to see that not all happy marriages are perfect marriages.
The two sisters alternate as narrators throughout the book. Jenny’s chapters are funny and quirky as she describes the excitement of building her new business and getting to know Leo, who appears to be hiding a mysterious past. Rachel’s voice is more introspective and at times insecure as she faces the difficult decision of whether to stay married or break up her family. Readers may find themselves identifying with one sister more than the other, but both narratives offers laughter, heartbreak and plenty of suspense.

Author Kristan Higgins has built a solid reputation has a romance writer and If You Only Knew is her first foray into the women’s fiction genre. The budding romance between Jenny and Leo is one of the most fun parts of the story, but there is also a full cast of characters with varying hopes, dreams and aspirations. One of Jenny’s more unconventional clients is a punk rock bride-to-be who’s trying to please her conservative future mother-in-law. The drama that builds around the design of her wedding gown makes us eager for the final reveal. There’s also a young piano prodigy from the wrong side of the tracks, a student of Leo’s, who could have a brilliant future given the right opportunities. These and other narrative threads are woven to create a story that sparkles with wit, intelligence and a large dose of romance. HLM