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Heidi Hart

By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general. 

Higgins' Humiliate-Your-Heroine Formula Wears Thin

In Your Dreams (The Blue Heron Series) - Kristan Higgins

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Kristan Higgins' books. Actually, both love and hate are too strong for my feelings. I have a sort of like-meh relationship with these books. Higgins' stories are reliably entertaining, her main characters are generally pretty likeable (though secondary characters are often flat or overly-simplistic), the conflicts are relatable and heartstring-tugging, and the happy-ever-after usually inspires at least a satisfied sigh. However, a lot of things bother me along the way, so that every time I read one of her books (and I always do read them, somehow), I always think that I have better books waiting in my mountainous TBR. I think familiarity keeps bringing me back to Higgins, the way I tend to order the same dish at a favorite restaurant, but then there is always, even amid the pleasure of satisfaction, the niggling thought that if I dared to branch out, I could do so much better.


In Your Dreams is about Jack Holland, the last of the single Holland siblings (previous books in the Blue Heron series have focused on his two older sisters and on Holland family friends) and Emmaline Neal, an officer of the local police department. Both Jack and Emmaline have been unlucky in love: Jack married a batshit crazy southern belle who ran him into debt and then cheated on him during their eight-month long marriage, and Emmaline spent seventeen years with her first love, only to have him leave her for his personal trainer two months before they were supposed to have wed. In addition to these romantic troubles, Jack is also suffering from PTSD after rescuing four teenagers from an icy lake, and Emmaline has self-esteem issues left over from childhood, when her parents sent her off to live with her grandmother and then adopted a new daughter, one who is prettier, smarter, classier, and more socially-adept than Emmaline.


Heroines with low self-esteem is part of the Higgins' Formula, and I wish it weren't. Just about any romantic conflict in the world would be more interesting to me than the he-can't-possibly-want-me-because-he's-perfect-and-I'm-just-me trope. I also don't like that Higgins tends to heap humiliation upon her heroines as a plot device. Here, Emmaline brings Jack as a date to her ex-fiance's wedding (to the trainer he jilted Em for), and as if that scenario were not humiliation enough, Em is subjected to further mortification by the cruelty of her ex, his bride, and an old grade school classmate, the thoughtlessness of her parents, and self-inflicted embarrassment involving bathing suit padding and a bad hair day. These scenes are supposed to be funny, but I don't revel in others' misfortune, so I just find them uncomfortable.


I was most disappointed by the ending, which was abrupt and didn't involve enough groveling. (I'm a big proponent of The Grovel.) Then there was a totally useless and cliched epilogue which you might as well just skip over, in my opinion.