By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
Kristan Higgins' contemporary romances have been auto-buys for me for a long time, though it's been ages since I really loved one. However, they are always well-written, solidly entertaining, usually humorous, with likeable characters and relateable conflicts. Anything for You is in this same good but not great vein.
Connor has been in love with Jessica since they were 12, when her dog bit his face. Unfortunately, Jessica has always had a lot of issues, some of which have followed her even into adulthood. Her parents were alcoholics, which kept their family dirt poor. Jessica's younger brother has fetal alcohol syndrome, and Jessica has always been the only one reliable enough to take care of him. Back in high school, Jessica slept around with the popular boys in order to get them to help look out for her brother, Davey, so he wouldn't be bullied. It's been almost 15 years since high school, and in all that time she's only ever slept with Connor, but her sullied reputation remains.
Anything for You begins with Jessica turning down Connor's marriage proposal. They've dated on the down low for ten years, but Connor wants to make it real, and Jessica doesn't want anything to change. Their on-again/off-again "friends-with-benefits" arrangement doesn't work for Connor anymore, and so when Jess turns him down, they split up. Connor briefly tries playing the field, but quickly comes to the realization that he doesn't want to be with anyone else, so he has to find a way to convince Jessica that she can have the white-picket-fence life he's offering.
Therein lay my problem with the book. I felt for Jessica, even as the whole story is set up that she's the one who needs to change, to come around to Connor's way of thinking. While reading, I'd get frustrated with Jessica's tendency to run hot-and-cold on Connor, to reject him when things get rough, to blow off his heartfelt proposal, and to get mad when he tries to win her over by winning over her brother, Davey. The reader is supposed to feel, and does, like Jessica's being unreasonable in not giving Connor a chance.
Stepping out of that romance-reader mindset where the ultimate goal is happily ever after, though, when I think about this book with a more liberal, feminist perspective, I'm more skeptical. Why should Jessica have to change? She's been saving to buy her own house for her whole life; why should she give up that dream just because Connor already has a house? Yes, their ten-year arrangement of sneaking around together is untenable, and something has to change, but is Connor's proposal of marriage and happy-ever-after in his house with the white picket fence really the only option?
In the end, I was happy enough with where the story ended up, but I was uncomfortable during the journey, because Jessica was being pushed into the marriage-and-picket-fence-lifestyle that is not necessarily right for her. I was not happy with the epilogue, but I often think books are better without that schmaltzy scene tacked on at the end.