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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. 

Ugly Duckling Trope Falls Flat

Until There Was You - Kristan Higgins

I didn't feel the romance in this book. Posey is a Plain Jane/ugly duckling who has had a crush on Liam her whole life, despite the fact that he's always ignored her and ruined her prom by calling her a terrible name. She's got an interesting job (architectural salvage) and a successful business, but serious self-esteem issues. Plus, she loves Neil Diamond and "swears" by saying "Oh, Beiber" or "Holy Elvis Presley." (Excuse me, I think I might be sick.) I empathize with her, but she's a total doormat, and that got old really fast. Liam is reeling from the death of his wife/high school sweetheart, who left him to raise their teenage daughter, Nicole, alone. His anxiety that something will happen to him and leave Nicole orphaned has reached pathological levels, in that he exhibits symptoms of OCD, suffers panic attacks, and is way too overprotective of Nicole. He gets involved with Posey but isn't ready to commit, which leads to him treating her even more badly in the present than he did back in high school... and mostly, she puts up with it. Snore.

 

Usually Kristan Higgins's books are populated with a large and humorous cast of supporting characters, who can be counted upon for humor even when the romance between the main characters feels a little flat. Here, the supporting characters were there, but they aren't funny or even that interesting; in fact, most of them are kind of tragic. There are Posey's adoptive parents, who run a restaurant and profess to love Posey, but are always trying to set Posey's secret boyfriend (Liam) up with someone else. There is her cousin Gretchen, who is The Bitch (most Higgins stories have a female villain whose role it is to humiliate and belittle the heroine--which is actually something I really hate about the Higgins formula, now that I think about it). There is her brother Henry and his partner, Jon, who were about the only supporting characters who actually "support" Posey in any real way. There was Posey's best friend, Kate, who is just sort of weird and seems to have a really unhealthy, unfunny relationship with her pre-teen son. There were Posey's employees, one of whom doesn't speak and one of whom is in her late twenties but upspeaks (makes everything sound like a question?) like a 1990s Valley Girl. There were others, but they were forgettable.