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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. 

Funny, but Too Busy

The Best Man - Kristan Higgins

There is a lot--probably too much--going on in this book. The main plot involves Faith (who returns to her hometown in upstate NY three years after her high school sweetheart, Jeremy, jilted her by coming out of the closet on their wedding day) and Levi (Jeremy's best friend and best man at the ill-fated wedding, who served four tours of duty in Afghanistan and is now the chief of police in their adorable small town). The minor plots include (in no particular order, and probably I'm leaving some out): 1) Faith working out her grief and guilt over her mother's death when Faith was twelve, 2) a tacky, big-breasted gold-digger who is trying to ingratiate herself with Faith's father, 3) Faith's oldest sister trying to spice up her sex life after 22 years of marriage, 4) Faith's next-older sister's inexplicably prickly relationship with Faith, 5) Faith planning a 65th anniversary party for her grandparents, who perhaps should not have married in the first place, 6) Faith's professional projects (she's a landscape architect), both in her hometown and in San Francisco, 7) Faith's epilepsy, which make her prone to having grand mal seizures at inopportune moments, 8) Faith's efforts to set her father up with someone other than the tacky gold-digger, 9) Levi's lingering grief over the recent death of his mother, 10) Levi's lingering grief over the demise of his very-brief first marriage, 11) Levi's care-taking relationship with his sister, a homesick college freshman, 12) Levi's daddy issues stemming from the fact that his dad, who was absent throughout Levi's childhood, now lives in the next town over with a new wife and two small kids, 13) Levi's professional projects (as the police chief, he's always getting called away to car crashes and break ins and so on), 14) Levi's trouble sleeping after being in a war, and how he copes. All of which is much too much for a standard-length romance novel, and the book probably would have been better, more focused, if Higgins had left at least half of these distractions out of the plot.

 

Moreover, peeling some of the unnecessary subplots from the story reveals that the romance between Faith and Levi is really pretty thin. For most of their lives, Levi has appeared not to like Faith. She notes that he looks at her with a 10-point scale of boredom, where 1 is "Oh, it's you," 10 is "You're invisible," and 8 is "Really? You're still here?" (Loc 1446, Page 111). Part of this is Levi's alpha-male emotional constipation, but even so, it's not clear what about Faith ultimately wins over his long standing antipathy. (Except, perhaps, her oft-mentioned "mighty rack.")

 

Emotional constipation aside, Levi is capable of incredible sweetness: he battles insomnia by baking cookies for his sister, and he uses his cop skills to recreate the accident that killed Faith's mother in order to convince Faith that the crash was not her fault. Even so, his initial antipathy toward Faith was so pronounced and so real that I found it a little too precious when we learn that he's always liked her, even back before she was his best friend's girl.

 

Even though I don't really buy into Faith and Levi as a couple, I was able to stay in the fantasy and enjoy the story, parts of which are delightfully funny. I do have to mention one revoltingly unfunny thing, which really soured my reading pleasure: there is one moment (relevant to one of the subplots which should just have been left out of the story entirely) of flagrant and unnecessary transphobia, meant to be funny, but is just isn't. Because it's a fleeting and very minor incident, I didn't throw the book at the wall and quit reading then and there, but for a moment, I was tempted.