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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A+ rating....
My Review:
Confession....this book is a re-read for me. I discovered Kristan Higgins books way early in her career. I'm thinking she only had 2-3 books out when I read her the first time. I love every single one of her books, but this one is definitely at the top of her releases list for me. As a result, when I saw it on one of my review lists because of the...
Published 16 months ago by Smitten with Reading

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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars couldn't put it down, but definitely not my favorite
I have a love-hate relationship with Kristan Higgins. I've read them all, and I'm sure I'll continue to read anything she writes in the future. But. There's always a "but," different for each book. The last one, "Too Good to be True," was definitely her best so far, so I had high hopes for "The Next Best Thing." And it does have a lot going for it. For one thing, I...
Published on February 10, 2010 by Toledo


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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars couldn't put it down, but definitely not my favorite, February 10, 2010
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This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
I have a love-hate relationship with Kristan Higgins. I've read them all, and I'm sure I'll continue to read anything she writes in the future. But. There's always a "but," different for each book. The last one, "Too Good to be True," was definitely her best so far, so I had high hopes for "The Next Best Thing." And it does have a lot going for it. For one thing, I couldn't put it down. I read it in a day. The characters are compelling, and the idea of getting over a marriage that seemed perfect is heartwrenching. But. :-)

The quick summary: Lucy's marriage to Jimmy, the love her of her life, ended after just eight months when he was killed in a car accident. Five years later, when her sister has a baby, she decides she's ready to re-enter the dating scene because she wants children of her own. This involves breaking off her "friends with benefits" arrangement with Ethan, Jimmy's brother, who has been her rock and best friend for years. I confess I've never suffered through the death of a husband, so maybe I'm not the best judge here, but Lucy's utter devotion to her dead spouse FIVE YEARS LATER seemed overdone to me. I could completely sympathize with her reluctance to begin dating again, and her inability to visit his grave rang true. But two-thirds of the way through the book, she is still breaking down into broken-hearted sobs on almost a daily basis. She is unable to have the simplest experience with another man without comparing it to the wonder that was her marriage with Jimmy. She still watches their wedding video so often that she leaves it in the DVD player. She just seemed pathetic to me. I skimmed through about a third of the book, partly because it didn't seem believable, but mainly because I felt so sorry for Ethan.

And as others have said, it's hard to understand Ethan, anyway, because he never really gets to have his say. He's a very likable, nice guy, and I thought it was a nice change for a romantic hero that he wasn't drop-dead gorgeous, just a nice looking guy. But as far as we know, other than a two-month affair with Parker (who ends up being Lucy's best friend), he hasn't ever had another girlfriend in the eight or so years he's known Lucy. Which seemed a little unbelievable. And what was the deal with the whole town letting her win her softball games because they felt sorry for her? Sure, the season after Jimmy's death, that would be sweet. But five years later, it's insulting. The more I thought about all the little details after I put the book down, the less sense I could make of it.

It does have a good ending. Lucy finally learns to be a little more realistic about her first marriage and comes to truly value Ethan. But the whole thing would have worked better for me if it had been three years since Jimmy's death instead of five. Or if it needed to be five years, if Lucy wasn't still so hung up on him. It's a great read if you're spending a day on airplanes and in airports, but not much more than that. In fact, if you haven't read "Too good to be True," just skip this one and read that instead.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A+ rating...., August 27, 2013
My Review:
Confession....this book is a re-read for me. I discovered Kristan Higgins books way early in her career. I'm thinking she only had 2-3 books out when I read her the first time. I love every single one of her books, but this one is definitely at the top of her releases list for me. As a result, when I saw it on one of my review lists because of the re-release, I jumped at the chance to do a re-read, especially since I never wrote a proper review for it the first time around.

This book is about Lucy and Ethan. They've been best friends ever since they met at culinary college. In fact, it was Ethan who introduced her to the love of her life, Jimmy, Ethan's older brother. BUT, the women in Lucy's family are cursed....they are all widows because their husbands died young. Lucy didn't escape that curse and her husband, Jimmy, died only 8 months after they were married in a car accident. She's mourned him in the 5 1/2 years since...and Ethan has been there every step of the way, supporting her and providing her with a friends with benefits relationship the last couple of years.

But when Lucy's sister has a baby, things change for Lucy. She wants a husband and family...she just needs that husband to be someone that she won't fall desperately in love with because she can't go through the heartache of loss again. That rules Ethan out...first of all, he is Jimmy's brother. No one would understand, but second of all, she could really fall in love with him if she allowed herself to, but she's just not willing to risk it. So she calls off their arrangement. She can't find another man and still have sex with Ethan. But Ethan is hiding things from her.

The book is told entirely from Lucy's POV and she honestly doesn't really see Ethan. Well, she does, but she is in denial and refuses to see him and how deep his feelings really are for her. As a reader, there are moments in this book that you just want to shake Lucy. Ethan is so absolutely perfect for her and she's destroying herself by trying to stay away from him. It's heartbreaking. She thinks she's saving herself in the long run, but she's just making it hurt all that much more. She's so focused on the love that she had for Jimmy, that she doesn't see the feelings she has right in front of her. And the glimpses you see of Ethan's pain are just shattering.

But this is a Kristan Higgins book which means that even among the heartache are tons of laughs and giggles. Seriously, I love the way that she writes her books. They are absolutely full of angst, but her heroines are real women with all the self-depricating, roll your eyes antics that keep you giggling all the way through the tears. This book is absolutely one of my favorites of hers. Ethan adores Lucy, but he's not willing to let her trample his heart to have her and I loved that about him. Everything Lucy is doing is killing him just as much as it is her, but he's stood by her for years. He's reached his limit for pain. I loved him and how much he loved her, but even more, for how much he loved and respected himself. When Lucy can't step up, he steps away and it's brutal, but right.

It's a fabulous book and I HIGHLY recommend it. It also sets up for Parker's story who absolutely has my top pick for Kristan Higgins books, Somebody to Love. But honestly, you will NEVER go wrong with any of Kristan Higgins books. They are emotional, but I promise you that you will giggle through the tears and for me, that simply makes a perfect read!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, touching, and a little bit complicated..., January 25, 2010
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This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
At an age when many women are just beginning to think about getting married, Lucy Lang has already been a widow for a little over 5 years. When her younger sister has a baby Lucy realizes that it's time for her to move on - meet someone new and hopefully start a family of her own. There is however the small matter of Ethan Mirabelli, her late husband's brother. Ethan has been Lucy's "rock"; a friend, someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on. Well, to be precise, Ethan has been sharing more than just his shoulder with Lucy for the last couple of years ... and Lucy is determined to put an end to it.

This story has a lot going for it. The author has an obvious affection for her characters and they really come alive as the story unfolds. The small town off the coast of Rhode Island where Lucy lives is described perfectly (if it's based on a real place I'd love to visit it!). Many of the funniest scenes in the book take place in "Bunny's", the family-owned (and solidly mediocre) Hungarian bakery where Lucy, her mother and her two aunts (all widows) work. What surprised me is how touching some parts of the story were. Without dwelling on the sadness the author does give you a glimpse of what Lucy has been through and I thought it was very well done and gave the story a nice balance.

This is a first person narrative from Lucy's point of view, which does present the obvious problem of never knowing what Ethan is thinking or feeling. There were times when Lucy's treatment of Ethan bordered on callous and it stretched credibility a bit for me that he kept coming back for more. And as great as the characters were, I felt the story got a little crowded. ( I could have done without the neurotic younger sister and her henpecked husband). But these are minor issues and overall this was an entertaining read that I highly recommend.

There is some (very) mild sexual content and occasional swearing.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins, March 22, 2010
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This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
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I need to admit right up front that if, for any reason, I dislike one of the main characters in a romance...I end up disliking the story. That's what happened to me with "The Next Best Thing" by Kristan Higgins. It's frustrating since I usually like the whole 'friends-into-lovers' theme, even if the friend is the dead hubby's brother as in this book--but the heroine Lucy just rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning of the book and got worse as the story unfolded. She idealized her dead husband, was determined to protect herself from ANY strong feelings, and basically treated the hero like dog doo throughout the book! This made her a very troubled, and troubling, heroine and as my animosity towards her often hurtful actions grew, so grew my irritation with the story.

Having said all that, I will say that the writing was witty and the story unfolded at a good pace. The length of the story was just enough for an afternoon read which is always a good thing for my busy lifestyle. I understand that romance requires obstacles to overcome, but the more Lucy hurt Ethan, the more I wanted him to dump her for someone willing to open herself up to love. It's just a good thing for Lucy that Ethan has more patience than I do!!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like it more than I did, February 11, 2010
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This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
I like Kristan Higgins's writing, and there are many enjoyable aspects to The Next Best Thing: the main character is interesting; there are many humorous secondary characters; there's a sense of real people living in a real place. Unfortunately, I don't think there's much chemistry created between the male & female leads. Ethan is pretty much perfect and lets Lucy jerk him around emotionally for years, yet keeps coming back for more. Nothing develops in their relationship because he's in love with her at the beginning of the book, and the plot is about her realizing that she's already in love with him too. The difficulties Lucy has with moving past the death of her beloved first husband seem too emotionally draining to fit with the goofiness of the secondary characters, and I felt a little bit like Ethan - jerked around until she made up her mind.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very readable but ultimately missing something, March 6, 2010
This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
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Kristan Higgins's The Next Best Thing (Hqn) is an incredibly readable story. It is a story whose narrative reads easily and smoothly from one chapter to another.

It is also ultimately a frustrating read because at the end, it felt like something was missing. I know what the missing ingredient is, but I'll get to that later.

Told in the first person, Lucy Lang describes her life as a widow of 5 years who is still trying to get over the death of her wonderful husband of eight months, the love of her life, the perfect son, the all around great guy named Jimmy Mirabelli.

Lucy comes from a family of Black Widows. Her aunts and mother all lost their husbands so they have a little club. Lucy probably never thought much about it happening to her until it did. Her sister is paranoid that her husband will fall victim as well.

In the midst of this, there is Ethan Mirabelli. The younger, not as handsome, not as larger-than-life brother of St. Jimmy. He has been Lucy's friend since college. He was the one who introduced her to Jimmy. About three years after Jimmy's death, Ethan and Lucy add 'benefits' to their friendship. It helps get Lucy through the night. And days. And years.

And she's still pining for Jimmy.

After her sister has a baby, Lucy decides it is time to get a man so she can get married again and have a kid. This time around, she doesn't want something she'll be too in love with. I guess this is so that if he kicks the bucket, she won't care so much.

Whatever.

Of course, the guy can't be Ethan because she cares too much... maybe. She doesn't tell him this. Instead, she abruptly tells him that she wants to get married and have a child and they need to stop sleeping together.

By this time, I got the impression that Lucy Lang is dim. I don't think I was even past the third chapter.

Again, the novel is readable. Easy. Smooth.

And frustrating. Because Lucy is frustrating in her selfishness and the way she obsesses over Jimmy. The Black Widows are idiots in the way they wrap themselves up in their widowhood. And Ethan's story, the most heartbreaking and fascinating really, is never truly told. We never find out anything of how Ethan comes to terms with his brother, his parents, Lucy, nothing.

It just... guh... Its frustrating.

And to be honest, I found myself rooting for Doral-Anne, Lucy's childhood nemesis, to take Lucy down.

But that didn't happen.

Oh well.

Like any romance, we know there is a happy ending at the end, but it left me wanting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Secondary characters steal the show!, September 3, 2013
JOINT REVIEW BY EMILY AND KINDLE GAL

EMILY: So, without further ado...let's open this up by discussing our heroine, Lucy Lang, the youngest Hungarian Black Widow in her family. I know, sounds ominous, right? Lucy was widowed shortly after her marriage to Jimmy Mirabelli. We meet her five years after Jimmy's death with a HILARIOUS opening scene that had me mentally watching a tennis ball lob between Lucy, her two widowed aunts and widowed mother (who are Hungarian and had the maiden name Black, thus the Hungarian Black Widow titling), and her over-protective sister, Corinne. The banter and squabble amongst this group directly following the birth of Lucy's niece made me laugh and snort loud enough to wake the hubs. From chin whiskers to their family psychic, I instantly liked Lucy, her hilarious internal dialogue, and her zany family.

KINDLE GAL: I couldn't agree more and this scene, among others in the book, highlight one of my favorite aspects of Kristan Higgins's writing: characters that are quirky as hell in situations and conversations that are snort-out-loud hilarious. Hers are books you do not want to be reading while drinking something fizzy. (Diet Coke does NOT feel good in the nasal cavity. Just sayin'...)

As hilarious and zany as Lucy's family is, and as much as I felt for her having to listen to their incessant chatter while they all worked together at the bakery, I had a really hard time connecting with Lucy. For 95% of the book (and I am not exaggerating), she is mooning over her dead husband. Now before y'all start throwing stones at me for being insensitive, I'm well aware of how heartless that sounds. In fact, I'd be reading along, getting all pissy at Lucy for comparing everything that moved to her beloved St. Jimmy, when I'd mentally chastise myself. Thankfully, I don't know what it's like to lose a spouse. I kept trying to put myself in her shoes when I'd get frustrated with something she said or did (or didn't say or didn't do), and it helped...a little. But being the demanding reader that I am, Lucy was just too "stuck" for too long for me to really like and respect her.

EM: Oh no - you didn't just go there! Just remember, y'all - despite this being a joint review, KG actually said it and is the heartless one! ☺ But I gotta `fess up - honestly, I felt the same way. Yes, I know Lucy is sad and has a legitimate reason for her depression, but it was hard to totally take it seriously amongst all the humorous encounters she has with the men she tries to date in her quest to find a new husband - one she has no intention of loving as much as St. Jimmy, because she doesn't want to get hurt again. The grab-happy gym teacher? The blind date with Mr. Spray Paint Hair? Seriously, Higgins is a genius with these characters.

And all along, there is Ethan Mirabelli, St. Jimmy's brother. He essentially takes care of Lucy and helps her cope with Jimmy's death. I totally fell for Ethan - snarky and kind of naughty, yet über patient and kind. My mental picture of Ethan is a little bit Robert Downey Jr., a little bit Orlando Bloom - which equates to a lotta hot, right?

So I guess I'll go there too - midway through this book, I actually started to think Lucy did not deserve Ethan. When have I ever not rooted for the hero and heroine? I mean c'mon, Ethan is all kinds of fantastic, right??

KG: Ha ha! See, everyone? Emily is heartless too. (Whew!)

Yes, Ethan IS all kinds of fantastic. And wow, I like your mental image of him! Although I will say the new cover has a pretty fine version of Ethan too.

Ethan can charm the pants off of anyone, is loyal to a fault, can cook like nobody's business, has a fantastic sense of humor and makes appropriate fun of Lucy and her frequent absurdness (as he should), and to top it all off, he's an amazing single father to the most adorable kid. Gah! Seriously, what's not to love? Nothing. Which is exactly Lucy's problem--she's afraid Ethan is someone she could totally love, and she doesn't want that anymore. She had that already and look where she ended up. Plus, there's that pesky little detail of him being her former brother-in-law. That's her mentality, and I get it, I totally do. But when this amazing guy is basically standing in front of her the ENTIRE BOOK and she never really "sees" him, quite frankly, it does make one think she doesn't deserve him. Not that I ever felt that way--okay, I totally did, but you said it first!

In all honesty, I wasn't sure Higgins could pull off the happily-ever-after. And if I'm being brutally honest, if it weren't for my curiosity of how it was going to end up and the awesomeness of the secondary characters, I maybe would have even DNF'ed this book. Eep!

EM: Holy Toledo - you contemplated a DNF?? Bite your tongue. I would have finished this one for the food porn alone. Lucy's habit of baking amazing desserts into the middle of the night kept me craving sweets the entire read. But while I personally can't fathom not finishing a book, I get what you mean. There seemed to be more excuses and delays by Lucy as the book went on - but it almost felt therapeutic to be around for her transformation. Because there totally is one, and although it was a little late for my liking, it was righteous and good.

Overall, you are right on in the secondary characters making this book. It also may be possible we both are a little harsh on Lucy because WE fell early and hard for Ethan. (Your Ethan pic is totally droolworthy too, btw!). My two cents? THE NEXT BEST THING is a light, fun read - the characters are whacky, the baking is delish, and the hero...divine.

EMILY'S RATING: B+ (4˝ stars)

KG: Okay...back the truck up. I didn't SERIOUSLY contemplate a DNF. And this is the thing: How, I want to know, is it possible to dislike a heroine and not want her to get with the hero but still like the book? HOW?? Well, that is the magic of Kristan Higgins, folks. Somehow her books are so addictive, even if I am not fully invested in the main characters and their HEA, I'm still devouring it like one of Lucy's decadent desserts. And I can't say this about many authors. Usually if the main story is lost on me, the whole book loses me. THAT is what I meant.

So, yes, THE NEXT BEST THING isn't my favorite Higgins book (that distinction still goes to The Best Man (Hqn)), but it's definitely a worthwhile read, and fans of her work will no doubt enjoy it. Despite my frustrations with Lucy, my utter love of Ethan, and the should've-been-weird-but-thankfully-wasn't-awkward issue of Ethan being Jimmy's brother, Higgins somehow pulled off a satisfying HEA and tied everything up in a neat bow, all the while entertaining the hell out of me with the secondary characters and crazy antics in this story. That, my friends, is talent!

KINDLE GAL'S RATING: B- (3˝ stars)

Note: We received a review copy of this title courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cute, but unappealing, March 18, 2010
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This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
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For me, this was one of those books that had lots of cute moments, cute phrases, cute characters, yet was ultimately unappealing for me.

In part, that's because it's clear from the very beginning where the book is going, and the only thing that keeps it from getting there in the very first chapter is the fact that the main character is being an idiot. Yes, we are all idiots sometimes, and I'm glad when books acknowledge this -- but when the main character's idiocy is the only real cause of tension in a book, it's not enough to keep me truly engaged.

And truthfully, I think another reason the book failed to pull me in was all the cuteness I mentioned above -- they overpowered the plot, and it was like they would pop up whenever I was about to get emotionally invested in things. I realize the book is intended to be lighthearted, but for me, there just wasn't a good balance there, especially not compared to a lot of the other amazing contemporary, funny romance on the market right now.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Higgins best., February 3, 2010
This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
Lucy Lang has been a widow for nearly six years and decides it is time to move on, however, it takes the entire book for her to do it. She constantly compares every situation to how life would be if her husband hadn't died. If only he hadn't died, she wouldn't be working in a bakery. If only he hadn't died, she would have a baby. If only he hadn't died, she could eat fancy desserts. Along with these comparisons, she watched her wedding video repeatedly throughout the book (including one time when she made her date watch it with her).
While I liked the idea behind the story, I got the feeling that Lucy was a lot of talk and no action. She kept saying she was moving on with her life without actually doing anything. I thought her new interest, Ethan, put up with more than he should have. For me the story dragged on when it could have be a fun and fast paced.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars warm contemporary romance, February 5, 2010
This review is from: The Next Best Thing (Hqn) (Mass Market Paperback)
Over five years ago, Lucy Lang joined the extended family club when her spouse Jimmy died. Like her mom, aunts and cousins, she is just another Black Widow mourning their losses at the family bakery. However as she turns thirty Lucy feels her suburban biological clock ticking so she decides to end her sexual only relationship with Jimmy's brother Ethan Mirabelli to find a new husband who will turn her into a soccer mom, but she must never love him or the family curse will occur.

Loving her from first sight Ethan rejects Lucy's kicking him to the curb to marry someone else. Unlike her, he is not afraid to defy his parents, owners of Gianni's Ristorante Italian, as he did when he dropped out of culinary school to go corporate. He knows she fears what her heart is telling her as she does not want to be a widow twice before she reaches forty, but Ethan cannot deal with his beloved with someone else so begins his campaign to make his Lucy pick him "Instead".

Kristan Higgins provides her audience with a warm contemporary romance filled with pathos and humor as a strong cast make for a wonderful tale. Ethan is a man on a mission, but recognizes his obstinate beloved is very determined to find a spouse; they agree on her being married, but not to whom. The Next Best Thing to eating cannoli with your significant other is reading Ms. Higgins' engaging story.

Harriet Klausner
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The Next Best Thing (Hqn)
The Next Best Thing (Hqn) by Kristan Higgins (Mass Market Paperback - February 1, 2010)
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