If you’re looking for a sweet, tender contemporary romance, All I Ever Wanted is a great one.
On Callie’s thirtieth birthday, the man she’s been in love with for years tells her he’s seeing someone else. Heartbroken and lonely, Callie decides to throw herself on the dating market and hope to find someone who returns her love.
Callie’s sweetly optimistic about love, even though all the people around her have been burned by it. The novel’s all about her search for a happily-ever-after with her soulmate, and other considerations in her life (like her quirky family and stress at work) are secondary considerations.
This is usually the kind of story that is too saccharine sweet for me, but pain from Callie’s past underscores her positive attitude, making her a more complex character than she first seems.
The story is told in first person from Callie’s point of view, and her peppy voice makes for delightful reading. Take, for example, this scene, when she makes an appointment with the new veterinarian who—rumor has it—is hot. She finds the waiting room packed with single women and their pets:
“There was Jenna Sykes, another old schoolmate, who gave me a confident smile. A golden doodle puppy snoozed on her shoulder like a baby. Okay, that would be hard to beat. A puppy was an unfair advantage in man-seeking, especially if the man was a vet. I wondered if that was Jenna’s strategy. Not a bad idea when I thought of all the money we women invested to get a man—haircuts and color, makeup and moisturizers, minimizers, maximizers, lingerie, clothes, shoes, waxes…crikey! And all we asked in return was that they be semi-clean. At least Jenna’s investment would love her back.”
Unfortunately for Callie, the new vet turns out to be Ian McFarland, who witnessed one of her lowest moments. Just after she’d found out the love of her life was seeing someone else, she’d had to go to the DMV to get her license renewed. Ian was in line behind her as she sobbed and spilled her guts to her sister over the phone. Ian hadn’t exactly been sympathetic to her emotional breakdown.
Ian is the complete opposite of Callie. She describes him as a dick, and that’s basically how he comes across at first. But then he hires her to do some PR for him, and she starts to appreciate Ian for the loyal, tender-hearted man he is.
It takes awhile for things to heat up between Ian and Callie, so anyone who wants their romance to start with a bang may find this novel slow-moving. But the love between Ian and Callie grows organically, and by the time they start to fall in love the reader has spent around 170 pages getting to know Callie. Because of that, it’s like watching your best friend fall in love.
Since the whole story is in Callie’s point of view, it also takes awhile to warm to Ian. At first, he’s taciturn and rude, but as the reader sees him slowly and cautiously open himself up to Callie, it’s impossible not to fall a little in love with him. He’s got deeply painful reasons for being the way he is, and Callie is the only one who can heal him.
In true Kristan Higgins style, there’s a cast of colorful, quirky characters, including Callie’s mother the mortician and her one-legged grandfather Noah.
I had so much fun reading All I Ever Wanted that I found myself grinning like a fool throughout it—that is, until I cried. Just a little, but enough to know that the characters had sucked me into their world and made me feel like one of them.
A definite keeper.
Heat: 2 (Mild)
(First posted on The Season)