The Next Best Thing

( 639 )

Overview

Lucy Lang isn't looking for fireworks…

She's looking for a nice, decent man. Someone who'll mow the lawn, flip chicken on the barbecue, teach their future children to play soccer. But most important: someone who won't inspire the slightest stirring in her heart…or anywhere else. A young widow, Lucy can't risk that kind of loss again. But sharing her life with a cat named Fat Mikey and the Black Widows at the family bakery isn't enough either. So it's goodbye to Ethan, her hot ...

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Overview

Lucy Lang isn't looking for fireworks…

She's looking for a nice, decent man. Someone who'll mow the lawn, flip chicken on the barbecue, teach their future children to play soccer. But most important: someone who won't inspire the slightest stirring in her heart…or anywhere else. A young widow, Lucy can't risk that kind of loss again. But sharing her life with a cat named Fat Mikey and the Black Widows at the family bakery isn't enough either. So it's goodbye to Ethan, her hot but entirely inappropriate "friend with privileges," and hello to a man she can marry.

Too bad Ethan Mirabelli isn't going anywhere. As far as he's concerned, what she needs might be right under her nose. But can he convince her that the next best thing can really be forever?

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  • The Next Best Thing
    The Next Best Thing  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Kristan Higgins is a rising superstar, thanks to...sweet plots with a deliciously tart edge."

—USA TODAY on My One and Only

"Both gut-wrenchingly emotional and hysterically funny at the same time...Kristan Higgins writes the books you don't want to end."

—#1 New York Times bestsellingauthor Robyn Carr

"Romance fans and lovers of women's fiction will devour this witty and tender novel. Highly recommended." -Library Journal, starred review on Somebody to Love

"A funny, poignant romance."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review, on My One and Only

"Higgins has a special talent
for creating characters readers love."
-RT Book Reviews, 4½ stars on All I Ever Wanted

"A heartwarming, multi-generational tale of lost love,
broken hearts and second chances."
-BookPage on The Next Best Thing

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373774388
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/1/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 762,908
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.66 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristan Higgins is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author and two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her books have been praised for their "genius level EQ, whippet-fast, funny dialogue and sweet plots with a deliciously tart edge" (USA TODAY). She lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband and two extremely advanced children, one shy little mutt and an occasionally affectionate cat.

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Read an Excerpt

"You have a whisker."

Though I hear the loudly whispered comment, it doesn't quite register, as I am rapt with adoration, staring at the wonder that is my hour-old niece. Her face still glows red from the effort of being born, her dark blue eyes are as wide and calm as a tortoise's. I probably shouldn't tell my sister that her baby reminds me of a reptile. Well. The baby is astonishingly beautiful. Miraculous.

"She's amazing," I murmur. Corinne beams, then shifts the baby the slightest bit away from me. "Can I hold her, Cory?" My two aunts mutter darkly—only Mom has held the baby so far, and clearly, I'm breaking rank.

My sister hesitates. "Um…well…"

"Let her, Cory," Chris encourages, and my sister reluctantly hands over the little bundle.

She's warm and precious, and my eyes fill with tears. "Hi there," I whisper. "I'm your auntie." I can't believe how much I love this baby…she's fifty-five minutes old, and I'm ready to throw myself in front of a bus for her, should the need arise.

"Pssst. Lucy." It's Iris's voice again. "Lucy. You have a whisker." My seventy-six-year-old aunt taps her upper lip. "Right there. Plus, you're holding her wrong. Give her to me."

"Oh, gee, I don't know about that," Corinne protests, but Iris deftly takes the baby from me. My arms feel lonely without the sweet weight of my niece. "Whisker," Iris says, jerking her chin at me.

Almost against my will, my finger goes to my upper lip…gah! Something thick and almost sharp, like a piece of barbed wire, is embedded in my skin. A whisker! Iris is right. I have a whisker.

My tiny aunt Rose sidles up to me. "Let's take a look here," she says in her little-girl voice, studying my lip. Then, before I know it, she seizes the offending hair and yanks.

"Youch! Rose! That hurt!" I press a finger against the now smarting hair follicle.

"Don't worry, honey, I got it. You must be coming into the Change." She gives me a conspiratorial smile, then holds my whisker up to the light.

"I'm thirty years old, Rose," I protest weakly. "And come on, stop looking at it." I brush the whisker from her fingers. The whisker was a fluke. I'm not menopausal. I can't be. Could I? Granted, I'm feeling a bit…mature today, given that my younger sister has had a baby before I did…

Rose scrutinizes my face for another hair. "It can happen. Your second cousin Ilona was thirty-five. I don't think you're too young. A mustache is usually the first sign."

"Electrolysis," my mother recommends as she tucks the blankets around Corinne's feet. "Grinelda does it. I'll have her look at you next time she comes in for a reading."

"Your psychic also does electrolysis?" Christopher asks.

"She's a medium. And yes, Grinelda is a very talented woman," Iris says, smiling down at Emma.

"Don't I get a turn to hold that child? I seem to remember I'm also her great-aunt," Rose peeps. "And personally, I bleach. Once I shaved, and three days later, I looked like Uncle Zoltan after a bender." She accepts my niece from Iris and her wrinkled, sweet face morphs into a smile. "Oh, shaving. Never shave, Lucy," Iris says. "You get stubbly."

"Um…okay," I say, shooting a glance at my sister. Surely this is not normal conversation in a labor and delivery room. "So how are you feeling now, Corinne?"

"I'm wonderful," she says. "Can I please hold my daughter again?"

"I just got her!" Rose protests.

"Hand her over," Christopher orders. With a martyred sigh, Rose obeys.

My sister gazes down at the baby, then looks up at her husband. "Do you think we should put some Purell on her?" she asks, her brow wrinkling in worry.

"Nah," Chris answers. "You girls scrubbed in, right?"

"Absolutely. Don't want Emma to catch the polio," Iris says, not a trace of sarcasm in her voice. I suppress a smile.

"Chris, honey, how are you feeling, sweetie?" Corinne asks her husband.

"A lot better than you, honey. I didn't just give birth, after all."

Corinne waves away his protest. "Lucy, he was so wonderful. Really. You should've seen him! So calm, so helpful. He was amazing."

"I didn't do a thing, Lucy," my brother-in-law assures me. He reaches out to touch the baby's cheek. "Your sister…she's incredible." The new parents gaze at each other with sappy adoration, and I feel the familiar, wistful lump in my throat.

Jimmy and I might've looked at each other like that.

"Hello! I'm Tania, your lactation coach!" A booming voice makes us all jump. "Well, well! Quite a turnout, I see! Do you want an audience, Mother?"

"Corinne, we'll go," I say, though it's quite possible that my mother and aunts would like to stay and offer a running commentary. "We'll see you later. I'm so proud of you." I kiss my sister, touch the baby's cheek once more and try not to notice as Corinne wipes her baby's face. "Bye, Emma," I whisper, my eyes filling yet again. "I love you, honey." My niece. I have a niece! Visions of tea parties and jump rope fill my head.

My sister smiles at me. "See you later, Lucy. Love you." She risks a pat to my arm with one hand, already instinctively adept at handling the baby.

"Let's take a look at those nipples," Tania the lactation coach barks. "Husband, take the baby, won't you? I need to see your wife's breasts."

Like a well-trained border collie, I herd Mom, Rose and Iris out of the room. In the hallway, I notice something. My mother, aunts and I all seem to be wearing black today. My step falters. Mom is clad in a chic black wraparound sweater, something that wouldn't look out of place on Audrey Hepburn; Iris wears a shapeless black turtleneck and Rose a black cardigan over a white shirt. My T-shirt of the day happens to be black—I get up at 4:00 a.m. and don't spend a lot of time on clothing choices…this one just happened to be on the top of the pile.

By an ironic and unfortunate twist of fate, my mother, Iris and Rose bear the maiden name Black, translated from Fekete when my grandfather immigrated from Hungary. By an even more ironic and unfortunate twist of fate, all three were widowed before the age of fifty, so it's only natural that they're called the Black Widows. And on this happiest of days, somehow we're all wearing black. It dawns on me that today I, also widowed young, am more like a Black Widow than like my radiant sister. That today I found my first whisker and was advised on facial hair management.

That I'm a long way off from having a baby of my own, a thought that's been on my mind more and more recently. It's been five years since Jimmy died, after all. Five and a half. Five years, four months, two weeks and three days, to be precise.

These thoughts override the chatter of my aunts and mother as we drive over the short bridge to Mackerly, back to the bakery where the four of us work.

"We're going to the cemetery," Mom announces as they pile out of the car, first Iris, then Rose, then my mother. "I have to tell your father about the baby."

"Okay," I say, forcing a smile. "See you in a while, then."

"You sure you don't want to come?" Rose asks. All three of them tilt their heads looking at me. "Oh, gosh, I don't think so."

"You know she's got a thing about that," Mom says patiently. "Let's go. See you later, hon."

"Yup. Have fun." They will, I know. I watch as they walk down the street toward the cemetery where their husbands—and mine—are buried.

The sun shines, the birds sing, my niece is healthy. It's a happy, happy day, whisker or no whisker. Widowed or not. "A happy day," I say aloud, heading inside.

The warm, timeless smell of Bunny's Hungarian Bakery wraps around me like a security blanket, sugar and yeast and steam, and I inhale deeply. Jorge is cleaning up in back. He looks up as I come in. "She's gorgeous," I say. He nods, smiles, then goes back to scraping dough from the counters.

Jorge doesn't speak. He's worked at Bunny's for years. Somewhere between fifty and seventy, bald, with beautiful light brown skin and a tattoo on his arm depicting Jesus' agony on the cross, Jorge helps with cleanup and bread delivery, as Bunny's supplies bread—my bread, the best bread in the state—to several Rhode Island restaurants.

"I'll deliver to Gianni's tonight, Jorge," I say as he starts loading up the bread. He nods, heads for the back door and stands for a second, his way of saying goodbye. "Have a great afternoon," I say. He smiles, flashing his gold tooth, then leaves.

The freezer hums, the malfunctioning fluorescent light over the work area buzzes, the cooling ovens tick. Otherwise, there's just the sound of my own breathing.

Bunny's has been in my family for fifty-seven years. Founded by my grandmother just after my grandfather died at the age of forty-eight, it has been run by women ever since. Men don't tend to fare that well in my family, as you might have noticed. After my own father died when I was eight, Mom started working at Bunny's, too, alongside Iris and Rose. And after Jimmy's car accident, I came on board as well.

I love the bakery, and the bread I create is proof of a beneficent God, but it's fair to say that if circumstances were different, I wouldn't work here. Bread, while deeply rewarding, is not my true passion. I was trained to be a pastry chef at the great Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute in Providence, just about a half hour from Mackerly, a tiny island south of Newport. Upon graduation, I snagged a job at one of the posher hotels in the area. But after Jimmy died, I couldn't keep it up. The pressure, the noise, the hours…the people. And so I joined the Black Widows at Bunny's. Unfortunately for me, the division of labor had been decided years ago—Rose on cakes and cookies, Iris on danishes and doughnuts, Mom on management. That left bread.

Bread-baking is a Zenlike art, not fully grasped by much of the world, and an art that I've come to love. I arrive at four-thirty each day to mix the dough, measure it out, let it rise and get it in the oven, head home for a nap around ten, then return in the afternoon to bake the loaves we supply to the restaurants. Most days, I'm home by four. It's a schedule suited to the erratic sleep patterns that came home to roost when my husband died.

I find that I'm feeling for another whisker. If there was one, after all, there might be others. Nope. I seem to be smooth, but I check the mirror in the bathroom just in case. No more whiskers, thank God. I look normal enough…strawberry-blond hair pulled into a po-nytail, light brown eyes—whiskey eyes, Jimmy used to call them—a few freckles. It's a friendly face. I think I'd make someone a very cute mom.

I've always wanted a family, a few kids. Despite one errant whisker, most of the evidence still indicates that I'm still young. Or not. What if Aunt Rose is right, and menopause is lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce? One whisker today—a few months from now, I may need to start shaving. My voice may change. I'll dry up like a loaf of bread left to rise too long in a warm oven; that which was once light and full of promise, left alone too long, now a hard, tasteless lump. That whisker was a warning. Crikey! A whisker!

I risk a quick squeeze to my breasts. Phew. The girls seem to be in good shape, no drooping or sagging yet. I'm still young. Fairly ripe. But yes, perhaps my shelf life isn't as long as I like to pretend it is. Dang whisker.

Jimmy would want me to move on, to be happy. Of course he would. "What do you think, Jimmy?" I say out loud, my voice echoing off the industrial-size Ho-bart mixer, the walk-in oven. "I think it's time for me to start dating. Okay with you, honey?"

I wait for an answer. Since his death, there have been signs. At least I think so. In the first year or so after his death, dimes would turn up in odd places, for example. Sometimes I'd catch a whiff of his smell—garlic, red wine and rosemary…he was head chef at Gianni's, the restaurant owned by his parents. Once in a while, I dream about him. But today, on the issue of my love life, there's nothing.

The back door opens, and my aunts and mom come in. "The cemetery was beautiful!" Iris announces. "Beautiful! Although if I catch those mowers cutting it so close to my Pete's grave, I will strangle them with my bare hands."

"I know it. I told the committee the same thing," Rose cheeps. "Last year, they mowed right over the geraniums I planted for Larry. I thought I'd cry!"

"You did cry," Iris reminds her.

Mom comes over to me in a cloud of Chanel No. 5. "That baby sure is beautiful, isn't she?" she says, smiling.

I grin up at her. "She sure is. Congratulations, Grammy."

"Mmm. Grammy. I like the sound of that," she says smugly.

Iris nods in agreement—she's already a grandmother, courtesy of the two kids her son, Neddy, and his ex-wife produced. Rose, meanwhile, pouts.

It's not fair," she says. "You're so much younger, Daisy. I should've been a grandmother first." Rose and Iris are well into their seventies; my mother is sixty-five, and Rose's only son has failed to reproduce (which is probably a good thing, given Stevie's propensity for stupid acts).

"Oh, Stevie will get some girl pregnant, don't worry," my mom says mildly. "I wonder, though, if he manages to find someone who'd marry him, if she'd die young, too." Then, aware perhaps that this is a sensitive subject, the Black Widows turn as one to look at me.

You see, in my generation, the Black Widow curse has only struck me (so far). My sister lives in constant fear that Chris will die young, but so far, so good. Iris's daughter, Anne, is gay, and for some reason, the Black Widows are confident that Laura, Anne's partner of fifteen years, will be spared due to sexual orientation. Neddy's ex-wife is also deemed safe. Both Ned and Stevie are healthy, though Stevie's on the dim side. (He once ate poison ivy on a dare. When he was twenty-two.) The biological men in our family are spared…it's just the husbands who seem to meet an early death. My grandfather, my great-uncles, my own dad, my aunts' husbands…all died young.

Also, no Black Widow has ever remarried. The late husbands became saints, the wives became proud widows. The idea of finding another man is traditionally scoffed at, as in, "Bah! What do I need a man for? I already had my Larry/Pete/Robbie. He was the Love of My Life."

Back before I was a widow, I thought that maybe the Black Widows almost liked being alone. That they were independent women, proud of how they'd coped. Maybe their disdain of remarrying was more a statement about their own security, independence, power, even. When I became a widow myself, I understood. It's fairly impossible to imagine falling in love again when your husband's life ends decades before you expect it.

The back door opens again. "Friday night happy hour has arrived!" calls a familiar voice.

"Ethan!" the Black Widows chorus, flattered and feigning surprise over his arrival.

"I hear from my sources that it's a girl," he says. "Congratulations, ladies."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 639 )
Rating Distribution

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(305)

4 Star

(187)

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(98)

2 Star

(24)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 644 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2010

    Average at Best

    I really enjoyed reading "Just One of the Guys" so much so that I downloaded "The Next Best Thing". I found this book to be rather farfetched and depressing. Lucy needed a psychologist. Too many flashbacks and much too much talk about the dead husband. The family focus on everyone being widowed was much too much as well.

    I am anxious to read "Too Good To Be True".

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2010

    Too many flashbacks

    It was a lovely book, but I found myself skipping chapters at a time because of the ridiculous amount of flashbacks. I wish she had spent more time addressing the relationship between the two main characters, than focusing on the woman's relationship with her dead husband. *sigh*

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The Energizer Book

    I've read 1 of Kristan Higgins' books and it was pretty good. This one however just kept going and going and going. Honestly, about 1/2 through I wanted the male character to just walk away and find someone that didn't treat him like crap. Inevitably they would get back together everything was fine then she would treat him like crap again. I'm not sure if K. Higgins wanted you to sympathize with the lead character...but it's hard to pull for someone that uses people the way she did. She had her reasons but still. You just don't treat people that way.

    After reading this book, I'm not sure I'll read any of her books again. Kind of disappointing because I thought I'd found a new author to read. Oh well, the search continues.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Higgin's has done better....but still worth reading!

    This is probably the least favorite book by Kristin Higgins.sadly. I still enjoyed it, and I am sure many people can relate to the main character after losing a spouse. I did feel bad for her and Higgins did a good job portraying her emotions throughout. I thought though that Higgins dragged the book out with having the main character go back and forth, back and forth. It was also kind of weird that she had a fling with her deceased husband's brother. But, like I said, I did enjoy it. I like Kristan's writing style. Her books are usually comical, romantic, and sad/heartfelt. I now think I have finished all of her books.can't wait for more!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 7, 2010

    Best of Higgins!

    The Next Best Thing is by far Kristan Higgins' best work. You'll fall in love with Ethan, Lucy, & the rest of their crazy family. It will make you laugh out loud & shed a few tears. Great read! Highly recommended for those who love a good romance.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Bittersweet

    Author Kristan Higgins is an award-winning author of several published books in the romance genre. Other titles include: Too Good To be True, Just One Of The Guys, Catch Of The Day, and Fools Rush In. She resides in Connecticut with her firefighter husband and two children.

    Lucy Lang has been a young widow long enough. Finally feeling like it's time to settle down again and remarry, she says goodbye to her 'friend with benefits', Ethan Mirabelli, and hello to the dating scene. Except finding the right guy for her isn't as easy as she thought. After all, all she wanted was a nice guy with whom she could have kids and not form a deep attachment to. A broken heart once was enough. But much to her dismay and delight, Ethan isn't going anywhere, and Lucy knows he's the one man who could break her heart again. And this time, she may not recover.

    First person point of view typically isn't my first choice, but this is a perfect example of what stellar writing is about. If you haven't laughed, cried, and sighed with contentment a hundred times while reading this, then there's something wrong with you. The hero and heroine are relatable, and the secondary characters are memorable. From the setting to the story-line, this is impossible to put down. Bravo. Recommended.

    Kelly Moran,
    Author of SUMMER'S ROAD

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    You will laugh, cry and just feel when you read this book

    Kristan is known for her quirky characters, and everyday heros and heroines and of course the dogs, cats and other animals that play such large roles themselves in her stories and you will get that and more when you dig into this wonderful read.
    Lucy has something that runs in her family, on her mother's side, a lot. She's a widow and it happened early in her marriage and in her life just like her mother and two great aunts it's their own private club and no one wants to join. Well Lucy has made a decision and unlike the rest of the "Black Widows" she's decided that she wants to remarry, even though Jimmy was the love of her life, but before she does that she'll have to stop sleeping with his younger brother. Gotcha didn't I.
    Those of us who love Kritan's romances have come to expect her witty descriptive dialogue where she makes her characters and settings pop off of the page and makes us laugh out loud and cry. Her story line is unique in the fact that these "Black Widows" aren't murdering psychopaths but female family members who jointly own a bakery in a picturesque little town. So let's talk about her characters they are a cast of unforgettable folks from the kooky great aunts, the overly cautious sister, the vogue mom, the old school Italian In-Laws, the cute confused heroine and the hot hunky hero. And they all have a major role to play in the telling of the tale. Her romance is funny, sad, serious and so full of pitfalls you're constantly looking forward to the next disaster. Her love scenes are hot and spicy, but also very tender and sweet.
    So if you've never read Kristan Higgins, what's wrong with you get this book. And if you're an old fan re-discover just what it is we all love about her writing and get this fall on your face funny and cry in your coffee tear jerker together in one incredible novel, you won't be sorry you did.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    Not my favorite

    The beginning of the book was very catchy. I enjoyed reading it at first and then realized I was in the middle of the book and the same details were reoccuring. I found myself able to skip some pages by quickly reading the first and last sentence on the page. I felt the story was far too long and could have ended very quickly without being so windy at the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    not sold on this story yet

    this is my second novel from Higgins, I enjoyed "too good to be true" but not loving this one as much. I think Ethan is a bit far fetched. I can't see him not ever saying anything to his brother about this girl he met at school(only read half of the book so far). I know they weren't close but he had to mention it in passing. The love story of Ethan and Lucy is okay but supporting cast are too many. We didn't need the whole town invovled. I am going to read "Just one of the Guys" hopefully it will be good. Read Robin Kaye, she was wonderful surprise. Breakfast in Bed was an impulse buy. The Ronaldi series is a great read very funny and witty. I read it series backwards and loved all three

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Cute fun-loving romance

    Kristan Higgans consistantly creates heart-warming romances with extremely likeable characters. While The Next Best Thing is not my most favorite of Higgans' books, I did get caught up in Lucy and Ethan's relationship. The cast of supporting characters as always were good additions to the plot.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    BORING !

    Have enjoyed her other novels but this was NOT GOOD.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2014

    a great read

    this is a great read! Kristan Higgins wont disappoint.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    disappointed

    I really liked the book. Ethan was very selfless. However, this book has been reissued. It was issued in 2010 and 2013. I am disappointed that I bought it twice. I would have liked to buy one of her other books with that money.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    ...

    Another thing....the past few kristan higgins books ive read all state something like "oh hes/shes average looking i guess. Nothing that stands out blah blah blah" when one main character is talking about the other main chatacter that they end up falling for. While i realize that thats realistic prolly most of the time, it sure would be nice to read one where they characters actually thought the other was physicaly attractive and had some kind of pull towards eachother.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    Worth reading

    Very touching

    ,warm, and humerous. Hard to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    Could not like female character.....

    It was irritating for me to read a book with a main character who was annoying and often unlikeable. She is incredibly self centered and lives in a fantasy world. No one is that perfect, referring to dead husband Jimmy, even if only married for 9 months. Love the Author, but this one did not work.

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  • Posted October 4, 2013

    Kristan Higgins just keeps getting better and better....

    If you haven't had the pleasure of reading one of her books, do yourself a favor and pick one up and if you don't have the money to actually purchase the book, seek out your local library which is an excellent way to try new author's that you can fall in love with, I have.

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  • Posted October 2, 2013

    Wonderful

    The Next Best Thing is a wonderful book loved Lucy and Ethan story. Ethan is understanding, at times you just want his happiness, for him to be loved and not compared. Lucy has to face reality and learn to see what has alway been right in front of her face. True Love.

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  • Posted September 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Rating: 4.5 Star Review In The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgi

    Rating: 4.5 Star Review

    In The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins, Lucy Lang has convinced herself it's time to wade into the dating pool, five years after losing her husband to a tragic accident. Jimmy was the love of her life. Now she's looking for someone who will be a good companion and wants children. Not someone she will fall madly in love with, if that could even be possible for her again. She can't take the risk with her heart. Lucy is expecting problems when she announces her intentions. Her mother and aunts, lovingly known as the Black Widows, never dated after losing their husbands so Lucy's not sure how receptive they'll be. And her in-laws still live in town and work just down the street, which will make things awkward. Not to mention she'll have to break things off with Ethan, her friend-with-benefits who has been so kind to her while she's been recovering from her loss.

    It turns out that while her head might be telling her she's ready to move on, her heart is still not ready to let go of the past. Lucy fights her anxiety with the help (and hindrance) of her friends and meddling family only to find out Ethan wants to be considered as husband material along with the town's other eligible bachelors. Lucy isn't so sure. He's one of her best friends. Wouldn't a relationship potentially ruin their friendship if things don't turn out well? She just knows that she's tired of being viewed only as a widow and wants to feel like herself again, to possibly have some fun at some point. Lucy's small town life in Mackerly, Rhode Island, will be completely tossed upside-down in her search for a husband.

    Kristan Higgins wrote The Next Best Thing as a narrative from Lucy's point of view, telling the readers...well, basically Lucy's life story in bits and pieces. I felt like she was flawed and damaged and just plain wonderful. It's almost a relief to read about a female protagonist who isn't perfect. She doesn't always know exactly what to say or do and she makes mistakes. A LOT of mistakes, but so don't we all. She does (eventually) learn from them and that's what truly counts. She's not ready to think of herself as one of the Black Widows yet and still has a lot of living left to do, but she's having a hard time making that first leap. Which is understandable.

    Ethan is probably one of the most selfless, patient, sexy and caring guys I've read about in a long time. He's the perfect blend of nice and naughty. He's already a loving father, having a child from a previous relationship, and it was so sweet the way he interacted with his boy. But Ethan also has a mischievous side which he lets Lucy see from time to time. I found it easy to sympathize with him over his situation and could feel his emotions through Kristan's expressive writing.

    It's not all heavy emotions, though. Sure there are quite a few tender and even heart-wrenching moments perfectly blended in. But we also get to see the comedic side of entering the wonderful world of dating at the age of thirty. Not everything goes as planned, of course, and between her family's meddling and her interaction with the locals in town, I was in stitches. Throw into the mix Lucy's cat Fat Mikey, who's all attitude with just a touch of love/tolerance for his humans, and you have a hysterical story.

    If you like your romance with a lot of heart, a good laugh and a dramatic sigh-worthy ending, I highly recommend The Next Best Thing.

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  • Posted August 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A pastry chef by trade, Lucy Lang has ended up baking the bread

    A pastry chef by trade, Lucy Lang has ended up baking the bread in her family's bakery after the death of her husband five and a half years ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since the bakery is run by her mother and her aunts, all widows, the Black widows. Her name may not be Black, but  her curse to end up a young widow just as crippling.




    Ethan Mirabelli has been her best friend since college and the only male who is able to charm the collective Black widow clan, except perhaps for his 4-year old son. Ethan is also the person who introduced Lucy to her husband, Jimmy, his older brother and chef for their family restaurant. And the last few years Ethan has also become Lucy's 'friend with benefits', nothing more, and purely for convenience.......after all, he's her neighbour too!




    But now Lucy is ready to date, or so she claims, she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life alone, even though she is determined to keep her heart out of play this time around. If she should fall in love, she might lose another husband to the 'curse', so any potential risks must be eliminated beforehand. That means Ethan has to go.......first of all, he drives a motorcycle.....right. Also, he likes adventure, that's a definite strike against him, and lastly......he might have the ability to really destroy her, should something happen, and there is no way she can do without her friend! 




    Ethan is not impressed with that plan, in fact he is quite tired of playing second fiddle, especially when it comes to Lucy. But will he be able to convince her to let go of her fear and take hold of what was hers all along? 




    ****
    Ohhhh it's a great book when you've laughed and you've cried and everything in-between!! I've had the pleasure of reading more of Kristan Higgin's work and knew she was capable of pulling out every possible emotion I have in my arsenal, and she has done it again!! And yes, that includes anger and frustration!!!




    I uttered OMG in frustration plenty of times, when Lucy's internal struggles came up, but I have to admit, I'm generally one to make a decision and throw myself in. Not so Lucy, poor thing has not had the best of examples either, with a mother and a bunch of aunts who continue to worship their long deceased husbands as if they were virtual Gods when still alive, perfect and faultless. HA. She also gets no assistance from her in-laws, heck, they continue to mourn their son as if it was yesterday and expect her to do the same. This girl needs some hair on her chest, not her lip!!! I wanted to poke my elbow in her side or teach her to whistle on her fingers, anything to prompt her to take a stand for herself.
    Ethan was also not one of the most decisive people, although I appreciate he wanted to let Lucy come to her own conclusion, part of me wanted him to grab her, shake her and tell her how it was going to be!! I also wanted him to give his parents a good talking to, geeze....I was ready to give them a piece of my mind!
    But both of them learned, they unstuck themselves from the place they had almost become rooted and found a way to choose the path that was meant for them.




    I love the mute character working in the bakery, amidst all the crazy cackle of the sisters, he was an oasis of quiet reason. Without saying a word, he ended up providing that little injection of encouragement at the exact right time. That was perfection and told an entire story in itself.
    The interaction between the Black sisters and also Lucy's in-laws is at times hilarious. Especially when you throw in the questionable Gypsy psychic, then the bakery becomes a true three-ring circus.




    Kristan Higgins has found a perfect balance in using clever humour to ensure that the serious and quite emotional nature of the story doesn't become too overwhelming. Your emotions will run the gamut, but you will end up with a big smile on your face, that I guarantee!




    A moving, witty and captivating story of overcoming.

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