Just One Of The Guys, by Kristan Higgins

>> Wednesday, December 02, 2009

TITLE: Just One Of The Guys
AUTHOR: Kristan Higgins

PAGES: 384

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance / Women's Fiction / Chick Lit medley

REASON FOR READING: Because I loved Catch of the Day so much.

Being one of the guys isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

So when journalist Chastity O’Neill returns to her hometown, she decides it’s time to start working on some of those feminine wiles. Two tiny problems: #1 — she’s five-foot-eleven of rock-solid girl power, and #2 — she’s cursed with four alpha male older brothers.

While doing a story on local heroes, she meets a hunky doctor, and things start to look up. Now there’s only one problem: Trevor Meade, her first love and the one man she’s never quite gotten over — although he seems to have gotten over her just fine.

Yet the more time she spends with Dr. Perfect, the better Trevor looks. But even with the in-your-face competition, the irresistible Trevor just can’t seem to see Chastity as anything more than just one of the guys…
I liked Just One Of The Guys well enough (ETA: and remember this, because I get really bitchy later in this review! I really did like it in spite of all the moaning coming up!), but I think it suffered from me reading it soon after Catch of the Day. The plots were quite similar, both starring heroines who've happily moved back to their hometowns (both small, coastal towns) and who are at a point in their lives where they want to settle down and get married and are ready to do something about it. Both Chastity and Maggie try different methods, including internet dating, and disasters ensue. And by the end, they realise the perfect guy was always right before their eyes. At the same time, they're dealing with their families, especially with the fact that their parents' marriage is in trouble.

The books do have a different feel to them, it's not actually as if Higgins is just rewritting the same story, but there are a lot of similarities, and a lot of the same ground is covered. And unfortunately, in pretty much every element, I thought COTD did it better.

Take the heroines. In COTD, I unconditionally adored Maggie. When she got into a scrape, I wanted to hug her and tell her not to feel bad, that it wasn't her fault (even when it was!). Much as I did like her well enough, I just didn't feel that way about Chastity. When she got in a pickle, my reaction was annoyance, more along the lines of "Oh, for heaven's sake, could you be any more pathetic?"

Why? I'm not sure I can pinpoint it. Maybe it was partly her almost willful incompetence at being girly, combined with the fact that the portrayal of other women in the book (probably designed to contrast with Chastity's "genuineness") really put me in a bad mood. They're all desperate, brazen hussies, you see. The way some situations were described annoyed me: so and so had to beat women off with a chair and whip, Trevor goes into a bar and 3 minutes later 5 women have pressed slips of paper with their phone number on them into his hand. I know it's a bit of comedic license, but come on. I've never seen anything like that happen. I've lived in a few different places, even in different continents, and the women have always had a bit more dignity than that!

Also, just getting something off my chest here: I'm tired of internet dating being presented as a desperate thing to do. It's not, at least not anymore. I don't know anyone my age (early 30s) who's single and hasn't tried it, and most are not in it because their ovaries are decaying, or anything horrible like that. It's just a logical way to meet people, and as safe as any other, as long as you're sensible. Authors: stop being hysterical about it! (And of course -you guessed it- in COTD it's portrayed as something perfectly normal, unlike here. Sigh).

The romance had its good things, but also some not so good. Chastity has been in love with Trevor forever, but after a brief lapse while both where at university, Trevor has just treated her as one of the guys. It's clear to Chastity that nothing's ever going to happen, and since she does want to find a partner, she does her best to develop a relationship with someone else who seems perfect for her. I really liked what Higgins did here, and I liked how that ended.

The problem is that it's just as clear to the reader as it was to Chastity that Trevor doesn't like her that way. So when it turns out that he does, this just comes out of nowhere. Of course, the book's written as a first person narrative, from Chastity's point of view, and we know only what she knows about what's been going on inside Trevor's mind. But in COTD, it was a similar situation, and yet it was obvious to us readers that Ethan was really, really into Maggie. Here, I couldn't have guessed one way or another.

Clearly I'm in a bad mood today, because this has been all bitch, bitch, bitch. When I wasn't feeling actively annoyed, I really did enjoy the rest of the book. Higgins' writing is wonderful, you just breeze along, and the town and Chastity's friends and family come alive beautifully.



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