Title: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 412 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
The drama, hilarity and tears of sisterhood are at the heart of the thoroughly captivating new novel by New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins—a funny, frank and bittersweet look at marriage, forgiveness and moving on
Letting go of her ex-husband is harder than wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate expected…especially since his new wife wants to be Jenny’s new best friend. Sensing this isn’t exactly helping her achieve closure, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she’ll start her own business and bask in her sister Rachel’s picture-perfect family life…and maybe even find a little romance of her own with Leo, her downstairs neighbor, a guy who’s utterly irresistible and annoyingly distant at the same time.
Rachel’s idyllic marriage, however, is imploding after she discovers her husband sexting with a colleague. She always thought she’d walk away in this situation, but her triplet daughters have her reconsidering her stance on adultery, much to Jenny’s surprise. Rachel points to their parents’ perfect marriage as a shining example of patience and forgiveness; but to protect her sister, Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship—and reveal a family secret she’s been keeping since childhood.
Both Rachel and Jenny will have to come to terms with the past and the present and find a way to get what they want most of all.
With her newest release, Kristan Higgins successfully transitions from the traditional romance genre to women’s fiction. If You Only Knew is an absolutely compelling novel about marriage, infidelity and new beginnings that is poignant, humorous and full of strong emotions. Written from the alternating perspectives of Jenny Tate and her sister Rachel Carver, it is a beautifully written story that is heartfelt and engaging and stars an outstanding cast of characters that manage to both charm and infuriate as they endure some very unexpected challenges.
Jenny was completely blindsided when her now ex-husband Owen asked for a divorce. She has remained close friends with him and his new wife but she has decided it is time to put some distance between them. Moving back to her small hometown and opening her wedding design shop is just what she needs to take her mind of her ex and his growing family. Upon settling into her new home, Jenny is charmed by her enigmatic neighbor Leo Killian who immediately warns her that he is not looking for a relationship. Their unlikely friendship is complicated by their mutual attraction for one another and despite Jenny’s conviction Leo will commit to her, the secrets from his past threaten their fragile bond.
Rachel is a stay-at-home mom of triplets and she is blissfully happy with Adam, her husband of nearly ten years. However, her idyllic marriage begins to fall apart after she discovers an explicit text on Adam’s phone. He adamantly denies cheating on her but Rachel’s suspicions are soon proven right when she discovers him in a compromising situation with his gorgeous co-worker. The couple decide to stay together but Rachel cannot completely trust Adam and when she catches him in another lie, the fate of their marriage hangs in the balance.
Jenny is gregarious, upbeat and friendly. Although quite close to Rachel, she is impatient with her mother’s histrionics and avoids her as much as possible. Jenny is quite capable of taking care of herself and very little flusters her. She is fiercely protective of Rachel and despite of her sister’s pleas to forgive Adam, she remains deeply angered by his betrayal. Jenny is immediately bewitched by Leo and their interactions are laced with humor and crackling with sexual tension. They easily and gradually transition from friends to lovers but Leo maintains an emotional distance from her.
Rachel is shy and her entire world revolves around her husband and daughters. She is shocked and hurt by his infidelity and she is very unsure about the future of their marriage. Not wanting to lose the life she has worked so hard to build, she agrees to stay with him but only if he agrees to counseling. Jenny is furious at his somewhat flippant attitude but she works hard at salvaging their marriage. She eventually becomes quite conflicted by her decision to stay with Adam and it takes until nearly the end of the story before she decides what she will do about their marriage.
Leo is an unbelievably complicated but intriguing man. He is funny, laid-back and easygoing but he is also completely closed off and quite secretive about his past. He reads Jenny like a book right from their first meeting and despite her obvious infatuation with him, he cannot seem to stay away from her. Leo is tragic, mysterious and so darned adorable it is easy to understand Jenny’s attraction and her hopefulness that he will step up to the plate and commit to her.
If You Only Knew is a deeply moving novel about love, marriage, relationship, forgiveness and loyalty. This captivating depiction of life’s messier moments is realistic and Kristan Higgins does not shy away from difficult or sensitive topics. Rachel and Jenny are lovable characters who will delight, charm and frustrate readers as they work their way through the various challenges life throws their way. It is an extremely heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking and incredibly thought-provoking story that I highly recommend.