Saturday, December 31, 2016

In Your Dreams

In Your Dreams (Blue Heron #4) by Kristan Higgins (2014)

Not how I pictured anyone in the book,
except the puppy.
The hero of the fourth Blue Heron book is Jack Holland, brother of Faith and Honor, who starred in the first and second books in the series. He is a hero in many senses, because we're introduced to him through a situation dubbed the Midwinter Miracle, in which he saved the lives of three teenage boys who were in an accident. The fourth boy is in a coma, and Jack blames himself. Our heroine is Emmaline Neal, a police officer who still can't get over her ex-fiance, and now she has been invited to his wedding across the country in California. She wants to bring a date, and because Jack is such a nice guy (and really wants to get out of town and away from the spotlight) he agrees to go with her.

The aftermath of Jack's role in the accident meant that he was grappling with - or trying to ignore - some emotional pain that affected how he interacted with Emmaline. Plus, the parents of the kid in a coma totally blamed him, and someone was leaving him threats and nobody knew whether or not to take them seriously. Another consequence of the accident - and the CNN coverage by Anderson Cooper - is that Jack's ex-wife Hadley came back to town to try and win him back. We got the whole back-story of their marriage and the spectacular way that it ended. She was a horrible person who I really enjoyed hating.

Emmaline's back story regarding her own failed relationship was also very good. She met Kevin when they were in school together in Malibu, and neither of them fit in with all the rich beautiful people. Emmaline had a terrible stutter, for which she was mercilessly teased, and Kevin was fat. His weight and the way he dealt with it was a super compelling part of their story. As they grew up and their relationship got more serious, Kevin kept gaining weight until Emmaline became genuinely worried about his health. Her love for him and feelings of attraction for him never wavered and honestly, it was refreshing to have a character in a novel who is obese and also a love interest. I've read romances where the female characters weren't as skinny as is deemed culturally desirable, but this was the first one where a male character was in the same position.

By the time the novel starts, though, Kevin is a crazy fit gym person and is marrying his personal trainer. However, along with all the fat, he has apparently also shed his good qualities. When he sees Emmaline at the wedding he says to her, "Wait till you see Naomi in a bikini. That'll get you motivated to lose some weight." When she reminds him that physical appearance may not be as important as kindness, loyalty, and decency his reply is, "Yeah. I used to tell myself the same thing when I was fat." My other favorite thing about the horrifying couple are that his last name is Bates and her last name is Norman, and they decided to hyphenate. So their last name is now Norman-Bates.

Of course I already knew that Kristan Higgins has a sense of humor, and she definitely came through in this novel. Humor, as we know, is what helps us get through tough times, and here it also keeps a story with some serious bits from being too serious. It's a romance after all, and we want it to be light-hearted. For instance, in preparation for Kevin and Naomi's wedding, a friend gave Emmaline some sort of silicone inserts to put in her bra to make her boobs look better and they apparently looked like raw chicken. Of course there were malfunctions and hilarity ensued. (I'm just realizing that comedy relating to women's undergarments is a theme in this series. Women's undergarments, after all, are ridiculous.) Everything about the wedding is pretty funny too, from the lack of carbs or alcohol anywhere at the resort, to the crazy Russian relatives of the bride who brought their own homemade vodka.

Another bit I really appreciated - and wouldn't have before having a dog - is the way that Emmaline's puppy, Sarge, plays with his toy, Squeaky Chicken. Sometimes he shakes it from side to side, sometimes he bites it in a repetitive way described as "hiccuping," and sometimes he bites slowly and gradually so it makes a mewing sound. I recognized all of these from my dog's play habits with her toys (one of which is also a squeaky chicken.) There's also a scene in which Emmaline and Jack are yelling at each other, and Sarge starts barking because it's so terribly exciting. This, too, is a recognizable dog behavior.

The only thing that annoyed me (aside from Higgins's use of words like "rack" and "boobage") was that Emmaline's parents were convinced that she is gay, and they just wouldn't let it go. Emmaline has always been athletic and she's not very girly which is a tired stereotype and I am over it. However, this part of the plot actually turned out to have a purpose in the story so I can't hold a grudge.

All in all, I had a really good time reading this novel. I'm almost sad that there's only one more book in this series because I've really enjoyed visiting with all of these great people in the little town of Manningsport, NY. These stories make we want to live there and be friends with them, maybe get a job at the vineyard. (Or, surely they have an adorable local library?) I look forward to reading the final one, Anything For You, sometime in 2017.

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