Dear Friends,

I hope you are keeping warm. It has been quite a winter, hasn't it?

Not Quite a Husband cover I am in the middle of page proofs for His at Night. If you are unfamiliar with the term, page proofs, also known as galleys, are typeset pages of a book on which the author makes a final round of edits by hand. Writing by hand is always a bit nerve-wracking for me, especially knowing that this is it, no more changes allowed beyond this point. But it is so exciting just to see the page proofs, a year's work in tangible form.

Bound by Your Touch Cover In fun news, Not Quite a Husband has been picked by two of All About Romance's reviewers as their top read of 2009, which quite thrills me. But even more thrilling is the news that the big winner of this year's AAR reviewers's choice award (with a grand total of four votes, which, given the diverse tastes at AAR, constitutes quite a landslide) is my blogging partner Meredith Duran's book, Bound by Your Touch. If you haven't read Meredith, what are you waiting for?

Funny how everything is interlinked. At the AAR blog, the post that immediately preceded the Best of 2009 post was a Books with Buzz interview with Kristan Higgins, whose smart, funny, and touching books are my top choices for romantic comedies. Kristan's newest book is coming out today and of course I nagged her until she relented and answered a few questions for me.

When I'm not reading Kristan's books, I obsessively read her blog. I have New England envy, especially in summer, which lasts from March to November in Austin, Texas and grows hotter every year. So I lose myself in Kristan's chronicle of her life in Connecticut, in her tales of late snow, cool summers, and fall foliage. Her family makes their own maple syrup. How cool is that?

And when I can treat myself to a new Kristan Higgins book, what strikes me the most is always the community that she builds: family, neighbors, friends, townspeople, a cohesive and caring whole. Her stories are affirming, without being treacly; funny, but still full of substance; and they always put a big smile on my face.

Not Quite Enough about Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins Photo Kristan Higgins lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband, two lovely children, their devoted dog, and a regal and somewhat elderly cat named Cinnamon. They spend as much time as possible at their family home on Cape Cod, swimming in the Atlantic, shivering on the beach, swatting horseflies and watching fish evade Kristan's lure at Higgins Pond. It’s as close to heaven as it gets.

Your new book, THE NEXT BEST THING, has a totally fun premise. In your books, the heroine and the hero often know each other in some ways, through family and friends or just living in the same small town. But Lucy and Ethan from THE NEXT BEST THING not only know each other, they are friends with benefits—really good friends with really good benefits, I should add. ::wink:: Lucy, a young widow who is finally ready to marry again and start a family, stops those benefits with Ethan so she can date seriously. And Ethan, well, Ethan has to convince her otherwise. How did you come up with such an unusual twist for a romantic comedy?

The Next Best Thing Cover One of the things I try to do with my books is to take a classic idea and invert it somehow. A widow finding a second chance at love is that type of classic plot. In Lucy’s case, though…she really doesn’t want to fall in love again. She does want to marry and have kids. But since her heart’s been through the meat grinder once before when her husband died, she wants to play it safe this time. Ethan is anything but safe, so Lucy ends their arrangement, recognizing that he’s too potentially dangerous to the old heartstrings to meet her criteria.

You have fabulous covers which totally convey the tone of your books, which are comedic but not frivolous, romantic yet deeply rooted in real life. And of course, on each of your four previous books, there has been a darling pooch sharing the cover with the hero and the heroine. THE NEXT BEST THING marks a departure in that the animal friend is not a dog, but—gasp—a cat! How did that happen?

Too Good to Be True Cover Yes, I know! The shock, the horror! But here’s the thing. I do love cats…some, anyway. And though dogs have become a bit of a trademark for me, they’re not just plot devices or a way to get those fun covers. Each heroine’s pet reflects something about her personality or situation. In Lucy’s case, a dog would’ve been too much work, too much adoration. Fat Mikey, her curmudgeonly feline, is just right. He’s good company, but he doesn’t get carried away. Keeps Lucy in her place.

In my contemporary romances, I prefer urban settings to small town settings. But I adore your small town settings. For one thing, I love New England—when I swelter through yet another 100-days-over-100-degrees summer in Austin, I think longingly of Vermont—and your books are always set in New England. For another, there's nothing anonymous or stereotypical about your small towns. They really come alive in your books and become engaging characters on their own. Please tell me what location are we going to be treated to in THE NEXT BEST THING and why I am going to drool over it.

Just One of the Guys Cover I have to say, this setting is one of my favorites. The book is set in the fictional town of Mackerly, a tiny island just off the Rhode Island coast. I based it on the beautiful berg of Jamestown, which is right near Newport. Lucy works in the family bakery; there’s a great cast of townspeople who come in regularly. She also does an occasional stint on board Captain Bob’s Island Adventures, a little tour boat operation. There’s nothing quite as beautiful to me as the New England coast, so it was a real pleasure setting the book here.

One thing I always looked forward to when reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books was to see how Stephanie manages to destroy her car/have her car destroyed in each new book. What I've come to look forward to in each of your books are the absolutely hilarious bad dates your heroines go on in the quest for true love. Do these come from personal experience and tales passed around among family and friends? And do you ever just make them up?

Catch of the Day Cover I’ve had a few bad dates in my time, sure! None have made it into a book yet, though…those are all pure imagination. You won’t be disappointed in THE NEXT BEST THING…most notably is Lucy’s foray into speed dating. I do love writing those scenes! Guess that makes me a sadist, but there you have it.

What are you working on next? And are you going back to dogs or branching further afield with parrots, hamsters, and goldfish? :-)

I just finished my sixth romantic comedy, which is entitled ALL I EVER WANTED. It’s set in Vermont…be prepared for some serious Green Mountain envy, Sherry! This story is about a woman trying to get over her obsession with her boss. Back to dogs in this one — Bowie, a Husky mutt with different colored eyes.

Can we have the recipe for one of Lucy’s fabulous desserts in THE NEXT BEST THING?

Fools Rush In Cover But of course!

Kristan’s Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Whiskey Glaze

1 pound of cinnamon raisin bread (homemade is best for you overachievers, but Pepperidge Farms isn’t bad, either…thick sliced works best)
3 ¼ cups milk
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup golden raisins
1 eight ounce can of crushed or sliced pineapple. If you used sliced, cut into small chunks.

Top with Jack Daniels Browned Butter Sauce (see recipe below)

Oven: 350 degrees

Tear bread into 1/2-inch square pieces. Don’t smoosh the bread…you want it to be nice and airy. Place bread chunks in bowl. Add milk and stir occasionally until bread absorbs milk…takes about 20 minutes.

In another bowl, beat eggs, then add sugar, vanilla, raisins and pineapple. Mix well. Add to bread mixture and stir gently with rubber spatula.

Pour into 13-by-9 inch baking pan and cover loosely with foil. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Be gentle when opening the oven door to check…the pudding may fall if you’re not.

Jack Daniels Sauce
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
¾ cup butter
Dash of cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. Jack Daniels whiskey

In saucepan, brown the butter (be careful…it turns fast). Add water and sugar, mixing until sugar dissolves. Don’t boil! Turn off heat, add a dash of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla and the whiskey. Mix lightly, then pour over warm pudding. A little whipped cream isn’t going to kill anyone, so go ahead and add that. Taste. Smile. Life is good!

Yum. I'm putting down cinnamon raisin bread on my shopping list, as soon as I have placed my order for The Next Best Thing. Thank you, Kristan, for stopping by to visit!

Kristan Higgins Giveaway

The Next Best Thing Cover

This is a contest exclusive to subscribers of An Infrequent Offer. To subscribe, click here.

In the meanwhile, why not read an excerpt of The Next Best Thing?

And congratulations to Barbara S. and Stasy I. who each won a copy of Courtney Milan's Proof by Seduction.  Thank you to everyone who participated.

Book Recommendations

Lessons in French cover

Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale. Everything I know about writing I learned from Laura Kinsale—or at least half of everything! In fact, one reviewer has said of my writing, "I have felt since your first book that your prose and storytelling are reminiscient of Laura Kinsale (in my eyes, there is hardly a higher compliment)." In my eyes, there is no better compliment either—unless I'm compared to Judith Ivory, from whom I learned the other half of everything. :-)

Lessons in French is Kinsale's first new book in five years. Lady Callista is a thrice-jilted spinster whose great goal in life is to see her prize bull Hubert win the silver cup at the agricultural fair. Along comes her first love Trev, who is on the run from the law, and her tranquil country life turns upside down and she suddenly finds herself in the midst of intrigue, adventures, and, of course, passionate romance. If you are a fan of historical romance, you should not miss it. Or her entire backlist. Go forth and glom.

The Murder Room Cover

The Murder Room by P. D. James. This was a reading slump buster. It's been a few years since I'd read one of P. D. James's Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. Commander Dalgliesh is in love. And this suddenly makes me see him in a different light. His dignity, his quiet, cool authority, his grace under pressure— I should like to write such a hero some day. A most enjoyable read.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo cover

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I finally crawled out from underneath my rock and got around to this book, which has taken the entire world by storm. I had no idea what to expect but was instantly sucked in by the story of a family patriarch's one last search for answers concerning his beloved niece's unsolved murder, and the journalist who, assisted by the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, cracks open the cold case. Whether you are a devoted or only occasional reader of mystery and suspense, you should give this book a go.

May your shelves always overflow with great books to read.


Back to newsletters