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What's Too Good to Be True for author Kristan Higgins, other than the title of her latest romance from HQN this month? "Last spring, I was sitting on the front porch with my laptop," the Romance Writers of America RITA award-winning author shares. "The kids were at school, my husband was at the firehouse. The scent of lilacs filled the air, the sun was shining, the birds were twittering and I thought, 'This is perfect.' Then my dog trotted up with the head of some forest creature in his mouth and proceeded to gack up the rest of the body. There's a moral in there somewhere ... ."
Although the title of her newest contemporary romance implies a
foreboding sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop, in real life Higgins has no complaints. Writing full time while her kids are in school, accompanied by a dog and two cats -- plus her mother's dog during the day -- Higgins says she adores her publisher, her editors and the ability to get "inside the head of someone in a sticky situation." Recently she received a letter from a fan who pointed out, "You write about the things we all do but would never admit." This
is a sentiment Higgins finds aptly describes her novels.
Too Good to Be True tells the story of singleton Grace Emerson, who creates fake relationships rather than invest in real ones. Notorious for this behavior since her teen years, Grace gets into a grown-up pickle after concocting a boyfriend to her sister, who is dating Grace's ex-fiance. The white lie spirals out of control once word gets out to the rest of the family.
Higgins regales us with her own Grace-like moment from her single days: "I'm not proud to admit it, but yes, I've faked a boyfriend here and there. (Happily, those days are long behind me.) I was flying from New York to San Francisco years ago, and my seatmate started hitting on me. He was going -- I'm not making this up -- to a Star Trek convention (as Spock), and he took a shine to me, as so many odd men seem to. All of a sudden I found myself telling him about my fiance, John,
a cellist in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra who lived in Noe Valley. Our wedding set for October, we had two dogs ... etc., etc. And you know what? It worked like a charm. Mr. Spock turned back to his Dungeons and Dragons magazine and the rest of the flight was very pleasant!"
Fictional hero Callahan O'Shea, who is drawn into Grace's web of lies, scares her emotionally. Deep down though, Higgins assures us he's just a big softy -- who manages to incur the wrath of Grace's 16-pound West Highland Terrier, Angus. "Like many
of the characters in Too Good to Be True, Angus takes advantage of Grace, and she worships the wee beastie," Higgins says. "He's almost a reflector of what's wrong in Grace's life. She's always putting others first, sometimes at too high a personal cost."
Incorporating dogs into her novels is a device that the animal-loving author feels brings a great deal to the overarching story. Higgins shares that owning a dog for most people signifies selflessness and commitment. With that said, the heroine in The Next Best Thing (tentatively slated for an August release) caters to Fat Mikey, "a 17-pound cat with the soul of Tony Soprano."
With Higgins' kooky humor and fun sense of story on full display, one thing that isn't Too Good to Be True is her tremendous talent. And that's no lie.
-- Lauren Spielberg
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