Today, HJ is pleased to share with you Kristan Higgins release: If You Only Knew.
A funny, frank and bittersweet look at sisters, marriage and moving on…
Sisterhood in all its drama, hilarity and tears is at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins’s thoroughly captivating new novel, featuring the wit and romance the readers have come to expect from the much-loved creator of the Blue Heron series.
Letting go of her ex-husband is harder than wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate expected…especially since his new wife seems to want to be Jenny’s new best friend. Sensing this isn’t helping her move on, 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 completely distant at the same time.
Unfortunately, Rachel’s idyllic marriage is imploding after she discovers her husband sexting with a colleague. She always thought she’d walk away in this kind of situation, but her three daughters have her reconsidering, much to Jenny’s surprise. Rachel points to their parents’ perfect marriage as a shining example; 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.
Enjoy an excerpt from If You Only Knew:
They really are the perfect couple. Once, it was Owen and me, and while I didn’t expect perfection, I thought we were pretty great. We never fought. My mom felt that since Owen is half-Japanese, he was a better bet than “those simpletons” I dated—all of whom I hoped to marry at one point or another, starting with Nico Stephanopolous in eighth grade. “The Japanese don’t believe in divorce,” Mom said the first time I introduced her. “Right, Owen?”
He agreed, and I can still see his omnipresent, sweet smile, the Dr. Perfect Smile, as I called it. It’s his resting expression. Very reassuring to his patients, I’m sure. Owen is a plastic surgeon, the kind who fixes cleft palates and birthmarks and changes the lives of his patients. Ana-Sofia, who is from Peru and speaks five languages, met Owen eleven weeks after our divorce when he was doing his annual stint with Doctors Without Borders in the Sudan and she was digging wells.
And I make wedding dresses, as I believe I’ve already said. Listen, it’s not as shallow as it sounds. I make women look the way they dreamed they would on one of the happiest days of their lives. I make them cry at their own reflections. I give them the dress they’ve spent years thinking about, the dress they’ll be wearing when they pledge their hearts, the dress they’ll pass onto their own daughters someday, the dress that signifies all their hopes and dreams for a happy, sparkling future.
But compared with what Owen and his second wife do, yeah, it’s incredibly shallow.
In theory, I should hate them both. No, he didn’t cheat with her. He’s far too decent for that.
He loves her, though. Ostensibly, I could hate him for loving her and not me. Make no mistake. I was heartbroken. But I can’t hate Owen, or Ana-Sofia. They’re too damn nice, which is incredibly inconsiderate of them.
And being Owen’s friend is better than being without Owen entirely.
The quilt has made the rounds of admiration and is passed back to Ana. She strokes it tenderly, then looks at me with tears in her eyes. “I don’t have the words to tell you how much this means.”
Oh, shut up, I want to say. I forgot to buy you a gift and dashed this off last night with some leftover Duchess satin. It’s no big deal.
“Hey, no worries,” I say. I’m often glib and stupid around Ana-Sofia. Andreas hands me another cream puff. I may have to give him a raise.
“I’m so excited about your new shop,” Ana continues. “Owen and I were talking about how talented you are just last night.”
Andreas gives me a significant look and rolls his eyes. He has no problem hating Ana-Sofia and Owen, which I appreciate. I smile and take another sip of my mimosa, which is made with blood oranges and really good champagne.
If I’m ever pregnant, though the chances of that are plummeting by the hour, I imagine I’ll have the unenviable “I sat on an air hose” look that my sister had when she was percolating the triplets. There was no glow. There was acne. Stretch marks that made her look as if she’d been mauled by a Bengal tiger. She gnashed on TUMS and burped constantly, but in true Rachel fashion, my sister never complained.
Ana-Sofia glows. Her perfect olive skin is without a blemish or, indeed, a visible pore. Her boobs look fantastic, and though she is eight and a half months pregnant, her baby bump is modest and perfectly round. She has no cankles. Life is so unfair.
“We just found out that our daughter’s classmate is her half brother,” says the taller woman in Lesbian Couple #1. One of them just became a partner in Owen’s practice, but I don’t remember her name. “Imagine if we hadn’t known that! She could’ve ended up dating her half brother! Marrying him! The fertility clinic gave out fourteen samples of that donor’s sperm. We’re filing a lawsuit.”
“It’s better than adopting,” says another woman. “My sister? She and her husband had to give back their son the fourth time he set fire to the living room.”
“That’s not so bad. My cousin adopted, and then the birth mother came out of rehab and the judge gave her custody of the baby. After two years, mind you.”
On the other side of the circle, there seems to be a heated debate over whose labor and delivery was most grueling. “I almost died,” one woman says proudly. “I looked at my husband and told him I loved him, and the next thing I knew, the crash cart was there…”
“I was in labor for three days,” another states. “I was like a wild animal, clawing at the sheets.”
“Emergency cesarean eight weeks early, no anesthesia,” someone else says proudly. “My daughter weighed two pounds. NICU, fifty-seven days.”
And we have a winner! The other mothers shoot her resentful looks. Talk turns to food allergies, vaccines, family beds and the sad dearth of gifted and talented programs for preschoolers.
“This is fun,” I murmur to Ana-Sofia.
“Oh, yes,” she says. Irony is not one of her skills. “I’m so glad you are here, Jenny. Thank you for giving up your afternoon! You must be very busy with the move.”
“You’re moving?” one of her extremely beautiful and well-educated friends asks. “Where?”
“Cambry-on-Hudson,” I answer. “I grew up there. My sister and her family are—”
“Oh, my God, you’re leaving Manhattan? Will you have to get a car? Are there any restaurants there? I couldn’t live without Zenyasa Yoga.”
“You still go to Zenyasa?” someone says. “I’ve moved on. It’s Bikram Hot for me. I saw Neil Patrick Harris there last week.”
“I don’t do yoga anymore,” a blonde woman says, studying a raspberry. “I joined a trampoline studio over on Amsterdam. Sarah Jessica Parker told me about it.”
“What about brunch?” someone asks me, her brow wrinkling in concern. “What will you do for brunch if you leave the city?”
“I think brunch is illegal outside Manhattan,” I answer gravely. No one laughs. They may think I’m telling the truth.
Now granted, I love Manhattan. To paraphrase the song, if you make it here, the rest of the world is a cakewalk. And I have made it here. I’ve worked for the best—even Vera Wang, as a matter of fact. My work is sold at Kleinfeld Bridal and has supported me for fifteen years. I was named one of the Designers of the Year when I was at Parsons. I’ve been to not one but two parties at Tim Gunn’s place. He greeted me by name—and yes, he’s as nice as he seems.
But while I love the city, its roar, its buildings and smells, its subways and skyline, in my heart of hearts, I want a yard. I want to see my nieces more often. I want the happily ever after that my sister nailed, that’s unfolding for my ex-husband and his too-nice wife.
I hope I’m running to something, not away. The truth is work has felt a little flat lately.
Cambry-on-Hudson is a lovely little city about an hour north of Manhattan. It has several excellent restaurants—some even serve brunch, shockingly. The downtown has a movie theater, flowering trees, a park and a Williams-Sonoma. It’s hardly a third world country, no matter what these women think. And the latest shop is Bliss. Custom-made wedding gowns. My baby, in lieu of the human kind.
My phone beeps softly with a text. It’s from Andreas, who has put in his earbuds in order to drown out the stories of blocked milk ducts and bleeding nipples.
Check out the nose on the great-aunt. I hope the baby inherits that.
I smile at him gratefully.
“Did you hear about the obstetrician who fathered fifty-nine babies?” someone asks.
“That was an episode on Law & Order.”
“Ripped from the headlines,” someone else murmurs. “Someone in my building was one of his patients.”
“Oh. Oh, dear,” Ana-Sofia says.
I turn to her. She looks a bit startled. “It’s probably not true,” I tell her.
“No…I think…it appears my water has broken.”
There is a silence, followed by a collective roar.
I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that, despite there being a dozen women who’ve given birth all jockeying for position, my hand is the one Ana-Sofia clutches. “Oh, Jenny, it’s happening,” she says. “I feel something.” Her beautiful brown eyes are wide and terrified, and then I’m easing her onto the floor and crouched between her still-slim thighs—really, it’s like she’s showing off. I slide off her thong—she’s maintained her bikini wax, FYI— and holy Mother of God, I can see the head.
I fumble in my purse for the travel-size Purell (if you ride the subways on a daily basis, you carry Purell) and slather some on my hands. “Get some towels and quiet down!” I bark at the other shower guests. I’m kind of good in emergencies. Liza hands me a stack of towels—very soft and about to be ruined by whatever comes out of a woman during childbirth.
“Let me help,” Liza whines. Indeed, this would make a great Facebook post. Just delivered my BFF’s baby, LOL!—with Ana-Sofia Marquez-Takahashi.
“I need to push,” Ana pants, and she does, once, twice, a third time, and a face appears—a baby! There’s a baby coming into my hands! One more push, and I’m holding it, slimy and covered in white gunk and a little blood and incredibly beautiful.
Dark hair, huge eyes. A miracle.
I ease her out all the way and put her on Ana’s chest. “It’s a girl,” I say, covering the baby with a towel.
It seems like just a few seconds later that FDNY clomps in, and I entertain a quick and deeply satisfying fantasy—The head firefighter is filled with admiration for my cleverness, checks me out and asks me to dinner in the cutest Brooklyn accent the world has ever heard. His biceps flex hypnotically, and at the end of the date, yes, he does pick me up to demonstrate just how easy it would be for him to save my life, and a few years later, we have three strong sons, twin daughters on the way. And a Dalmatian.
But no, their attention is quite taken with Ana-Sofia—as it should be, I guess, though it would be nice if just one of them checked me out. Someone cuts the cord, and Ana is weeping beautifully over her daughter, and Liza holds her phone to Ana’s ear so my ex-husband can sob his love and admiration for his wife, who just set the land-speed record for labor and delivery.
From down the hall, I can hear Andreas dry-heaving in the tastefully decorated powder room over the murmurs of admiration from the shower guests and the brawny firefighters as they tell Ana how amazing she is, how beautiful her daughter is.
Seems as if I’m leaving the city in the very nick of time.
Excerpt. ©Kristan Higgins. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Author:
Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of 14 novels, which have been translated into more than twenty languages. Her books have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, the New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Romantic Times, Library Journal and Booklist. She is a two-time recipient of Romance Writers of America RITA Award.