“Too Good To Be True” By Kristan Higgins

A Five Stiletto Review

~ By Alana Albertson

I’ll start with a confession. I used to hate romance novels. I’ve never been attracted to Fabio and never really had any idea what happened behind the pages of a picture of his ripped chest. I imagined a cheesy hero, a pathetic damsel in distress – wasn’t my scene. My disdain for bodice ripping led me down a dangerous path of writing Chick Lit. After my novel was runner up in the 2008 Stiletto contest, I found a terrific agent and filled my head with dreams of a major publishing contract. It wasn’t to be. Editor after editor loved my writing, my characters, and my plot but the only common theme of my rejections was “It’s too Chick Lit – not quite romance, not quite women’s fiction.” What’s a Chick Lit author to do? My agent suggested I rewrite my book as contemporary romance. She even sentenced me to read a Danielle Steele book! I forced myself to read it, the entire time thinking, if this is what it takes to get published, I’m not interested. I’ll waste my time doing something more rewarding, like training to be a NFL cheerleader. Desperate, I turned to my chapter, asking for suggestions for a sassy romance novel that I could devour the same way I fell in love with Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Dirty Girls Social Club? Enter Kristan Higgins.

Our former president suggested Too Good To Be True. I found a copy at a going out of business Borders Express. Three hours later, I’d read the entire book.

TGTBT is the story of unlucky-in-love high school history teacher, Grace, who lies to her family and friends about being in a relationship with the perfect man. One problem – he exists only in her head.  When sexy (and fresh out of jail) Callahan moves next store, Grace falls for him and realizes that her true match might not be so perfect on paper.

Told in a chick litty, first person POV, TGTBT is laugh-out-loud funny. Callahan is masculine and intoxicating, a bad boy with a good heart. And there’s a great Gone with the Wind shout out.

To me, Higgins is the new voice of chick lit. Light-hearted, modern romantic comedy with a sassy heroine. Granted, there are no mentions of Louboutin heels and Birkin handbags, and all the characters have real jobs in normal industries versus being assistants in highly glamourous careers. But these extravagant lifestyles were what doomed Chick Lit to the remainder bins. The characters that inhabit Higgins’ world are more relatable than many of the untouchable chick lit heroines and their douchy love interests.

I was thrilled when TGTBT won the Rita. This is the perfect contemporary romance that will appeal to readers of chick lit. For me, it was a life changer. Higgins opened me up to a whole new world of romance fiction, which I now love, and inspired me to write it myself. Five out of five stilettos.

Alana Albertson is the President of RWA’s Chick Lit Writers Chapter and the founder of Academe Advantage, a college admissions & test preparation company. A recovering Chick Lit author, Alana currently writes contemporary romance and young adult fiction. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, four-month old baby boy, and a menagerie of rescue pets. When she’s not spending her time needlepointing, dancing or playing the drums, she can be found watching episodes of House Hunters, Big Love, or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Keep up with her at www.alanaalbertson.com.

4 thoughts on ““Too Good To Be True” By Kristan Higgins”

  1. After reading so many comments on the chick-lit writer’s loop about Kristan Higgin’s, I (also not accustomed to reading classic romance novels), gave in and bought Fools Rush In, also by Higgin’s. I agree with your review completely. In fact, her writing style is actually what I consider to be ‘chick-lit’ – while romance was at the forefront, there were other secondary storylines that were not related to men at all, like friendship and family. It was written from the first person perspective and contained light and humorous dialogue. THAT is what I’ve always considered to be ‘chick-lit’. Although in the past, many chick-lit novels DID include designer shoes, gay best friends and evil bosses, that is never what defined the genre to me – it was the writing style. And I agree that relatable characters are key. Some of my friends who don’t typically read ‘chick-lit’ because they also thought it was all about designer bags and douchy boyfriends told me they loved my book because, while a light read, the characters were relatable and the storylines realistic.

    Nice review.


    Just Friends With Benefits
    “Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Bastard”

  2. Alana,
    Thank you so much for your honesty! My path to chick lit has been similar. I used to get lots of comments from my creative writing classmates about my characters being well developed yet frivolous, and definitely not literary. So. It’s nice to find common ground!

  3. Thanks Jeff. The men in your books sound fabulous. That’s what I loved most about Kristan’s hero – he was hunky, down to earth, not pretentious, not perfect, but very real. I think that is what women want. And I think you should have success as a romantic comedy writer because any woman would love to hear the male point of view. Have you read any of Tom Perotta’s books? He does a great job of writing, in my opinion, modern male chick lit.

  4. Great post, Alana.
    And it gives me hope that my three recent novel ms. are indeed on the ‘good’ side of Chick Lit.
    My heroines have very normal jobs … and budgets and bills. They have a degree of ‘sass’ but more like dry wit than hurtful barbs. They have flawed friends who provide occasional comfort but also sometimes make them crazy. [And sometimes get my heroines into deep doo-doo.]
    Two of my stories are ‘screwball’ romantic comedies. Does that fit under the umbrella of good chick lit? I think so … as far as labels can take us. The characters, their conflicts, and the resolutions are entertaining and fresh … and that seems (to me) to be a hallmark of chick lit.

    My heroines get into situations which range from LOL funny to perplexing … to scary.
    But there are also emotional depths to the people on my pages.

    What about men in their lives?
    Yeah, my heroines either have a ‘boyfriend’ who’s temporarily on the outs (usually because of confusion caused by her buddies) or she spends the story developing a relationship with a man (even when she wasn’t looking for one). The men in my stories are not cover models, but they have looks, strengths, and charm. And some are very human bunglers in certain aspects of the relationship.
    What am I saying?
    Similar to how I interpret your article, Alana — that my characters are more real AND more entertaining than the ones in that (now too common) rarified air which got ‘Chick Lit’ banished to the ‘bad’ side of publishers / agents / editors.
    Here’s hoping the pendulum swings back to some mode of normalcy which will remove the stigma of literate, entertaining fiction featuring resourceful, courageous women.

Comments are closed.