Narrated by Xe Sands
I have truly enjoyed all of Kristan Higgins’ work from my first glom about 5 years ago. She writes small town romance, but not the series where you have to read a dozen books to finally get everyone married off. Her books are generally stand-alone or short series, and she focuses a lot on quirky and dysfunctional but loving families, with a heroine who just hasn’t quite found the right man (until the end). I usually find myself falling in love with all of them before I’ve reached mid-point in the books. Bringing them to audio almost took too long, but hearing Xe Sands read them, I’m going to say it was worth the wait, especially for All I Ever Wanted.
Callie – short for Calliope, Homer’s muse, she reminds us several times – is turning 30. She’s a successful creative director at an ad agency, and she’s been in love with her boss Mark since childhood. Unfortunately, except for a brief fling several months back, he hasn’t seen her as anything other than a valued employee. But Callie’s an optimist, totally glass-half full in every way. She lives with her grandfather, in an old warehouse-type home where he’s a boat craftsman. Her parents have been divorced for 22 years, and her besotted and romantic dad has spent the last several trying unsuccessfully to win her mother back. Her older sister is a single mother to 2 adopted girls and their 20-something younger brother is a sweet and rascally ne’er do well. It’s a charming and quirky family that seems just right.
Ian is the new veterinarian in town, and although he’s single and good looking, he’s a frosty fellow who doesn’t seem to have any people skills at all, practically the complete opposite of Callie. In ways particular to Higgins’ talents, she describes him as looking like a Russian assassin in a way that makes you picture a devilishly handsome fellow who isn’t really the least bit scary. Callie takes her rescue Husky Bowie to the vet in order to check out the new hottie in town and, as she is wont to do, practically adopts Ian, helping him warm up to his client base, organizing a pet fair so the town will come out and support him, and generally doing her best to melt his permafrost – a tactic he calls “working him over”. It took a long time for me to warm up to Dr Icy-Heart myself, and he wasn’t exactly nice to Callie most of the time. She’s bound and determined that everyone like him, just like everyone likes her, and he’s just as determined that he won’t have any of it.
Truly the humor and emotion made this listen a mild roller-coaster of emotions for me. I felt Callie’s need to make everyone happy, not a desperate need but a compelling one – can’t we all just get along? She helped her grandfather who had lost a leg in an accident, even when he was grumpy and ungrateful. She was always there for her parents, and she gave 110% to her job and co-workers in spite of her boss’s shitty treatment. Ian’s introverted stand-offish-ness was palpable, and I wanted to be sympathetic (being an introvert myself) but couldn’t bear to feel the hurt he inflicted on Callie, even fully knowing his motivations and back-story. And in the midst of all that were some genuinely funny situations, with heart-warming dialog that made me want to start the audio from the beginning as soon as it ended.
Xe Sands is really doing a bang-up job with Kristan Higgins’ stories. It’s written in first person, from Callie’s POV, so she inhabits Callie’s mind and brings her completely to life. Although I cannot actually relate to a 30-year-old creative director in Vermont, I felt like I became Callie while Sands read me her story. Sands croons for the Husky’s voice, and she does the men, the women, the children – all the characters complete justice. Her men’s voices are suitably placed in a lower register, and she gives each one a fully-formed personality – smarmy Mark, grumpy Gramps, stony Ian, besotted Dad. She has a sort of understated but effective comic delivery for the wacky scenes, and her descriptions evoked full movies in my head. It was an complete success for me, and I highly recommend it for romantic comedy/contemporary romance fans.
Book Content: A
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: None
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Recorded Books