About Anything for You (from the back cover): Before you get down on bended knee…
…you should be pretty darn sure the answer will be yes. For ten years, Connor O’Rourke has been waiting for Jessica Dunn to take their on-again, off-again relationship public, and he thinks the time has come. His restaurant is thriving, she’s got her dream job at Blue Heron Vineyard—it’s the perfect time to get married.
When he pops the question, however, her answer is a fond but firm no. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Jess has her hands full with her younger brother, who’s now living with her full-time, and a great career after years of waitressing. What she and Connor have isperfect: friends with an excellent benefits package. Besides, with her difficult past (and reputation), she’s positive married life isn’t for her.
But this time, Connor says it’s all or nothing. If she doesn’t want to marry him, he’ll find someone who does. Easier said than done, given that he’s never loved anyone but her. And maybe Jessica isn’t quite as sure as she thinks…
A couple of years ago I barely ready any contemporary romance novels. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, just that I was pretty swept up in love stories of the historical and Amish variety. Maybe contemporary romances felt too close to home, to real to really make for decent escapism. Still, I kept seeing Kristan Higgin’s name cropping up in recommendations from fellow booklovers, and I decided to take the plunge and buy one of her books when it was in a Kindle sale. It felt pretty silly, given that I already had hundreds of unread books demanding my attention, but I’m glad I went for it as I fell head over heels in love with Kristan’s writing. In the two years since I first picked up one of her books, I’ve devoured almost everything in her back catalogue, and become an avid fan of contemporary romance novels as a result. I’m finally caught up and ready to review her latest offering, and hopefully show you why you need to join her fan club.
Anything for You is the fifth book in the Blue Heron series, and while you can probably read it as a standalone, I recommend starting at the beginning of the series as you’ll be more invested in the events surrounding the secondary characters who crop up in this volume. The way that previous characters reappear and progress with their lives reminds me a bit of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, which is another favourite of mine. The Blue Heron series is a lot more humorous than Virgin River, and you will probably find yourself attempting to hide your giggles if you read this book in public.
The Blue Heron series is a lot more humorous than Virgin River, and you will probably find yourself attempting to hide your giggles if you read this book in public.
That’s not to say that Anything for You doesn’t have its serious moments. How could it not, when Jessica’s life revolves around caring for her mentally disabled brother, Davey? I know a lot of readers were eager for Kristan to get around to telling Connor’s story, but I was actually more intrigued by Jessica. She’s popped up in the background of a lot of scenes throughout this series, particularly as a waitress in Connor’s bar, and perhaps the fact that we know so little about her is what has intrigued me. Up until this book, we’ve mostly just been told that she dated Levi (now married to Faith) in high school, and that she slept with a lot of guys, earning the nickname “Jessica Does”. I know that Kristan has been criticised for the way that some of her characters casually slut-shame Jessica for her past behaviour, so I was wondering how she was going to turn Jessica from a character who was often made fun of, into a likable heroine. In the end, I was incredibly impressed with the way that Jessica’s storyline was handled, particularly in how it showed the ramifications of Jessica’s behaviour as a teenager and how she struggled to shake off the “Jessica Does” reputation, even once she moved to a nicer part of town and got a respectable job. I really felt for Jessica and understood her desire to prove herself to the town that had previously looked down on her.
Unlike some of the other Blue Heron novels, where backstory is peppered throughout the novel as flashbacks, the first quarter or so of Anything for You details Connor and Jessica growing up together and the encounters that brought them to the failed proposal mentioned in the back cover blurb. To begin with I was a bit concerned that the author was just info-dumping to save time, but it actually really helped to get a glimpse into the very different upbringings our protagonists had. While Connor grew up in a relatively wealthy family, Jessica spent her entire childhood living in a trailer with her alcoholic parents, and was forced to grow up fast when her younger brother was born with foetal alcohol syndrome. From a young age, she did anything she could to help her brother—working full-time jobs as a teenager in order to pay for his medications, and cozying up to influential boys at her school in order to secure protection for Davey from bullies. Jessica never felt like she was worth very much, aside from in her role as Davey’s caregiver. I definitely got a sense of the hopelessness Jessica had felt, as well as her determination to seek out a better life for her and her brother. Her backstory convincingly set the scene for her behaviour towards Connor.
I definitely got a sense of the hopelessness Jessica had felt, as well as her determination to seek out a better life for her and her brother.
Connor and Jessica’s romance isn’t entirely conventional, since they’re already dating at the start of the novel. It isn’t a story about them overcoming difficulties to get together, but overcoming them to stay together. And maybe some of these difficulties aren’t really there at all, just perceived issues in the minds of two very stubborn characters who have been on their own for two long. There were times when I got fed up with Jessica pushing Connor away, but I got it. After being let down by her parents multiple times, it made sense that she didn’t want to let someone else into the little bubble she had built around Davey and herself. I enjoyed seeing Connor attempt to get to know Davey and understand the way his mind worked, rather than waiting for Jessica to mediate between them and keep things “safe”. Kristan did a good job of depicting Davey’s mental challenges and Jessica’s struggle to manage them on her own.
My only real issue with Anything for You was the character of Marcy, who begins working beside Jessica at the Blue Heron vineyard at the start of the book. I imagine she was inserted into the story to inject some comic relief, and reveal some of Jessica’s insecurities about her employment situation, but she felt too over-the-top. Kristan is usually great at writing larger than life characters with humorous quirks, but Marcy seemed too ridiculous to be believable, especially as I could never figure out her motivations for coming to Blue Heron and attempting to screw up Jessica’s job. I was quite glad that she appeared to be written out of the series at the end of the book.
Unlike some readers who have been hung up on Connor O’Rourke since he was first introduced in the Blue Heron series, it was the heroine of Anything for You that caused me to truly fall in love with it.
Unlike some readers who have been hung up on Connor O’Rourke since he was first introduced in the Blue Heron series, it was the heroine of Anything for You that caused me to truly fall in love with it. Jessica is an incredibly real, flawed character with a ton of baggage to work through, a far cry from some of the squeaky-clean, perfect heroines I see in other romance novels. I love that Kristan took a character with a less than ideal reputation and turned her into something far more than the horrible “Jessica Does” nickname. Brave, Kristan! I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
Connor O’Rourke has been in love with Jessica Dunn since they were twelve years old. In high school, he was just about the only guy that “Jessica Does” didn’t. After a chance reunion with Jessica a few years later, all of Connor’s dreams came true. At least for one night. Over the next ten years, he waits patiently as Jessica insists that their on-again-off-again relationship stay a secret. Every time he dares to hope for something lasting, Jessica ends things all over again.
It’s not entirely her fault. After all, she is the sole caregiver for her younger brother Davey who hates Connor and has major meltdowns whenever they cross paths. Still, Connor’s tired of waiting. His restaurant is thriving, new adventures are brewing, and all the women in his life seem to have found lasting love. So, he does the only thing he can do. He proposes to Jessica…
…and she says no. Calmly and fondly. But still, no.
Jessica is surprised when Connor gives her an ultimatum. It’s all or nothing. If she ends it again by not accepting his proposal, he’s not taking her back anymore. He needs to move on – with Jessica or with someone else. He can’t know how tempted she is to say yes but Davey is never going to quit needing her. And he’s never going to like Connor. While Connor would do anything for Jessica, she would do anything for Davey. And she has. So she does the only thing she can do this time. She says no and walks away. Again.
As Connor’s very pregnant twin sister jumps at the chance to find him a match, Jessica begins to regret her decision. Will she figure out what she wants – and how to make it work – before her new coworker snatches Connor up for herself?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Anything for You. For starters, I have never liked Jessica (right from book one in the series), but I have always liked Connor. I couldn’t wrap my mind – or heart – around the two of them together. But, it was Kristan Higgins, after all, and everything she writes is impeccable, so I knew I had to give it a try.
I still don’t like Jessica, though I do understand her a bit more.
The outcome: Everything Kristan Higgins writes is still impeccable. I still don’t like Jessica, though I do understand her a bit more. I still adore Connor. I’m still unsure about the two of them together. 🙂
The spotlight on fetal alcohol syndrome and parental alcoholism is an element of the story that gave this book even more heart than usual.
The spotlight on fetal alcohol syndrome and parental alcoholism is an element of the story that gave this book even more heart than usual. Kristan Higgins writes Davey with grace and honesty, showing both the endearing and the frustrating. At no time does he become a poster boy for the syndrome – he is simply Davey. The scenes with just him and Connor are some of my favorites in the novel! Jessica’s fractured relationship with her father is handled very well, too, in my opinion.
In Anything for You, we are given – for the first time, really – some insight into Jessica Dunn and her less-than-pure reputation. Instead of disdain, then, we can summon up a good deal of compassion and admiration for her. Even a measure of understanding for her choices. There, but for the grace of God, go any of us. Overall, I do like Jessica more after reading this book than at any other point in the Blue Heron series. Her attitude toward Connor for the majority of the book completely irritated me though, and while I understand her motivations it doesn’t excuse the fact that she basically took advantage of him for ten years. That Connor continues to put up with it just shows how deeply he loves her and makes me like him even more.
While certainly not fitting into the genre of Christian fiction by any stretch of the imagination, Higgins’ latest romance paints the perfect picture of God’s love for us.
I have always said that all stories are a reflection of the Big Story; innate in all of us is the story of eternity and therefore every crafted work of fiction rings with Divine truth. Anything For You is a perfect example. While certainly not fitting into the genre of Christian fiction by any stretch of the imagination, Higgins’ latest romance paints the perfect picture of God’s love for us. In that Big Story, we are Jessica – loved and pursued by One who waits patiently and steadily for us to return. He would do anything for us. He did do anything for us. Little by little, if we allow Him, He chips away at our defenses and our excuses. Always, He loves us. Always, He waits.
And that is why, even though I still don’t like Jessica, I love Anything For You – because in Connor, I see a picture (albeit flawed) of my Savior. In Jessica, I see a reflection of me. And in the two of them together, I see grace.
Disclaimer: This is a general market novel and contains swearing and scenes of a sexual nature.