As is so often the case with the books I review, this read began with a message from Patty: “I’m reading this book. It’s gotten off to a really good start and is quite funny in parts.” Of course I immediately check it out and purchase from Amazon. It’s what I do. I really should know better by now. Having been battling alternating bouts of rage, frustration, and fear for awhile now, The Best Man (Blue Heron Series – Book 1) by Kristen Higgans sounded like a nice respite. The reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads were stellar, and almost universally described the book as a delightful confection. I should have known better. I’m not going to talk about the plot in detail. To do so would give away too much. I’m going to instead talk about the issues I had with the book, along with a few bits of praise. To begin with, this may have been the whitest book I’ve ever read. I can’t recall a single character that was a person of color, named or just passing through. My housemate reminds me that this is legit – a vineyard and small town in upstate New York are not going to have a whole lot of diversity.On the plus side of taking place at a vineyard, they talk about wine. Like a lot. And, unlike that other book I reviewed not too long ago where someone ordered a Coors at a brewery, no one was ordering a bottle of Rex Goliath. (Hey – I’m not knocking RG. It’s my favorite! I mean, it’s a joke all by itself! 47-lb chicken wine!) All the talk of notes and flavors made me really wish that I had a more developed palate, or that my sense of smell was so affected by decades of chronic sinus infections.On the minus side, there were some problematic elements that were supposed to be funny, but I found terribly offensive. One of the main supporting characters was referred to on numerous occasions as “the gay” by different people in the story. It bothers me that someone who is supposed to be universally loved and adored by everyone in the book is reduced to a slur or a set of stereotypes. There was also a scene where the female protagonist is setting her widower father up on a blind date. After a series of amusing failures, she finds Maxine. Maxine is all that is kind and charming, and her dad really likes her. Then supporting characters realize that Maxine is trans and the she-male jokes begin. And jokes about stubble burn after a farewell hug. Y’all. What. Just. Happened. That’s right, an entire scene and new character were introduced just so the author could earn some cheap laughs while being hateful.
THIS IS THE BOOK THAT IS DESCRIBED IN MULTIPLE REVIEWS AS A DELIGHTFUL CONFECTION? DID WE READ THE SAME BOOK?The rest of the book is what is described as a clean romance. It reads like a script or a proposal for a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s not bad, but it isn’t terribly good, either. What it does have going for it is that the author does do some interesting things with non-linear storytelling. Does that make it worth your time? Probably not.Oh, wait! I can’t believe I almost forgot this. It’s basically the whole reason I wanted to write a review for this very mediocre-at-best book in the first place. There is an entire subplot involving the male protagonist’s ex-wife that appears from nowhere and is gone again just as quickly. You could seriously take it out of the book and no one would notice. They either need to spend more time there or remove it completely.