Here are a few things I absolutely hate in my romance heroines.
1. Overly Cute Heroine Names
2. Former Prom Queen
3. Weight Concerns, Non Medical
4. Wacky / Quirky Families.
5. Unrealistic Emotional Expectations
6. Marshmallow Backbones
7. Quirky Catchphrases
8. Plethora of Adorable Old & Cranky People
9. Fur Children
Callie (Calliope) has all ten of those covered, and then some. So why is All I Ever Wanted one of my best books of the year? Because Kristan Higgins is apparently that awesome. Without this having been chosen as a book for the SBTB Sizzling Summer Book Club I never would have purchased it. This would have been my absolute loss.
Callie has allowed two events to shape her life. Between her parent's divorce and her obsession with her former teen crush / ex boyfriend / boss Mark, Callie lives most of her life in her head. Every scrap she's thrown is torn apart for meaning until she's constructed a new room for her fairy castle in the air. Right there, I should want to slap her. But Callie is self aware enough to berate herself for having doormat tendencies. This is not only a great source of the book's humor, but stops the reader from having to berate Callie themselves. Her desire to see the good in anyone leads to her own repeated downfall as she ignores what's in front of her face. At home, with her widowed grandfather Noah, Callie drops the perfect princess act and allows her true self to emerge. Freed from the frantic love-me-please tap dance she performs across town (in red shoes if you believe the cover art) Callie is a more sympathetic soul.
This is Pamela Morsi at her best good. This is Nora Roberts good. This is a great contemporary. While I wish there wasn't a career 180 performed at the end of the book, overall everything rings true and several cliches are turned on their heads. Callie gets a happy ending she can build on, Ian gets some resolution of his own issues, and Mark finds out where his heart belongs. Along the way, everything I dislike in a romantic heroine is rendered likeable.
(Don't think this means I'll be eating green eggs & ham, because I'm holding firm on that.)