Meet Holly Hughes, a moderately successful teen advice columnist living in a studio apartment on the Upper East Side with her boyfriend Stephen. She has it all, but at the ripe age of thirty-one, she wants more. She wants to be married, she wants a family, and she’s going to have it all with Stephen.
At least, that’s what she thought, until Stephen announces he’s gay, and the domino effect of unfortunate events begins. She soon finds herself unemployed, single, and living in her sister’s house on Long Island, working as her niece’s babysitter for less than minimum wage. She’s pretty certain she’s destined to live in the Land of Mediocrity forever.
And then, her niece runs face-first into a tall, handsome man at the bookstore.
I struggled with how to rate Holly Freakin’ Hughes, the debut novel from Kelsey Kingsley. Kingsley is a talented writer. She has a delightful voice that made this very easy to read. Despite all my issues with HFH, I was engaged in the story of Holly Hughes and Brandon Davis, two characters I really struggled to like. To me, that says a lot about this author and where she’s headed. Kingsley did a great job of bringing each scene vividly to the reader, making me laugh at times with some of the character hijinks. I loved the small-town feel of this book and the quirky people who inhabit it.
Here’s the thing: Brandon and Holly are a great couple. Kingsley completely convinced me how perfect they are for each other. They’re exactly what the other needed. I liked their passion for each other and how they could make each other laugh. They are an easy couple who have realistic issues with relationships.
But… there are things that kept me from truly liking HFH. I didn’t know what to make of Holly. After she’s sent packing by her long-time boyfriend, Stephen, because-surprise!-he’s gay, she spends the rest of the book feeling sorry for herself and doing nothing to improve her situation. Nothing. Instead, she wallows in the fact that she’s moved in with her sister and has been reduced to being a nanny. There’s not a single time in the course of the book that Holly even considers what she can do to move on professionally. Her thought process regarding her personal life was even more frustrating as she saw herself as unworthy, settling for a guy that’s obviously in love with another woman (beware, the h sleeps with another man during the book) after being friend-zoned by Brandon.
And… Brandon. He cries in the prologue. It’s not the last time he cries in HFH. I don’t mind a sensitive hero, I really don’t, but it was too much. After his fiancée breaks up with him 2 months before their wedding and on the cusp of his success as a writer, he swears off relationships. Honestly, I don’t blame him. In the most compelling scene of the book, his fiancée, Julia, rips his heart out. This scene was raw and emotional, filled with her hatred and his heartbreak. And, like I said, I get Brandon. But he falls in love at first sight with Holly and then spends the rest of the book being a complete-but likable-wuss. He even keeps his celebrity status from Holly (which I completely understood, he wants her to see him for who he is, not what he is).
Holly Freakin’ Hughes does have an interesting cast of supporting characters. There’s Esther, the elderly woman next door. She’s outrageous and a good friend to Holly. Bill, Jessie, and Scott own the bookstore that’s the primary setting for the book and they each have their own charming quirks. I liked Nick, Brandon’s best friend and agent. He’s a great support system for Brandon and, I thought, really shined.
This book has a lot of potential, one that could easily go from a 3 star read to a 4 or 5 star read with a good editor, one who would fine-tune some of the overall plot issues I found (don’t’ want to spoil anything). I would definitely read Kelsey Kingsley next book and I look forward to seeing where she goes from here!
3 Stars for Holly Freakin’ Hughes. Heat level: 2.5
I received this book from InkSlingerPR in exchange for honest feedback.
Holly Freakin’ Hughes was published in August 2017 by the author.
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About Kelsey Kingsley:
Kelsey Kingsley grew up in the great state of New York, and still lives there with her family and a cat named Ethel. When she isn’t writing her fingers to the bone, she enjoys a good (or bad) book, reruns ofFrasier, ruining the lives of her Sims, and singing and dancing in the kitchen. She somehow survives off a diet of tea, doughnuts, and French fries. However, she hates cheese and listening to people chew. You’ve been warned.
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