If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew

by Kristan Higgins

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A funny, frank and bittersweet look at sisters, marriage and moving on, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Blue Heron series

Letting go of her ex-husband is harder than wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate expected…especially since his new wife wants to be Jenny's new best friend. Needing closure, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll start her own business and bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and maybe even find a little romance of her own with Leo, her downstairs neighbor, who's utterly irresistible and annoyingly distant at the same time.

Rachel's idyllic marriage, however, is imploding after she discovers what looks like her husband's infidelity. She always thought she'd walk away in this situation but now she's wavering, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' perfect marriage as a shining example of patience and forgiveness; but to protect her sister, Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a family secret she's been keeping since childhood.

Both Rachel and Jenny will have to come to terms with the past and the present, and find a way to help each other get what they want most of all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373789290
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 05/31/2016
Edition description: Original
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 161,045
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA TODAY bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than twenty languages. She has received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, The New York Journal of Books and Kirkus.

Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband, two atypically affectionate children, a neurotic rescue mutt and an occasionally friendly cat.

Read an Excerpt


Today is one of those days when I realize that staying friends with my ex-husband was a huge mistake.

I'm at the baby shower for Ana-Sofia, Owen's wife and my replacement. Indeed, I'm sitting next to her, a place of honor in this circle of beaming well-wishers, and I'm probably beaming just as hard as everyone else. Harder, even, my "gosh, isn't it wonderful, she's so radiant" smile that I give at work quite often, especially as my brides get bitchier or their mothers get more critical or their maids of honor get more jealous. But this smile, the baby-shower smile…this is superhuman, really.

I know that coming today is incredibly pathetic, don't worry. It's just that I didn't want to seem bitter by not showing up—though I'm pretty sure I am bitter, at least a little. After all, I'm the one who always wanted kids. Every time I brought it up, though, Owen said he wasn't sure the time was right, and he loved our life the way it was.

Yeah. So. That turned out not to be quite true, but we did stay friends. Coming today, though…pathetic.

However, I woke up this morning utterly starving, and I knew the food would be amazing at the shower. Ana-Sofia inspires people. Plus, I'm moving out of the city, so for the past three weeks, I've been trying to eat or give away every morsel of food in my apartment. Let's also mention that I couldn't figure out an excuse that people would buy. Better to be an oddity here than Poor Jenny at home, scrounging through a box of Wheat Thins of indeterminate age.

Ana-Sofia opens my gift, which is wrapped in Christmas paper, despite it being April. Liza, my host, glowers; the red-and-green cocoa-swilling Santas are an affront to the party vibe, which Liza noted on the invitations.

In an effort to create a beautiful and harmonious environment for Ana-Sofia, please adhere to the apricot-and-sage color scheme in your clothing and gift-wrapping choices.

Only in Manhattan, folks. I'm wearing a purple dress as a middle finger to Liza, who used to be my friend but now posts daily on Facebook that she's LOLing with her BFF, Ana-Sofia.

"Oh! This is so lovely! Thank you, Jenny! Everyone, look at this! It's beautiful!" Ana-Sofia holds up my gift, and there are gasps and murmurs and exclamations and a few glares that I have brought the best present. I cock an eyebrow at the haters. Suck it up, bitches. My gift was actually dashed off last night, as I kind of forgot to buy a present, but they don't have to know that.

It's a white satin baby blanket with leaves and trees and birds stitched into it. Hey. It only took me two hours. Nothing was hand-stitched. It wasn't that big a deal. I sew for a living. A wedding-dress designer. The irony is not lost on me.

"Couldn't you have just bought a stuffed animal like a normal person?" murmurs the person on my left. Andreas—born Andrew—my assistant, and the only man here. Gay, of course—do straight men work in designer bridal wear? Also, he hates and fears children, which makes him the perfect date for me under the circumstances. I needed an ally.

Have I mentioned that the shower is being held in the apartment I once shared with Owen? Where, so far as I could tell, he and I were extremely happy? Yes. Liza is hosting, but the power went out in her apartment, thanks to the ham-fisted construction crew installing her new glass countertops—granite being so very last decade—and so we're here instead. Liza is sweaty and loud, rightfully worried about being judged on her prowess as hostess. This is the Upper East Side, after all. We're all about judgment here.

The gifts—including mine—border on the ridiculous. The shower invitation—engraved from Crane's—asked, at the behest of the parents, for donations to the clean-well-water charity Ana-Sofia founded—Gushing…org, the name of which brings to mind a particularly bad menstrual period, but which raises funds for wells in Africa. Yeah. Therefore, everyone donated fat checks and tried to outdo each other with gifts. There's a Calder mobile. A 1918 edition of Mother Goose stories. A mohair Steiff teddy bear that costs about as much as the rent on my soon-to-be former apartment in the Village.

My gaze drifts across the now-tastefully furnished apartment. When I lived here, it was cozier and boho—fat, comfortable furniture; dozens of pictures of my three nieces; the occasional wall hanging from Target, that bastion of color and joy for the middle class. Now the decor is incredibly tasteful, with African masks on the wall to remind us what Ana-Sofia does, and original paintings from around the globe. The walls are painted those boring neutral colors with sexy names— October Fog, Birmingham Cream, Icicle.

There's their wedding photo. They eloped, so thank God I didn't have to go to that—or, heaven forbid, make her gown, which I would've done if asked, because I'm still pretty pitiful where Owen is concerned and can't figure out how to divorce him out of my heart. Though the photo was taken by the justice of the peace in Maine, it's perfect. Both bride and groom are laughing, slightly turned away from the camera, Ana's hair blowing in the sea breeze. The New York Times featured the photo in the Sunday Vows section.

They really are the perfect couple. Once, it was Owen and me, and while I didn't expect perfection, I thought we were pretty great. We never fought. My mom felt that since Owen is half-Japanese, he was a better bet than "those simpletons" I dated—all of whom I hoped to marry at one point or another, starting with Nico Stephanopolous in eighth grade. "The Japanese don't believe in divorce," Mom said the first time I introduced her. "Right, Owen?"

He agreed, and I can still see his omnipresent, sweet smile, the Dr. Perfect Smile, as I called it. It's his resting expression. Very reassuring to his patients, I'm sure. Owen is a plastic surgeon, the kind who fixes cleft palates and birthmarks and changes the lives of his patients. Ana-Sofia, who is from Peru and speaks five languages, met Owen eleven weeks after our divorce when he was doing his annual stint with Doctors Without Borders in the Sudan and she was digging wells.

And I make wedding dresses, as I believe I've already said. Listen, it's not as shallow as it sounds. I make women look the way they dreamed they would on one of the happiest days of their lives. I make them cry at their own reflections. I give them the dress they've spent years thinking about, the dress they'll be wearing when they pledge their hearts, the dress they'll pass on to their own daughters someday, the dress that signifies all their hopes and dreams for a happy, sparkling future.

But compared with what Owen and his second wife do, yeah, it's incredibly shallow.

In theory, I should hate them both. No, he didn't cheat with her. He's far too decent for that.

He loves her, though. Ostensibly, I could hate him for loving her and not me. Make no mistake. I was heartbroken. But I can't hate Owen, or Ana-Sofia. They're too damn nice, which is incredibly inconsiderate of them.

And being Owen's friend is better than being without Owen entirely.

The quilt has made the rounds of admiration and is passed back to Ana. She strokes it tenderly, then looks at me with tears in her eyes. "I don't have the words to tell you how much this means."

Oh, shut up, I want to say. I forgot to buy you a gift and dashed this off last night with some leftover Duchess satin. It's no big deal.

"Hey, no worries," I say. I'm often glib and stupid around Ana-Sofia. Andreas hands me another cream puff. I may have to give him a raise.

"I'm so excited about your new shop," Ana continues. "Owen and I were talking about how talented you are just last night."

Andreas gives me a significant look and rolls his eyes. He has no problem hating Ana-Sofia and Owen, which I appreciate. I smile and take another sip of my mimosa, which is made with blood oranges and really good champagne.

If I'm ever pregnant, though the chances of that are plummeting by the hour, I imagine I'll have the unenviable "I sat on an air hose" look that my sister had when she was percolating the triplets. There was no glow. There was acne. Stretch marks that made her look as if she'd been mauled by a Bengal tiger. She gnashed on Tums and burped constantly, but in true Rachel fashion, my sister never complained.

Ana-Sofia glows. Her perfect olive skin is without a blemish or, indeed, a visible pore. Her boobs look fantastic, and though she is eight and a half months pregnant, her baby bump is modest and perfectly round. She has no cankles. Life is so unfair.

"We just found out that our daughter's classmate is her half brother," says the taller woman in Lesbian Couple #1. One of them just became a partner in Owen's practice, but I don't remember her name. "Imagine if we hadn't known that! She could've ended up dating her half brother! Marrying him! The fertility clinic gave out fourteen samples of that donor's sperm. We're filing a lawsuit."

"It's better than adopting," says another woman. "My sister? She and her husband had to give back their son the fourth time he set fire to the living room."

"That's not so bad. My cousin adopted, and then the birth mother came out of rehab and the judge gave her custody of the baby. After two years, mind you."

On the other side of the circle, there seems to be a heated debate over whose labor and delivery was most grueling. "I almost died," one woman says proudly. "I looked at my husband and told him I loved him, and the next thing I knew, the crash cart was there…"

"I was in labor for three days," another states. "I was like a wild animal, clawing at the sheets."

"Emergency cesarean eight weeks early, no anesthesia," someone else says proudly. "My daughter weighed two pounds. NICU, fifty-seven days."

And we have a winner! The other mothers shoot her resentful looks. Talk turns to food allergies, vaccines, family beds and the sad dearth of gifted and talented programs for preschoolers.

"This is fun," I murmur to Ana-Sofia.

"Oh, yes," she says. Irony is not one of her skills. "I'm so glad you are here, Jenny. Thank you for giving up your afternoon! You must be very busy with the move."

"You're moving?" one of her extremely beautiful and well-educated friends asks. "Where?"

"Cambry-on-Hudson," I answer. "I grew up there. My sister and her family are—"

"Oh, my God, you're leaving Manhattan? Will you have to get a car? Are there any restaurants there? I couldn't live without Zenyasa Yoga."

"You still go to Zenyasa?" someone says. "I've moved on. It's Bikram Hot for me. I saw Neil Patrick Harris there last week."

"I don't do yoga anymore," a blonde woman says, studying a raspberry. "I joined a trampoline studio over on Amsterdam. Sarah Jessica Parker told me about it."

"What about brunch?" someone asks me, her brow wrinkling in concern. "What will you do for brunch if you leave the city?"

"I think brunch is illegal outside Manhattan," I answer gravely. No one laughs. They may think I'm telling the truth.

Now, granted, I love Manhattan. To paraphrase the song, if you make it here, the rest of the world is a cakewalk. And I have made it here. I've worked for the best—even Vera Wang, as a matter of fact. My work is sold at Kleinfeld Bridal and has supported me for fifteen years. I was named one of the Designers of the Year when I was at Parsons. I've been to not one, but two parties at Tim Gunn's place. He greeted me by name—and yes, he's as nice as he seems.

But while I love the city, its roar, its buildings and smells, its subways and skyline, in my heart of hearts, I want a yard. I want to see my nieces more often. I want the happily-ever-after that my sister nailed, that's unfolding for my ex-husband and his too-nice wife.

I hope I'm running to something, not away. The truth is work has felt a little flat lately.

Cambry-on-Hudson is a lovely little city about an hour north of Manhattan. It has several excellent restaurants—some even serve brunch, shockingly. The downtown has a movie theater, flowering trees, a park and a Williams-Sonoma. It's hardly a third-world country, no matter what these women think. And the latest shop is Bliss. Custom-made wedding gowns. My baby, in lieu of the human kind.

My phone beeps softly with a text. It's from Andreas, who has put in his earbuds in order to drown out the stories of blocked milk ducts and bleeding nipples.

Check out the nose on the great-aunt. I hope the baby inherits that.

I smile at him gratefully.

"Did you hear about the obstetrician who fathered fifty-nine babies?" someone asks.

"That was an episode on Law & Order"

"Ripped from the headlines," someone else murmurs. "Someone in my building was one of his patients."

"Oh. Oh, dear," Ana-Sofia says.

I turn to her. She looks a bit startled. "It's probably not true," I tell her.

"No… I think… It appears my water has broken."

There is a silence, followed by a collective roar.

I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that, despite there being a dozen women who've given birth all jockeying for position, my hand is the one Ana-Sofia clutches. "Oh, Jenny, it's happening," she says. "I feel something." Her beautiful brown eyes are wide and terrified, and then I'm easing her onto the floor and crouched between her still-slim thighs—really, it's like she's showing off. I slide off her thong—she's maintained her bikini wax, FYI—and, holy Mother of God, I can see the head.

I fumble in my purse for the travel-size Purell (if you ride the subways on a daily basis, you carry Purell) and slather some on my hands. "Get some towels and quiet down!" I bark at the other shower guests. I'm kind of good in emergencies. Liza hands me a stack of towels—very soft and about to be ruined by whatever comes out of a woman during childbirth.

"Let me help," Liza whines. Indeed, this would make a great Facebook post. Just delivered my BFF's baby, LOL!—with Ana-Sofia Marquez-Takahashi.

"I need to push," Ana pants, and she does, once, twice, a third time, and a face appears—a baby! There's a baby coming into my hands! One more push, and I'm holding it, slimy and covered in white gunk and a little blood and incredibly beautiful.

Dark hair, huge eyes. A miracle.

I ease her out all the way and put her on Ana's chest. "It's a girl," I say, covering the baby with a towel.

It seems like just a few seconds later that FDNY clomps in, and I entertain a quick and deeply satisfying fantasy—The head firefighter is filled with admiration for my cleverness, checks me out and asks me to dinner in the cutest Brooklyn accent the world has ever heard. His biceps flex hypnotically, and at the end of the date, yes, he does pick me up to demonstrate just how easy it would be for him to save my life, and a few years later, we have three strong sons, twin daughters on the way. And a Dalmatian.

But no, their attention is quite taken with Ana-Sofia—as it should be, I guess, though it would be nice ifjust one of them checked me out. Someone cuts the cord, and Ana is weeping beautifully over her daughter, and Liza holds her phone to Ana's ear so my ex-husband can sob his love and admiration for his wife, who just set the land-speed record for laboi and delivery.

From down the hall, I can hear Andreas dry-heaving in the tastefully decorated powder room over the murmurs oi admiration from the shower guests and the brawny firefighters as they tell Ana how amazing she is, how beautiful hei daughter is.

Seems as if I'm leaving the city in the very nick of time.

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If You Only Knew 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a change of pace for Ms. Higgins but she nailed it. True emotions and great storytelling!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always love Kristan Higgins' books, but this one was especially emotional and heart wrenching while still having many very funny moments! I highly recommend this book, I could not put it down, I started it in the morning , read more on my lunch hour , an finished it after I got home from work, unable to go to bed until I finished it, it's that great !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read every one of her books and have fallen in love with all of them. This one is different than all the rest, but is wonderful in a different way as well. I would recommend every single one of her books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A witty well written story!! Life is always changing and never predictable, and this book underscores those changes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WARNING: THIS book does have details about a Suicide In it while I have personally been touched by a suicide in my family I thoroughly enjoyed this book alot. I was able to relate to the main character on a more personal level it was very therapeutic would read it again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book it has humor and drama and romance. The characters are well-developed and the situations they're involved in are believable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters that arent cardboard Refreshing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm disappointed to say that this book is not one of Ms. Higgins bests. I have loved every other book she's written but this one didn't seem to flow well. I wasn't invested in the characters. In her previous books, Ms. Higgins has written some of the best characters I've ever read! I love her wit and humor, but this book was difficult to finish. I hope this style isn't something she continues with. Because her other work is so wonderful, I won't give up on her. But please Ms. Higgins, get back to what you do best!
daydreamsinn More than 1 year ago
I am not sure who wrote this book, but it could not have been Kristan Higgins. This is the worst book she has written. It is about 2 women who are whiny, martyrs who are also door mats. I struggled to get through this book thinking that it had to get better. Alas, it did not. The men were not any better. Narcissists both of them. I was very disappointed since I usually get a kick out of Ms. Higgins' books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just love Kristan Higgins! This book shows how two sisters approach love and learn about themselves along the way; how their beliefs mold who they are and who they become. Another great novel by Higgins!
LynnLTX More than 1 year ago
A Tale of Two Sisters In Kristan Higgins’ newest release which ventures into women’s fiction, If You Only Knew, two sisters’ lives, marriages, relationships, family undercurrents make for a compelling story. Jenny thought she had the perfect husband until Owen tilted her world on its axis saying he was no longer happy and wanted a divorce. She has maintained what seems an unhealthy relationship with her ex-husband by being essentially part of his extended family with his new wife and baby. Jenny designs bridal gowns so she is no stranger to high drama, emotional meltdowns, and controlling relatives. Jenny, who has never felt totally comfortable in New York City, moves her business back to her hometown on the Hudson north of the city where Rachel, her sister, lives with her husband and triplets. Her new landlord turns out to be intriguing, handsome, and someone Jenny could see fulfilling some long held dreams with; however, Leo has a boatload of issues to overcome. Jenny’s upbeat attitude and kind heart make her the type of person who is well liked and, sometimes, taken advantage of, especially by people to whom she has given her heart. Rachel makes Martha Stewart look like a slacker by being the perfect Mom to her triplet 3 1/2 year old daughters, and the picture-perfect wife to her lawyer husband who strays despite Rachel knocking herself out to do it all. Rachel spends her days making everyone else’s life as beautiful as possible and so is devastated when everything begins to fall apart. When Adam betrays Rachel and their life together, she has to decide whether she can forgive his transgressions, and of equal importance, can he be trusted? Rachel’s striving for perfection didn’t leave anything left over for her own needs to be met. After being totally blindsided by Adam’s behavior, Rachel is forced to reassess her life and make hard decisions of where to go from here. Owen and Adam, demonstrate the paradigm of men who become dissatisfied with their lives and look around to see who is making them unhappy and not fulfilling their needs. Jenny and Rachel like many women tend toward introspection looking inward and blaming themselves when things go wrong and their relationships falter. The sisters support each other as their lives make sea changes that bring them both to places where they must decide what matters most. This book delves deeper into the heartbreak and emotional impact of relationships torn asunder and new ones started than The Blue Heron series, but as those books are contemporary romances, humor often ameliorates the drama. Kristan Higgins stories always take me on an emotional journey of love, humor, loss, and family dynamics, but an ultimately a satisfying one. The tale strikes me in some ways as a cautionary one about how seemingly good relationships can falter as well as the importance of keeping the lines of communication open in a marriage so it thrives rather than just survives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't wait for the next interesting chapter great characters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First time reading this author. Really enjoyed it and will likely read another one of her books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really moving story dealing with forgiveness and making a conscious decision to move forward or stay stuck. There many LOL moments and many teary moments, too. The ONLY thing that would have made it better for me would be able epilogue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic, funny as all get out, and such a joy to read Kristan Higgins books. This one is all the above and more! Loved the characters and would love to read more about this family! Terrific!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this great read
julieford More than 1 year ago
If You Only Knew is a smart, engaging story of the lives of two sisters. Jenny is divorced but still friends with her ex and his new wife. She is still harboring feelings for him but puts on a good face when spending time with them. Jenny moves back to her home town to open her own business and meets her snarky neighbor/maintenance man. Leo states that his is for recreation only but is continually giving Jenny different vibes. Rachel is happily married with triplet daughters but her world is rocked when she discovers that her husband is having an affair. This story is full of ups and downs, struggles, tears, laughs and love. The characters are very relatable and personable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. True to Higgins' style.
5REH-8her More than 1 year ago
Truly enjoyable! Absolutely loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I didn't think I would this much. I really liked Jenny, she was funny. Will read more by this author. Wouldhave liked an epilogue. GJRA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PollyBennett More than 1 year ago
Very different from what I am used to reading from Ms. Higgins. But it was so good. Watching the sisters move through this very tough time. So well written, touching on some very painful subjects. A great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really relatable.