Don't DIY: A Guest Post by Kristan Higgins - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Don't DIY: A Guest Post by Kristan Higgins

Don’t DIY: A Guest Post by Kristan Higgins

I absolutely love Kristan Higgins. I not only love her books, but she’s also one of my favorite people to work with. Her new book — ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW — is coming next week and I’m thrilled to welcome her to the blog again to talk DIY!

In her new novel, one of her main characters, Sadie, is a New York architect who buys a fixer upper. Sadie returns home to care for her father who’s had a stroke, and suddenly she and her family are tending old wounds, facing uncertain futures and confronting secrets which threaten the foundation of their family.

Kristan’s new book is a compelling and thoughtful exploration of family, friendship, and romantic relationships. I’m honored to also share a sneak peek from ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW, out June 9th.


  • Don’t DIY

    by Kristan Higgins

    Like many of you, I love seeing Vilma’s home renovations. She makes it look so easy that I can often forget that for everything Vilma does herself, she also hires an expert for a project when she needs someone with a particular skill.

    In my newest novel ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW, Sadie Frost does something I’ve been yearning to do all my life. She buys a fixer-upper.

    Oh, HGTV! You’ve convinced us all that we have renovation superpowers! You make it look so easy! Knock down a wall, enlarge a window, bing, bang, boom, and there it is. A hovel-turned-jewel.

    Or not.

    My own DIY experiences taught me some hard lessons when I decided to renovate old furniture. Shabby chic, right? Slap a coat of paint on that old night table, stencil on something in purple, buy these new drawer pulls, and…oops. I slathered on blue paint, which chipped the second it dried. I failed to note the, um…rotting wood. Paint can’t fix everything.

    Recently, we had to rip up part of our deck to get to a leaking pipe. We hired the septic system guy, and he did a fine job. When it came time to replace the flooring of the deck, though, I cantered over to him and said, “I can do that, Ken! Thanks for everything!” I like hammering. So therapeutic!

    Said Ken: “I’ll do it. It’s no problem. It’ll take me five minutes.”

    Me: “No seriously. It’s just banging in some nails. It’ll be fun for me!”

    Ken, pausing: “Your husband told me not to let you.”

    Damn that husband of mine! Always stealing my fun and protecting my digits. The thing is, we’ve learned, coordination is required in house renovations. I noted this as I nearly sliced off my thumb with a box cutter. I was trying to cut wallpaper. On the rug. Bad idea. But my thumb remained intact, though the blood flow was impressive, leaving only a few smears on the wallpaper. Character, I like to call it. If it looks like a crime scene, isn’t that kind of fun?

    Another important quality in DIY is knowledge. Oh, it might seem like grunt work, but let me tell you: you should not try to sledgehammer a wall if they contain pipes and wires. (Note to self: your hair will grow back, and that smell will fade. Eventually.)

    Still, I have this idea that if I just try hard enough, I can do it myself. After all, didn’t I make my daughter’s clothes for years and years? So what if she had a little itchiness due to the hot glue I used on a few seams? She looked damn cute. A closet in my home is filled with all those projects I thought I could do myself. The beads. The fabric. The paints. The blocks of wood whose purpose I have long forgotten. One of these days, I lie to myself. One of these days.

    I find myself wandering through HomeGoods and at tag sales, saying, “I could make that, I bet.” I can’t. I shouldn’t try. At hardware stores, I stand transfixed in front of the hall of nails and screws, imagining how I’m going to buy them and use them. The potential! The excitement! The lies!

    They get me every time, because here I am, in the basement once more, eyeing my husband’s power tools, convinced I’ve got this. Hope, they say, springs eternal.

  • About Always The Last To Know

    Sometimes you have to break a family to fix it.

    From New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins, a new novel examining a family at the breaking point in all its messy, difficult, wonderful complexity.

    The Frosts are a typical American family. Barb and John, married almost fifty years, are testy and bored with each other…who could blame them after all this time? At least they have their daughters– Barb’s favorite, the perfect, brilliant Juliet; and John’s darling, the free-spirited Sadie. The girls themselves couldn’t be more different, but at least they got along, more or less. It was fine. It was enough.

    Until the day John had a stroke, and their house of cards came tumbling down.

    Now Sadie has to put her career as a teacher and struggling artist in New York on hold to come back and care for her beloved dad–and face the love of her life, whose heart she broke, and who broke hers. Now Juliet has to wonder if people will notice that despite her perfect career as a successful architect, her perfect marriage to a charming Brit, and her two perfect daughters, she’s spending an increasing amount of time in the closet having panic attacks.

    And now Barb and John will finally have to face what’s been going on in their marriage all along.

    From the author of Good Luck with That and Life and Other Inconveniences comes a new novel of heartbreaking truths and hilarious honesty about what family really means.

  • Excerpt

    Two days later, it was official. I was a property owner.

    My house—such nice words, my house!—did need a bit more work than perhaps I acknowledged, now that I was here. Alexander, who was in Sausalito at the moment, the poor bastard, had very sweetly covered the cost of moving my furniture from Juliet’s to here, and the movers had just left after cursing and sweating and wrestling my bed up the narrow stairs, for which they received a generous tip. Otherwise, I had a couch, a table for two, a chair and some pots and pans and kitchen stuff. A couple of lamps. My books and pictures were still at Juliet’s, but I wanted to sleep here tonight and get the feel of the place.

    I also wanted to put some distance between my mother and me. Her disapproval of whatever I did, had done and would do seeped into every interaction we had. Even my care of Dad seemed to irk her, and her own lack of tenderness irked me right back. I had paintings to do, and she hated the smell. Even though their house was huge, there never seemed to be enough room for the two of us.

    Hence, my purchase. Perhaps not the best decision.

    Did I mention I had no neighbors? Fifteen years in New York City had made me used to that safety in numbers thing. In the entire time I’d lived there, I’d never once been scared.

    But I was kind of scared now. What if Connecticut had a serial killer? What if those giant coyotes that ate cats marked me as a slow runner?

    I should get a dog. I would get a dog. I glanced at my watch. Shit. Six o’clock and already dark. Allegedly, my heat was on, but it was cold in here. I did have a fireplace, but Jules told me I’d burn to death if I tried to make a fire.

    Maybe I’d go to my parents’ house to sleep. Get the dog tomorrow, preferably a large, vicious, loyal-to-only-me type, and see if Alexander would be back from California and wanted to spend the weekend in scenic Connecticut doing a little house renovation. We’d be a team, like that irritating couple on the house-flipping show that I did indeed watch. Except that we’d be adorable. In fact, maybe we’d get our own show. I knew art and had great taste, and Alexander was rich and photogenic. What else did you need?

    The knock on the door made me scream.

    “Jesus!” yelled the person. I peeked out the window.

    It was Noah.

    No baby this time. Just him, looking irritable and beautiful.

    “Hi,” I said, opening the door.

    He didn’t answer.

    “Hello, Noah,” I said, enunciating.

    “Your mother sent me.”

    I sucked in a breath of cold air.

    “Why? Is my dad okay?”

    “He’s fine. She wanted me to check your house.” I closed my eyes in relief. “But I can go if you want. Which would be my preference.”

    “You’re so very sweet, Noah. Come on in. What little heat I have is racing out of here.”

    He came in, brushing past me.

    Damn. He smelled so good—wood and polyurethane and laundry detergent. “How’s your baby?” I asked.

    He deigned to allow half his mouth to twitch in a smile. “He’s great.”

    I nodded. “Good. Well. What do you think?”

    “Money pit.”

    “That’s what Jules said. I’m glad you let your hair grow again, by the way.” No, Sadie. Nope. Don’t say that. Too late. You did. “I saw your picture on Facebook. That’s all. Nothing big. I wasn’t stalking you.” Please stop. “It was when you were engaged, that’s all. All our classmates were talking about it.” Sigh.

    He just looked at me with those dark, dark eyes. As opposed to looking at me with his teeth, for example. God. I needed a drink.

    You have a boyfriend, some distant part of my brain sang happily. He’s very nice to you! You almost always have an org

    “I don’t like the sound of that furnace,” Noah said. “Okay if I go downstairs?”

    “Sure! Yeah! It’s super dark, though, because there’s no light down there. Which is what happens in the absence of light. Darkness.”

    “Are you drunk?” he asked.

    “I wish. I’m just feeding off all that brooding masculinity of yours.” I snorted and regretted it deeply.

    Noah sighed, took a flashlight out of his toolbox, which I hadn’t noticed before, and found the cellar door, which was easy, because it was right in front of him.

    I took a few cleansing breaths. Texted Alexander that I missed him.

    It would just take some getting used to, seeing Noah again. He was my first love. Of course I still had a soft spot for him. There would always be a place in my heart for—

    “Sadie! Can you come down here and hold the flashlight, please?”

    “Coming!” I groped my way down the stairs. Lightbulbs. I definitely needed to buy some lightbulbs. Shouldn’t have dismissed Jules and her list quite so fast. Noah was at the hulking black thing (furnace, I assumed), doing something with his hands. Something manly and hard and dirty.

    He handed me the flashlight, which I pointed in his eyes. “Sorry,” I said, shining the light at his feet.

    “Your filter is filthy.”

    “So are my . . . never mind. Filthy filter. Got it. Should I call someone? Or buy something?”

    “You have someone.” Oh, my heart! “I’ll be right back.”

    “Are you—” Nope. He was already up the stairs. I heard my front door bang closed.

    I had to get a grip. Yes, he was gorgeous. What did I expect? That he’d become Nick Nolte in my absence? And yes, that brooding Jon Snow act was doing things to my lady parts.

    But he had a child, and I had a serious, long-term, almost engagement going on, and Noah didn’t even want to be friends. I could respect that.

    Except it seemed to trigger dirty thoughts that had the added benefit of irritating him, which, I had to admit, was kind of fun. Maybe I was just overtired. Maybe I needed something to distract me from Dad’s condition, which made me cry if I thought about anything other than a full recovery. Every time I thought about him, lost in his own brain, panic slithered around my heart.

    Whatever the case, I shouldn’t mess with Noah. But once, we’d been so happy together.

    Noah came thumping down the stairs. “This is a furnace filter. You need to change it once a month on your model. Watch me so you can do it yourself next time.”

    I watched. It didn’t seem difficult, not in those capable hands. That frickin’ beautiful hair. His soft voice. I bet he was a great dad.

    “All done.”

    “Okay. Thank you.” Finally, a normal sentence. “Are you seeing anyone these days?”

    “Not your business.”


    We went upstairs—him in front, which gave me a perfect view of his ass, and I’m sorry, how could I miss it? The radiators were clicking with what I assumed was heat.

    “I appreciate this, Noah.”

    “Don’t do any construction on this house without checking with me, all right? I might not like you anymore, but I don’t want you dying. Your mother would be crushed.”

    “Or relieved. But yes, I see your point.”

    He finally looked me in the eye, and his expression softened a little. “I really am sorry about your dad.”

    “He’s getting better. You know, when it first happened, I was scared, but he’s . . . he’s good. He’s improving.”

    “I brought Marcus over to see him the other day. You were at the grocery store, LeVon said. I hope that’s all right. We, uh . . . we visited him at Gaylord, too. Figured it would be okay.”

    The image of my first love, bringing his beautiful baby to my father, punched me in the heart. “Thank you, Noah,” I whispered. My eyes were suddenly wet. “It’s really kind of you.”

    He nodded once. “Well. Enjoy your new place.”

    “Thanks. Have a nice night.”

    “Don’t tell me what to do.”

    And there it was, that tug of a smile on his beautiful face. Then he was gone, and my house was warmer because of him. The quiet settled around me, bringing with it all the memories of how Noah and I had failed each other.


    Posted by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Kristan Higgins, 2020.

  • About Kristan

    Kristan Higgins is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her newest novel, Always the Last to Know, is an insightful, funny, and poignant story about a longtime marriage and the relationship’s impact on the couple and their children.

    Kristan is also a cohost of the Crappy Friends podcast, which discusses the often complex dynamics of female friendships, with her friend and fellow writer, Joss Dey. Higgins lives in Connecticut with her family. Connect with Kristan online at,, and

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This post contains affiliate links, meaning I’ll receive a small commission should you purchase using those links. All opinions expressed are my own. I receive no compensation for reviews.

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