We are head over heels for a love story set in a bookstore. Can you blame us? Books and smooches, am I right?
At thirty-three-years old Evangeline Starling’s life in Chicago is missing that special something. And when she’s passed over for promotion at work, Evie realizes she needs to make a change. Some time away to regain perspective might be just the thing. In a burst of impulsivity, she plans a holiday in a quaint English village. The holiday package comes with a temporary position at Much Ado About Books, the bookstore located beneath her rental apartment. There’s no better dream vacation for the bookish Evie, a life-long Shakespeare lover.
Not only is Evie swept up in running the delightful store as soon as she arrives, she’s drawn into the lives, loves and drama of the friendly villagers. Including Roane Robson, the charismatic and sexy farmer who tempts Evie every day with his friendly flirtations. Evie is determined to keep him at bay because a holiday romance can only end in heartbreak, right? But Evie can’t deny their connection and longs to trust in her handsome farmer that their whirlwind romance could turn in to the forever kind of love.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||3 MB|
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Read an Excerpt
I had not gone on a date in two years.
That would explain the riot of butterflies in my stomach and the overwhelming and panic-inducing sensation building up in my gut. My foot tapped nervously against the floor.
I took another sip of the water the waiter had brought me and tried to look like I didn't care that my date was fifteen minutes late.
It didn't make sense.
Aaron and I had been talking for four weeks, but it felt longer. We met on a dating site, and when we realized how much we had in common (a thirst for travel, an obsession with cooking and renovation shows, a true appreciation for Shakespeare, a love for quiet nights in and the occasional nonquiet night out . . .), we'd graduated to sending each other Snapchats.
Four weeks of daily snaps.
My cheeks burned with the heat of rejection, and I flicked my fingertips across my phone screen to open the app. I'd saved huge chunks of conversation between us because the banter was so great, and I liked to reread them.
I looked at our snaps from last night.
So what are you like in the mornings?
Useless without that first coffee.
Note to self-priorities: bring Evie coffee in bed first thing
in the morning. I need her useful there.
Why do I need to be useful? Surely
your priority in the morning is to be useful to me.
Okay, here's the plan of action. I'm useful to you first.
Then I get you a coffee. This will be followed by you returning
the favor of usefulness.
You know "useful" is a euphemism for going downtown, right?
*snort* I did but thank you for clarifying so charmingly.
Oh that was me being a gentleman about it.
Frowning, I turned my phone over on the restaurant table and eyeballed the entrance again. At first our flirtation had been sweet, but as Aaron and I got to know each other, things had heated up. For me, it was a weird mix of feeling reckless and safe flirting with him since I'd never met him, but he'd been so up-front with me. I had rules against dating younger men because I'd attempted it a few times and those relationships always failed due to the men's immaturity. Aaron was twenty-eight--five years younger than me. However, within the first week, I lost all concerns about his maturity because he was so open, confiding in me about how awful his ex made him feel about himself. He'd quit law school because he was miserable and instead started over again, studying to be a vet. I loved animals, so I loved that about him. But his ex never supported him. Then when he started missing gym visits because he was studying so much, and not eating great, she'd crushed his confidence with her pointed comments about his body.
He'd sent me snaps of himself, and Aaron was not fat. He just wasn't built like a cover model. Who cared? He seemed like a great guy. Aaron was the two h's: honest and handsome.
Dating was not my favorite thing, especially online dating, and I had walls up for miles. However, because Aaron had been so forthcoming, I told him that for the last five years I'd had one bad date after another. How on my thirty-first birthday I'd declared I was taking some time out from dating. Most of my friends tried to be supportive, but you could see the worry in their eyes.
Poor Evie. She's in her thirties and still single. Shouldn't she be working harder to find a man, not taking a break?
Only my best friend and soul mate, Greer, genuinely supported this decision. Until I'd turned thirty-three a few months ago, and she'd said it was time I got back on that horse. Two years without sex was unimaginable to her.
Honestly, my vibrator was a hundred percent more effective than seven of the eight guys I'd had sex with.
My schedule and Aaron's did not seem to want to align themselves, and tonight was the first either of us could make work. By the fourth week, it felt like we'd been talking forever, and Aaron had begun to show me his very flirty side.
I felt like I could talk to Aaron in a way I hadn't connected with a guy in a long time. In my desperate hope that perhaps I'd finally found someone, I'd been far too open with a man I'd never even met.
A man who hadn't shown up for our date.
I opened my phone again and scrolled through my saved snaps.
Tell me your favorite thing about yourself.
I have many flaws . . . but I think I'm kind. I try to be kind.
Kindness is underrated. You ARE kind. I can tell.
It's one of my favorite things about you too.
What's your favorite thing about yourself?
My self-awareness. I know when I'm being a dick. I either
try to stop myself or I apologize right away.
Self-awareness is also underrated. I like that you're self-aware.
But not that I can be a dick, right?
No one's perfect. We all have dick days.
So what don't you like about yourself?
If I'm being honest, I have physical insecurities.
I've gotten more confident over the years,
but I still have days I don't feel great about myself.
Why do you have insecurities? You're fucking gorgeous.
Thanks. But I'm tall and I'm not skinny. Far from it.
I've gotten a lot of "you're big for a woman" comments
on first dates, followed by them never calling me again.
It was true. At five foot ten, I was tall. In my four-inch heels, that put me at six foot two. But I didn't think that was what bothered some guys. I had plentiful boobs, an ass, hips, and although I had a waist, it wasn't super trim. Neither was my belly. Either guys loved my tall voluptuousness, or they labeled me fat. I hated that word. It made me physically flinch. But there were days, usually around my period, where I felt overweight and wondered how anyone could be attracted to me.
Most days I was content enough with myself, even had days where I felt sexy. However, maybe I'd feel confident every day if I were a few inches shorter and a dress size or two smaller. Who knew? Didn't we all sometimes wish we were the opposite of what we were? I gave myself a break when I had those kinds of thoughts because on most days I liked myself, inside and out.
The trick was to guard against allowing other people to dictate how I felt about my physical appearance. However, I noticed a correlation between periods of high self-worth and low self-esteem and when I was online dating. Shallowness in men was a huge turnoff for me, yet that didn't mean those who rejected me based on my appearance hadn't had a subconscious effect on me.
So you said you're an editor. Where? What? Tell me more.
I'm an editorial assistant at Reel Film, the film magazine.
That's cool. What does that mean exactly?
Do you write reviews and stuff?
No, I'm assistant to an editor. I started out in an
administrative position but over the last few years
I've helped my editor, editing the journalists'
My editor is retiring, and his position is open.
It's likely I'll get it.
That's awesome. Maybe I can take you out to celebrate?
Maybe. What's your idea of celebrating?
Whatever you want it to be. I aim to please.
I sighed heavily, trying to alleviate the churning in my stomach. I'd been working at Reel Film for ten years, had been passed over many times for an editor's job, but finally my long wait was over. I was excited about it, but I was also distracted by my interactions with Aaron. He'd stolen my focus and we hadn't even met. There was something addictive about our conversations-they made me feel young in a way I hadn't in a long time.
And now . . . now was he standing me up?
I looked at the very last snap sent last night.
Can't wait to see you tomorrow.
I could see he'd opened it only a few hours ago.
My fingers hovered over the keyboard. Glancing at the time on the phone, noting he was now twenty minutes late, I quickly sent a snap.
I'm at the restaurant. Are you running late?
A few anxious minutes passed, and then I saw he'd opened it.
Relief filled me.
But as a minute turned into five and there was no sign of a reply, a sick feeling rose within me. Five minutes turned into ten.
What an idiot I'd been.
Yet, even as I sat there, I did that thing people do when they turn over all the other possibilities in their head.
Someone had stolen his phone and it wasn't him opening the messages.
Maybe he'd been in an accident.
He was already in love with me and it was all just a little overwhelming.
I gave a bark of laughter at that one and ignored the bemused look the couple at the next table gave me.
It was then I sensed the hovering waiter. I glanced to my left and gave him a forced smile. "You need the table back, don't you?"
He shook his head. "No, you're fine. I just wondered if you wanted to order anything?"
"Do you have an alternate-reality special on the menu? You know, the kind where I don't get stood up?"
The waiter gave me a sympathetic smile. "Sorry, we don't. If it makes you feel better, a lot of people would order it if we did."
I laughed. "Yeah? See a lot of this, do you? I wonder what his excuse will be. If he offers an excuse, that is."
"Maybe his dog died."
"Or his dog ate his goldfish and he had to do the Heimlich maneuver."
The waiter chuckled. "I once got stood up and he texted me to tell me that his visa had expired, and he'd left the country that day. I saw him in Andersonville two weeks later."
Feeling a little better at the reminder I wasn't the only person to have ever been stood up, I told the friendly waiter I was going to head home, and he offered me a bolstering smile as I left the restaurant.
Despite joking around about it, I felt stupid for making myself vulnerable to someone who would stand me up.
As I strode toward the L, I kept checking my phone to see if Aaron had replied, but nothing. I tried to figure out how the guy I'd spent hours talking to for four weeks could do this. If he'd changed his mind, why hadn't he just said so? He'd seemed like the kind of guy who would just be brutally honest with me.
Not a coward.
Not a dick.
Well, he had warned me he could be a dick.
But I'd thought it was real of him to admit that. I didn't think beyond our cute banter and the fact that he loved Shakespeare just as much as I did. We'd discussed our favorite Shakespearean tragedies and argued over which of Shakespeare's comedies were best. He said Two Gentlemen of Verona; I said Twelfth Night. I'd been pretty excited to find someone who enjoyed my favorite playwright so much in this day and age. On top of everything else, he really had seemed too good to be true.
It all was too good to be true, apparently.
Or . . . what if Aaron had shown, saw me, and decided I was too fat or too tall or too-
Evie, shut up! I yelled at myself.
I would not let him do this to me.
Enraged, I pulled out my phone.
You at least could have had the decency to say you
were no longer interested in meeting me.
My heart raced and my palms were clammy as I saw he immediately opened it.
But no reply was forthcoming.
What the hell?
Hurt, sad, angry, confused, all of it mingled as I jumped on the Blue Line to get to my tiny studio apartment in Wicker Park. All that emotion I'd kept buried at the restaurant started to flood up out of me. By the time I got into the apartment, tears were streaming down my face. I brushed them away with frustration, cursing myself not only for letting Aaron upset me but for how much of myself I'd put out there to someone I hadn't met in person.
What a naive moron! I knew better than that.
No. I shook my head. I couldn't do that to myself. He wasn't worth my tears. And he didn't get to make me feel like I'd done something wrong.
Maybe he was just another boring, judgmental jerk that was looking for the kind of woman who didn't exist outside of movies and airbrushed magazines.
Did that sound bitter?
"That sounded bitter," I murmured to myself.
Okay. So maybe I was a little bitter.
But this was why I avoided dating, because even in my thirties it could reduce me to feeling like a rejected sixteen-year-old.
My phone buzzed in my purse, making my heart jump into my throat. There was a text on the screen from my best friend, Greer. Disappointment filled me and then I felt instantly horrible about it. I tapped to open the message.
How did the date go? Or is it still going?
I snorted, my lips trembling as I bit back more tears and quickly texted back. He never showed. I messaged him, he opened them, but he never replied.
That rat bastard! Do you need me to come over?
She would too. I smiled through my tears but shook my head as I texted, I'm fine. He's a dick. It's done. I'm just going to bed. I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow.
My phone buzzed again in my hand, but this time Greer was calling. Not really in the mood to pretend I was fine during the call, I hesitated a second. But then I picked up. This was Greer. I knew she was probably worried about me.
"First off," she said, "he is a dick. Forget about him. Any guy who claims to be a Shakespeare fan but hates Romeo and Juliet isn't worth shit. Second, yay for tomorrow! You have to call me as soon as they give you that freaking editor's office."