Summer Romance

Summer Romance

by Annabel Monaghan
Summer Romance

Summer Romance

by Annabel Monaghan



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Notes From Your Bookseller

Secret romance and mistaken identity are some of our favorite romance tropes, and they come to life in this perfect addition to any beach bag. (This sits nicely next to books from Carley Fortune and Elin Hilderbrand.)


“A BINGEABLE FIVE-STAR READ.” —ABBY JIMENEZ, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"I loved it—brims with heart, wit, and longing.”—CARLEY FORTUNE, #1 New York Times bestselling author

The romantic and hilarious story of a professional organizer whose life is a mess, and the summer she gets unstuck with the help of someone unexpected from her past, by the bestselling author of Nora Goes Off Script.

Benefits of a summer romance: It’s always fun, always brief, and no one gets their heart broken.

Ali Morris is a professional organizer whose own life is a mess. Her mom died two years ago, then her husband left, and she hasn’t worn pants with a zipper in longer than she cares to remember.

No one is more surprised than Ali when the first time she takes off her wedding ring and puts on pants with hardware—overalls count, right?—she meets someone. Or rather, her dog claims a man for peeing on him. Ethan smiles at Ali like her pants are just right—like he likes what he sees. He looks at her like she’s a younger, braver version of herself. The last thing newly single mom Ali needs is to make her life messier, but there’s no harm in a little summer romance. Is there?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593714096
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/04/2024
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 727
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

About The Author
Annabel Monaghan is the author of LibraryReads pick and national bestseller Same Time Next Summer and Indie Next and LibraryReads pick Nora Goes Off Script, as well as two young adult novels and Does This Volvo Make My Butt Look Big?, a selection of laugh-out-loud columns that appeared in the Huffington Post, the Week, and the Rye Record. She lives in Rye, New York, with her family.

Read an Excerpt


Sometimes you just have to throw shit in the pantry. Flour, garbanzo beans, Oreos. Just throw it in there and shut the door. Sometimes your kids are fighting or there's a capless Sharpie sitting right between the dog and your one good couch, so you don't have time to unpack your groceries according to a system. Sometimes you just need to wing it. These are words I never say to my clients. I truly do believe in the mindful storing of food, according to activity. Are you baking? Are you snacking? Are you breakfasting? But over the past few years, I find that I'm doing all of those things at once. In a dirty pair of sweatpants. I'm starting to think there aren't enough labeled glass jars to contain the mess that is my life.

It's no secret that I'm more than a little stuck. I'm in a holding pattern, like a plane trying to land in too much fog. I am here but also not here. Married, but also not. Instagram thinks I need to engage in some serious self-care to get me back to living my best life. They're obsessed with my cortisol levels and the depth of my meditation practice, but I'm pretty sure this is a job for something bigger than the magnesium foot bath they've been putting in my feed all week. Today is the two-year anniversary of my mother's death, which makes it the one-year anniversary of the day Pete announced he didn't want to be married anymore. In fairness to Pete, he's never been one for remembering special dates.

I woke up that morning thick with grief. The calendar shouldn't have that kind of effect on us; there's no magic to the passing of three hundred and sixty-five days. It could have been a leap year and I would have had a whole extra day before I fell apart. I decided the night before that I'd make my mom's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. That's the sort of thing she'd do all the time: break up the monotony of life by doing something fun and unexpected. I was going to show my kids that fun doesn't die.

I left the butter on the counter to soften overnight, and I got up at six to start baking. It was late June, like it is now, and the sun was already up. I moved my teetering stack of unread mail into the sink to make room for my mother's mixer. I creamed the butter with the sugars and combined the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. I was crying by the time I added the three cups of oatmeal, wiping my tears with the sleeves of my pajamas. It's really unbelievable how much oatmeal is in this recipe, and for some reason that made me miss my mom even more.

This is how Pete found me. Crying into the Costco-sized box of oatmeal with my back to a sink full of unopened mail.

"Jesus, Ali," he said. Of course, he said this all the time. But his tone wasn't angry like when he couldn't find a clean shirt or when one of his dress shoes had been filled with Cheez-Its and zoomed under the couch. And he wasn't sarcastic like when he waved his hand over the Leaning Tower of Paper and asked what I did all day. It was a soft, "Jesus, Ali," as if he'd run out of the energy to ever say it again.

I didn't usually react to Pete. His exasperation was sort of white noise in the background of my life. I sidestepped these comments and turned to the kids or the dog. Or my mother. But she'd been gone for a year, so I stood there crying. About the oatmeal, about the way Pete was looking at me and also not. And about the big chunk of my life I'd spent married to a man who would not cross the width of a kitchen to comfort me.

"I want a divorce," he said. When I didn't say anything, he said, "I don't want to be married anymore."

"That's what divorce usually means," I said. It was sarcastic and didn't even really sound like my voice. I felt pressure on my chest and a ringing in my head, like maybe I was going to leave my body. I have a memory of having had this feeling before, but it was when a doctor's voice put a time limit on my mother's days on this earth. Twelve to eighteen months. And I wanted to say, Why not nineteen? I was enraged by the arrogance of his specificity.

Pete left that night, and it's been fine. We act like we're on a reality show called America's Best Separated Couple. We are civil, almost warm, in front of the kids. He comes to get the girls for their Tuesday night soccer practices and Saturday games and takes them out for ice cream after, Cliffy in tow. Cliffy does not like team sports in any way, a fact that Pete will not acknowledge, so he brings him to be his assistant coach. Cliffy packs crayons and a notebook. During the fall and spring seasons I go to the games, of course, and then we have an awkward goodbye in the parking lot during which I act like I'm in a hurry to meet a friend to do something outrageously fun.

I don't. Instead, I get in my car and talk to my dead mother. This is a new practice of mine, and I find it oddly therapeutic to lay it all out for her and just let my words echo off the dashboard. I wait for her to jump in with her red lips and wide smile to assure me that it will all be absolutely perfect in the end. But she doesn't, and I miss it the way you miss a lie. I miss the quick fix of her materializing at my door with a tray of chicken and the insistence that home life is easy and fun. It must be me, I would think, because I am finding this neither easy nor fun. The actual time with the kids, hunting stones in the creek out back or singing show tunes in the bathtub, was always easy and fun. But the rest of it-the house and the lawn and the appliances that take turns breaking and the plumber who says he'll come but doesn't come and charges my credit card anyway and the waiting on the phone and the explaining to the bank that yes, I had a broken toilet, and that yes, it is still unfixed, and then the explaining to Pete why he still has to use the kids' toilet in the middle of the night and his looking at me like, truly, I am capable of nothing. Neither easy nor fun.

But when she was around it was easier because I had a partner. She kept me company on Saturday afternoons, when Pete really should have been stepping up but needed to get in a thirty-mile bike ride. She was the one who helped me potty train and found the pediatric dentist that took our insurance. She was the one who caught my eye and smiled every time Cliffy said "angel muffins" instead of "English muffins." If I sounded stressed on the phone, she'd drop everything, pack a picnic, and take my kids to the beach so I could clean out a closet in peace. She was the only person alive who fully understood how restorative cleaning out a closet is for me.

My kids called her Fancy, because her name was Nancy, and it suited her. She was not a person whom I would describe as fancy; a lot of her clothes were hand sewn and she drove the same Volkswagen for twenty-five years. But she was prone to acting on a desire or a whim, anything easy and fun-a passing fancy. Sometimes her name plays tricks on me. A passing fancy. Fancy's passing. Cancer struck my Fancy. I am now Fancy-free. What I really need to do is Fancy myself.

Which is why this morning I tried the cookies-for-breakfast thing again. I did not cry as I added that extraordinary amount of oatmeal, and when my kids came downstairs to the smell of butter and sugar, they were tickled in a way I haven't seen them be in a long time. I felt like she was right there, with her long chestnut ponytail, dyed to match mine, and not a stitch of makeup besides her bright red lipstick, hatching an idea for an outing to the park or a science experiment called Baked Alaska. She'd clap her hands, bracelets jingling, and say, "You know what would be fun?" And this was rhetorical, because she was always the one who knew what would be fun. It's taken two years, but watching my kids eat those cookies this morning, I felt a bit of the heaviness lift. Just an easing in my chest that has given me the energy to hire my own services and tackle my pantry today.

I open Instagram on my laptop so I can see all of my posts at once-my clients' pantries look like they could belong to serial killers. Equidistant glass canisters labeled in my signature font. The images give me a quick dopamine rush. Bringing order to their homes satisfies a need in me that is so deep that I'm sure it's innate. As a child I wouldn't leave for school until my bed was made and my stuffed animals were arranged in order of size. My bedroom, my desk, my set of seven pencils. All of it washed me in stillness. The great thing about being an only child is that, at the end of the day, you find everything right where you left it.

I find it hard to believe that I was ever that person as I reach for the third nearly full box of cornstarch and place it at my feet next to a dozen open packages of crackers and stale tortilla chips. There is so much stuff on my floor that I fear it will rise up and engulf me. I will be swallowed whole by the Costco-sized box of granola bars that no one likes but I just can't throw out. Ferris rests his head on his paws, waiting for some of this bounty to come his way.

You have to make a mess to clean up. I'm always chipper when I tell my clients this. They're overwhelmed as I take every item out of their cupboards and spread them out on the floor. I am never overwhelmed in their houses. I talk as I go, and there's a forward-moving energy to my voice. "Now, we have everything out. Let's choose the items you use most often for breakfast!" In this way, I calmly guide them through the parts of their day, dividing their shelves into categories with pleasing storagescapes. Or I should say storagescapes. It's a word I made up as an Instagram handle, and I'm trying to make it a thing. As I stand here in front of my pantry looking at all that cornstarch, I realize the calm I feel in those situations is because it's not my own mess. I don't resent the man who bought someone else's big jug of protein powder. I don't miss the mother who brought them that jar of Christmas chutney. My clients' messes are simple; my own mess is fraught.

I find a fourth box of cornstarch and it takes me down. I use one teaspoon of cornstarch once a year to make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving. How have I become a person who doesn't have the time or energy to check the pantry before she buys more cornstarch? How is it possible that I am a professional organizer who doesn't even make a grocery list? I ask myself this question and hear it in Pete's voice. He's asked me this before, and I can't remember how I explained it to him. You'd have to be here. You'd have to sit through a whole day of my life, right inside my head, to understand how that's possible. I'm not sure I understand it myself.

I give up and shove everything that's on the floor into a garbage bag. It's time to go get my kids anyway. It's the last week of school, and I just want summer to start already. Summer happens outside, and the mess of my garden is a much happier mess to be in. I find my keys under the camp T-shirt order form that was due last week. I find my phone under a buttered piece of toast. I've missed three calls from Frannie, so I call her on my way into the garage.

"You're going to flip," she says. I can hear the heartbeat of the diner in the background. Dishes hitting the counter and cutlery tossed into a plastic bin.

"Can't wait. What?"

"My parents are leaving the zip code."

I find this very hard to believe. Frannie's parents never leave Beechwood. "Like to go to the Home Depot or what?"

"They've won the Sunbelt National Sweepstakes. A two-week-long vacation in Key West."

"What? That's so fun! I can sort of picture them down there in shirts with flamingos on them." I'm smiling into my phone because I adore Frannie's parents. They have matching green pantsuits for St. Patrick's Day. They once showed up to an important city council meeting in powdered wigs and black robes. My mother referred to them as "that couple with the themes." They are the most enthusiastic people in the world.

Frannie and I weren't good friends growing up, but we were in the same grade, and everyone knows Mr. and Mrs. Hogan because they're a little eccentric and also because they own the two mainstays of our town-the Hogan Diner and the Beechwood Inn. Frannie and I reconnected after Pete and I left Manhattan and moved back to Beechwood, so I've been watching them to see how they'd age. I wondered if Mr. Hogan would tire of wearing his (now vintage) Beechwood High football jersey to every single home game. Or if they'd stop wearing their Yankees uniforms to the Little League Parade. There's been no sign of a slowdown yet.

"I know," she says. "They've gone completely nuts. My mom cut her hair into a bob an hour ago-she says it's more of a Florida look. They leave Saturday."

"There's going to be a lot of pink. And drinks with umbrellas, I think." I'm backing out of my garage and the sunlight surprises me. My geraniums are blooming nicely in the pots by my front door. I plant them on Mother's Day because they're the exact shade of my mother's lipstick, and they also have her stubborn resilience. Geraniums can handle a hot day much more gracefully than you'd expect. Don't overwater and don't be too fussy about them. Pick off the dead bits and new blooms will come. My eyes catch the coffee stain on my gray sweatpants, which used to be Pete's. I truly can't imagine how she would react to how poorly I've been coping without her.

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