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Melissa Pimentel delivers smart, funny, and modern retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back.
Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.
Ten years later, Ruby's single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.
But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago? Because there's nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . .
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
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It was a Monday night. The remains of a chicken Caesar salad were congealing gently on the side of my desk, and the mug of coffee next to my elbow — my fifth of the day — was now cold. I looked at the tiny clock at the edge of my screen: 9:23 p.m. There was no way I was getting out of here before midnight.
"Do you need anything?" I looked up to see Jennifer, the assistant I shared with the other account directors, standing in front of me. She'd arrived with the apple-cheeked, milk-fed look of a woman who had wandered in straight from the farm (even if, in her case, that farm was Yale). Now, after only a few weeks with us, her skin had already taken on the vitamin-D deficient pallor of someone unfamiliar with daylight. I felt a twinge of guilt: she was like a sweet little lamb being slowly, methodically sheared by the city.
"No, I'm all set, thanks." I looked at her more closely. She was wearing lipstick. Red lipstick. "Are you going out tonight?" I asked.
"No!" she said, nervously fiddling with the gold chain around her neck. "I mean, sort of. I had plans or whatever, but I can stay here as long as you need me."
She was wearing a dress, too, a floral tea dress that suited her tiny waist. It was definitely a date. "Don't worry about me," I said. "I don't need you to stick around, honest. What time are your plans?"
She shifted her weight to her other foot and tried to look casual. "Um, twenty minutes ago?"
"Then what are you still doing here? Go!" I said, shooing her away.
Her eyes widened, her mouth breaking into a wide grin. "Are you sure?"
"Oh my God, thank you!" she said, scrambling around her desk and gathering her bag. "I really, really appreciate it. I'll be in super early tomorrow morning, I promise."
"Relax, you're fine. I'm off for the rest of the week, but I'll be on email all the time, so just drop me a line if there are any major fires. Hopefully I'll wrap most things up tonight."
Jennifer hesitated. "You're sure you don't need me? I don't mind staying, really." Half of her body was already out the door.
"I know, but I'm fine. Really."
"Okay, well ... have a good trip! Let me know if you need anything!"
"I will. And Jen?"
"You look great."
She beamed at me and slipped out the door. I heard her heels clacking down the stairwell and the sound of the fire-exit door swing open and clang decisively shut.
I sighed and turned back to one of my many color-coded spreadsheets. I was working on a major new digital campaign for Spike, a low-cost airline that had been plagued with a myriad of health and safety scandals recently: salmonella in a batch of their in-flight meals, child harnesses that snapped when tested, and one particular incident where a marauding band of mice chewed through a nest of wiring during a flight to San Jose. We were rebranding them as the "Airline of Adventure," complete with GoPro footage of various lunatics jumping off buildings and abseiling down crevasses. Because surely, at this point, it was only those lunatics who would willingly board one of their rickety planes.
Regardless of my thoughts on the ethics of fudging airline safety, the Spike business was a huge slice of the BlueFly budget, and it was essential that the campaign went off without a hitch. As a result, I'd been pulling sixteen-hour days for the past three weeks, taking phone calls from the nervous CEO late into the night and early in the morning. One of my eyes had developed a twitch a week ago, and now that twitch had a twitch. And, of course, with the worst possible timing, I had to take a week's vacation to travel to the north of England because my sister had insisted on getting married in a castle (which, if you'd met Piper, wouldn't come as much of a surprise). And to add insult to injury, my ex-boyfriend would be there, too. Trust Piper to marry the best friend of the one man I never wanted to see again. And at this rate, I wouldn't even have time to wax my legs before I left.
My phone flashed up with a message.
Are you bailing on me tomorrow?
It was my best friend Jess, who had defected to the wilds of New Jersey two years ago with her husband and baby son, and who I had since managed to visit a grand total of three times. I know, I know, I'm a terrible friend. Something Jess hasn't held back on telling me. Another text flashed up.
Let me rephrase that. DO NOT BAIL ON ME TOMORROW. You do not want to piss off a pregnant lady because I will crush you.
I'd promised her I'd swing by her place on the way to the airport the following morning, but had, in all honesty, already been planning to make my excuses and spend the morning in the office. But seeing her text messages, I knew I was toast.
Of course I'm still coming! Can't wait. Xxx
I placed the phone back on the desk and turned back to my spreadsheets. I saw the phone flash up again from the corner of my eye.
You're a liar but I love you. Let me know what train you're on and Noah and I will meet you. X
I took a sip of cold coffee and grimaced. Midnight, I thought to myself. I won't stay any later than midnight.
I woke up to the mechanized chirrup of crickets.
My eyes stuttered open and I fumbled in the dark until my fingers curled around my phone: 6:33 a.m. I let out a plaintive moan. I thought about closing my eyes again, letting sleep pull me gently back under, but the little blue envelope on my iPhone had an angry red number hovering above it: fifty-seven new unread emails. The Shanghai office had been busy overnight. I tapped with a reluctant index finger and scanned through a series of minor and major disasters that would need rectifying, and felt my chest tighten with each swipe.
6:37. Time to get up. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and suddenly regretted my decision to take an Ambien last night. I shielded my eyes from the sun, now streaming through the window, and sat for a moment while I made a mental calculation of what I had to do today: gym, train, Jessica, plane. England. The ex. I let out another groan and glanced down at my pillow longingly.
I forced myself onto my feet. I had a 7 a.m. training session this morning, and Jeff would make me do extra burpees if I was late. Tuesday at 7 a.m. had been spent with Jeff for three and a half years now, ever since I had tried to squeeze myself into a dress I used to wear back in college and couldn't get it past my knees. All the days and nights spent at the desk had caught up with me, and the only solution was to subject myself to twice-weekly punishment sessions with Jeff, and frequent pre-dawn runs along the river. It was brutal. It was endless. It was, it appeared, the routine I would be following for the rest of my life. Why couldn't exercise be like money, or Starbucks points, where you could amass a stockpile and then spend it gradually over time for the rest of your life? Instead, I found that if I took even a week off, my lungs reverted to their previous flaccid state, and my ass started inching toward the backs of my knees. And so, onward I fought.
I padded into the bathroom and flicked on the light, wincing slightly before switching it back off again. Brushing my teeth in the dark felt safer and more humane. Face washed and hair tied up in a fresh ponytail, I pulled on the gym clothes I'd left carefully folded for myself the night before, and scooped some coffee grains into the French press. I glanced up at the clock hanging above the range. 6:48: two minutes to spare. I straightened the covers and doublechecked that I had everything I needed for the trip, including the lurid green monstrosity that Piper had decided was the maid of honor dress. I was going straight to the station after the gym and couldn't afford to come all the way back to the apartment for an errant shoe.
Dress, shoes, make-up, Ambien all accounted for, I had a quick last look around the apartment before heading out the door. It was a tiny studio, but it was all my own — the first place I'd been able to afford by myself in the city. There comes a time in a person's life when, if single, one should live on one's own, mainly because the only possible roommates available to one are the deranged and mentally diseased. The commute from Bay Ridge — where I'd lived for the past seven years, eversince I moved out of the place I'd shared with Jess in Sunset Park — had been brutal, but not as brutal as the feeling of being the oldest, and lamest, person in the neighborhood. When Len, the grizzled old bartender at McDougall's, was replaced by a smirking twenty-three-year-old wearing a Hypercolor tank top, I went home, prepared a financial spreadsheet, and called a real estate broker: I would move to Manhattan, where I would be poor but would at least feel young. (I felt more poor than young, but it was still worth it.)
The new place, nestled in an old tenement building in the East Village, was tiny and extortionately priced, but I could afford it (barely) thanks to my recent promotion to account director. It was beautiful — all exposed bricks and high ceilings — and I'd been slowly replacing my old Ikea furniture with purposely distressed vintage pieces that had originally been bought at a garage sale in Michigan and resold at a tremendous mark-up to city rubes like me. I was fine with this.
I tore down the stairs and burst onto the street. It was a beautiful morning: the sky was a faultless blue, the day's inevitable mugginess had yet to descend, and the street sweepers had already come through, so the road wasn't littered with the previous night's detritus of beer bottles and vomit. I sipped my coffee on the way, and listened to the quiet rhythms of the city waking up: the metal shutters sliding open, the pails of water being tossed onto the sidewalk, the quiet tick of town car engines cooling as they waited for their breakfasting businessmen. I walked into the gym, the familiar smell of sweat, chlorine, and overpriced air freshener welcoming me. 6:59 on the nose.
A large, muscular man with a head shaped like a triangle and a sadistic grin stood up when I walked through the door: Jeff.
"Morning, Ruby," he said. "Ready for the pain?"
"Not really," I said, but it didn't matter — it was going to happen anyway.
I sweated my way through the usual series of increasingly grueling and bizarre exercises, Jeff standing over me and occasionally bellowing what he thought was encouragement, but would more accurately be classified as harassment. "Lower! Deeper! Faster! Harder!" he said, over and over. Taken out of context, it would sound as if he were directing fringe porn. I squeezed my eyes shut and thought about the coffee and bagel that awaited me at the end of this, and considered, not for the first time, the irony of working out this hard in order to maintain some semblance of the body I'd had at nineteen, when my diet had consisted entirely of Cheetos, Diet Coke, slices of processed cheese, and cheap vodka. I pushed the thought out of my head and did another rep. This is about being strong and healthy, I told myself, not about being thin. (Okay, it was a little bit about being thin.)
In addition to allowing me to eat a guilt-free bagel, exercise helped temporarily to dislodge the tight knot of anxiety that had nestled itself in my breastbone — like a tiny, fluttering baby bird with an extremely sharp beak — ever since the promotion. With every squat thrust, it flew higher and lighter until, by the end of the hour, I couldn't feel it at all. Today it was particularly useful, considering the amount of pre-travel/wedding/family/ex-boyfriend anxiousness pressing firmly on my shoulders.
"One more circuit and we're done," Jeff said, idly flexing a bicep in the mirror as I began yet another set of weighted lunges. I suppressed the urge to thwack him over the head with a kettlebell.
Workout done, shower taken, and personage assembled, I made my way to the subway, wheeled suitcase dragging noisily behind. The city had stretched its limbs and was fully awake now, and I had to shoulder through a crowd lined up outside a bakery, all desperate to get their hands on a freshly baked cronut despite the fact that no one in the city ate gluten anymore (except me). I dodged a woman struggling to free her stiletto from a subway grate, a vagrant pushing a shopping cart full of dismembered mannequins, and a squall of hungover-looking college students before descending into Second Avenue station.
The subway was, as ever, a minefield of smells and sounds and strangers' limbs. I normally avoided the subway — the BlueFly office was within walking distance — but there was no way I could walk the thirty-plus blocks across town to Penn Station, and a cab would take twice as long to snake its way through the morning traffic snarls. I pushed my way onto a busy F train, enraging everyone in the vicinity by having a suitcase with me during rush hour, and let my face arrange itself into its Don't Fuck With Me expression (a mix of boredom, stand-offishness, and vague menace). I found a (hopefully) non-living place to hold on, and spent the next twenty minutes scrolling through my iPhone — thirteen new emails had come in during my gym session — and trying to ignore the truly appalling stench coming from the man next to me. I stole a glance at him: he looked normal, handsome even — fortyish, with an appealing shock of salt and pepper hair and wearing a good suit — but he smelled like he'd rolled around in a mix of garlic and wet dog hair.
I looked at him again, more closely this time. There was something familiar about him ... maybe I'd worked with him before? Did he go to my gym? And then I remembered: I'd swapped a few messages with him on OkCupid the month before. We'd even arranged a date, but I'd had to cancel at the last minute because of a work emergency. I felt his eyes on me and stared hard at my phone. Please don't recognize me, I prayed silently. Please, garbage man, leave me in peace.
"THIRTY-FOURTH STREET, HERALD SQUARE!" The conductor's voice crackled across the loudspeaker and I pushed my way through the door and onto the platform, leaving a wake of disgruntled tsks as I pulled my suitcase off behind me. The doors started to close and garbage man locked eyes with me, a look of recognition written across his face. I looked away and the doors clanged shut behind me, whizzing him up to 42nd Street. I smiled to myself as I lugged the suitcase up the stairs: another tiny victory won.
I emerged from the station and began my cross-town journey on foot. The heat of the summer had started to press down on New York like a thumb, and by the time I walked into Penn Station, sweat had begun to trickle down my back.
"Can I interest you in free highlights? Our brand-new salon has just opened ..." "Free sample of I Can't Believe It's Not Chocolate! The first chocolate substitute made entirely of beetroot!" "Half-price tickets to the Knicks!" I hustled my way past the tourists and ticket touts and promoters pressing leaflets into any passing hand. There was a time when I would have taken the handsome man up on his offer of a free haircut, but experience had taught me the hard way that by "new salon" he meant a back-alley joint in Chinatown where they would bleach my hair orange and charge me $110 to fix it. That is the thing about New York: its beautiful, maddening essence. No one gets anything for free here. You have to work for it.
I hurried down the long, curved, white corridor, flying past Nathan's and the souvenir stands and the bookshop stacked high with the latest pulpy bestseller. The floors were now scattered with the detritus of the morning commute: splashes of coffee splattered on the polished concrete, along with flimsy paper bags that had held now-eaten croissants and egg sandwiches, an abandoned sports section lying limply on a nearby bench. The rush had ended, and an echoey calm had fallen on the station. I saw my train listed on the board — the 6929 to Millburn — and headed toward the platform. I was early, so I stopped at a bagel cart on the way and ordered a whole-wheat bagel (cream cheese on the side) and a coffee (black).
I was furiously blowing on the scalding coffee when something caught my eye: staring out at me from the magazine rack was none other than my ex-boyfriend, his face smiling smugly out from the cover of TechCrunch magazine. "Can Ethan Bailey Save the World?" the headline asked, as if specifically designed to annoy me. "I'm guessing not," I muttered as I pulled a copy from the rack and slapped it down on the counter.
Excerpted from "The One That Got Away"
Copyright © 2016 Melissa Pimentel.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Is there one person in your life that things didn't work out and you wonder where they are or what could have been? This book is completely about the what if life had gone a different route and these two characters get to meet up and maybe discuss why it didn't and maybe it could now! Ruby and Ethan dated briefly and things combusted and now they are brought together to celebrate the wedding of his best friend to her sister and they will get the chance to confront the past. They both had secrets and it was interesting when and how they shared them and the reaction to those secrets and maybe those secrets would have changed the past.
Then. Now. No matter what time frame, one thing remains the same - Ruby has never gotten over Ethan, no matter how she tries to tell herself she has. As a successful New York City businesswoman, avid coffee drinker and workaholic, Ruby thinks she has it all. In her eyes she’s living her dream life, but in truth, it’s a life without love. With one best friend living in New Jersey, her father and stepmother, Candace, who live in Florida, her little sister, Piper, getting married, and no love interest in sight, she hardly realizes her life is lacking. She lives a calm, routine life of work and exercise, but her sister’s upcoming wedding is about to change all that. Ruby's sister’s wedding is about to put her face-to-face with her ex-boyfriend Ethan. It’s been 10 years since she’s last seen him, after leaving him with simply a letter saying goodbye, and he’s turned into much more than she could have imagined. Bartender turned successful tech millionaire, Ethan’s made a name for himself and a life he loves, one he wishes Ruby was still a part of. Upon arrival in England, where Piper is getting married, Ruby begins to question and doubt the life she designed for herself and realizes her feelings for Ethan are still strong and alive as ever. It appears, however, that he does not feel the same. Desperate to make things as normal as possible, she tries to show how much his presence doesn’t bother her, which only serves to make multiple situations much more awkward than they need to be. From pushing him to date one of the bridesmaids to making a grand show of not caring that he’s there, it’s clear there is something between the both of them, even ten years later. With her sister getting married to Ethan’s best friend, and being required to spend the entire week with him, Ruby has to try to keep her cool, but as unforeseen events occur, they begin to wonder if life really is too short to hold a grudge. I absolutely loved this book. As an avid fan of Jane Austen and a lover of Persuasion, I couldn’t help but fall equally in love with this modern retelling. Not only was The One That Got Away able to keep my attention and drag me in at the end of every chapter, but it was also a love story without being overwhelmingly romantic. Many books that go between the past and the present can be confusing, but this was expertly told and clear at every point. Receiving the backstory along with the present not only served to deepen the plot, but it provided such a deep view of the characters that it’s impossible to not become highly attached. I look forward to new works by Pimentel - and I just might have to go back to enjoy her previous books. Quill says: The One That Got Away is a light-hearted, read-in-one-day kind of a book. Absolutely delightful and enthralling.
I so enjoyed this book. It was so entertaining and I loved the characters. A great read that included romance, humor (quite a lot) and a little mystery. I sped through this book enjoying every moment. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel but I am by no means a purist. When I read a retelling of her work, I want to be swept away by the story. Sure, there needs to similarity or at least obvious homage but I’m less interested in how true it is to the original work. Retellings should take inspiration from the source material. They don’t need to recreate it word for word or scene for scene. To that end, The One That Got Away lands firmly in the Good Adaptation camp. Granted, it’s been several years since I last read Persuasion but as far as I can tell, the important beats all made their way to TOTGA. Ruby is a workaholic in her early 30s and living a rather sad life in NYC. Things have not turned out the way she hoped. This is compounded by the fact that she’s going to Scotland for her younger sister’s wedding where her Ruby’s ex-boyfriend will be the best man. Her ex who has made quite the name for himself since she broke up with him. As the novel progresses, we are treated to glimpses of Ruby and Ethan’s past relationship from Ruby’s first person POV. (The rest of the novel is third person.) They were madly in love and you know something bad must have gone down to break them apart. I may or may not have muttered, “don’t do it, Ruby!” at a few different points. Of course, Ethan isn’t perfect but he was so perfect for her, in both his past and present iterations, that you can’t help but root for these two to find their way back to each other. For much of the novel, this seems a dicey proposition. But it’s based on a Jane Austen novel and so you can be pretty sure a Happily Ever After is on its way. Ruby was a complex character and I must admit I didn’t always like her. I could relate to her though, particularly her perplexity over just how her life had turned out this way. She moved to NYC believing it held all the answers and there she is all these years later holding onto a dream that failed her at every turn. She could have made so many different choices but part of adulthood is making mistakes and hopefully eventually learning to unmake them. The secondary characters are wonderful and crazy-making and keep the story propelling along. Ruby and Piper’s stepmother was especially well developed and my heart went out to her for the precarious place she was in with the girls and their father. It cannot be easy stepping into an already made family and especially not when things remain that way for decades. When Ruby and Ethan finally have the conversation they should have had years ago, it was such a relief. Not because they said or did all the right things but because communication is key. Always. In everything. You can’t control how other people will respond to what you say but you owe them the courtesy of your side of the story, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Only then can you determine how or if to move forward. Watching Ethan figure out his next steps afterward and then make his move made my heart sing. This was such an enjoyable twist on Persuasion! Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
"The One that Got Away" begins with Ruby going to her sister's wedding at which her one true love and ex Ethan will also be attending. Ethan has become very successful since they broke up and their lives have diverged greatly. Regardless, seeing him again has brought back all of Ruby's former feelings for him. The story follows two timelines simultaneously- the time when they first dated and the present when they are at Ruby's sister Piper's wedding. Despite being predictable, it's a well written set of intertwined stories. The story of their past was a nice touch to set this apart from other second chance romances. We get to see them fall in love and live in the present apart. The book is relatively slow and is more like an analysis of their relationship, how it all fell apart, with details about their current lives and family members. I liked the emails that were included here and there a lot, as they also added a nice touch. The story was a bit slow for me, as the main story takes place all within a few days, so it moves very slowly. There are the typical misunderstandings, but I was never really sure how Ethan felt about any of it. It was very Ruby-heavy. It was unclear if he still had feelings at all and his parts of the book seemed more about his financial ability to pay for things rather than his emotional state. It felt a little too one-sided and flat to me. I really wasn't satisfied by the ending/didn't feel like I was there for them/saw it. We later learn that the reason Ruby broke up with him in the first place was basically because of rape (since she was way too drunk- or drugged?- to consent and had passed out). She was clearly not a willing party. I am putting this in my review, as I think a content warning may be helpful. It's not described in detail but enough to make you feel like there is a huge injustice here being glossed over. It all came a little too fast and terrible at the end. This and the lack of satisfaction at ending is why I dropped my rating by a couple of stars. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for my honest review.