As kids, Clara and Boone had been each other’s firsts, and no one or nothing could stand in the way of their forever. But all kids have to grow up sometime. The troubled son of the town drunk winding up with the firstborn daughter of the local royalty was a happy ending even the most imaginative of fairy tales couldn’t make believable.
Their fable came to an end as most do: tragically. Boone might have done the leaving, but it was Clara who got away and made a new life for herself in California. But after seven years of dodging her hometown, she’s only back in Charleston for seven days to celebrate her sister’s wedding. She won’t let her overbearing family or her run-in with Boone rattle her—though rattling her is obviously Boone’s primary objective.
Boone is her past and her past is behind her, a mere speck in the rearview. So why does she feel it coming back every time she looks at him? Why does she see it every time he looks back?
Just when Clara’s life can’t possibly get more complicated, the ground shifts, and she discovers just how far her family was willing to go to keep the wrong boy out of her life. Was it really Boone who left her? Or was it Clara who left him?
The truth will be hard to face. Especially when she discovers most of her life has been built on lies.
“What had we been thinking as kids pretending we could chase forever? Stupid. That’s what we’d been.”
There’s something very special about an author whose every new book makes you feel like a kid on Christmas morning, and Nicole Williams is one of those authors for me. Never one for depicting human nature or matters of the heart in broad strokes, Ms Williams’ stories tend to focus on the small things in life, the everyday and the often unnoticed, weaving them into breathtaking, hopeful, tender romances that never fail to inspire. And with each new book, she leaves us brimming with positivity and faith in mankind, showing us that often the simplest of stories contain the most profound truths. The mere premise of a second chance romance between two teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks had all the makings of a compelling read in my eyes, but in Nicole Williams’ hands, it was guaranteed to become an epic one.
“It was only a week. Seven days. I’d endured eighteen years; what was one week?”
As the eldest daughter of an affluent Southern family, Clara Abbott was always expected to follow a set script in life. But ever since she was a child, Clara has felt at odds with her highbrow family, rebelling against everything they stood for and everything that was required of her as an Abbott. Seven years after leaving her old life behind and making a new one far enough from the reaches of her overbearing family, Clara is called back to her hometown for the wedding of her younger sister. But with every breath she takes in a city she hoped to never see again, she finds herself drowning in memories she’s desperately tried to erase. And all of a sudden, facing the very object of them all.
“This woman’s taken enough from me for this lifetime and my next ten. I’m not giving her anything else…”
Clara might have put a whole country between herself and her memories of Boone Cavanaugh, but one look at the only man she’s ever loved stirs in her all she’s worked hard to forget. Yet when faced with the prospect of facing her family on her own, she puts her heartbreak aside and makes him an offer he is unable to refuse—to pose as her ‘plus one’ for one week.
“All I need from you is for you to pose as my plus one for the week. Nothing more. One week, ten grand.”
But Boone is no longer the vulnerable young man Clara left behind, and even at one of the lowest points in his life, he refuses to be her dirty little secret again. He does not hesitate to accept Clara’s offer, but from the moment they walk through the doors of her childhood home, Boone is set on playing the role his seventeen-year-old self never had the courage to own. And rubbing it in her family’s faces any chance he gets. Bringing home a ghost from her past, however, one they had never accepted or welcomed into the family fold, sets off a series of small chain reactions intended to collectively derail Clara from making the same mistakes again.
“It will be okay, Clara. They can’t ruin your life twice.”
“That won’t stop them from trying.”
“Well, I won’t let them ruin my life twice.”
“It won’t stop them from trying.”
As the wedding nears and Clara’s family obstinately plots to pull them apart by drawing attention to their very obvious class differences, Clara and Boone remain determined to present a united front against their schemes, this reminding them of another time they depended on each other for strength, and of all the reasons why they once loved one another dearly. But each good memory brings a bad one to the surface too, and soon they are forced to confront a past they both hoped to forget, as well as acknowledge their own roles in the demise of it all.
“I don’t just stop loving someone because they make a mistake, or the same mistake every other night. When you love someone, do it right and love them forever. Don’t leave them wondering the whole time when it’s going to run out or expire.”
With a truly thought-provoking perspective on second chances in life, Ms Williams gifts us with a touching tale of a love that survived against all odds and of a family whose actions often hurt the ones they loved the most, whose good intentions often turned into mistakes, but whose ties to one another never wavered. Clara and Boone might have been star-crossed lovers in their youth, but life has taught them never to give up on those who matter the most or throw away a chance to correct the past. And the power of their connection never fails to make our hearts beat a little faster.
“I’ve only ever had one someone special, Clara, and she turned me off to the whole idea of ever having another.”
I loved every single word of this splendid tale, genuinely connecting and understanding these characters even when their actions would not have been my own, and letting go of them in the end was sweet agony. Nicole Williams’ stories always offer a refreshing change of pace, their slow-building tempo and the empathetic quality to her character development continuing to be the key feature of this author’s extraordinary voice. I always walk away from her stories with a heavy heart, because once you’ve lived in one of her realities, you always want more.
“It doesn’t seem to matter how far away I go or how many years go by. I’m starting to accept that there will always be some part of me that is going to hold on to some part of you.”
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