Kate, a mother and history teacher, contends daily with a decision made in her youth. The story skips through the decades of her life, revolving around a romantic compromise. While completing her master’s and working as a waitress, a young vivacious woman, Benton, takes notice of Kate, and Benton’s friend Ian can’t help but do the same. Although Benton knows of Ian’s infatuation with Kate, as the women become friends, she decides Kate would prefer her friend Rob. Kate goes on a date with Rob, but things quickly fizzle. Ian swoops in, and the two become inseparable, until he leaves on assignment. Kate—uneasy with his uprooted lifestyle and unsure of her feelings—loses hope for their relationship, despite Ian’s assurances. Rob re-enters her life, and following a miscarriage, the two decide to get married. Their marriage suffers more blows: job instability, adultery. When Kate feels as if she’s lost control, she receives an invitation from Benton for a “heartbreak cruise.” Relieved to spend a week with other scorned women, Kate finds that Ian is also attending the holiday, and she realizes this may be her second shot at love. Kate’s story speaks to the ways optimism and pessimism may affect choices. Rob condemns her for pessimistic attitude, while Ian will always cherish her as a “true optimist.” The way in which Kate grapples with their opinions of her reveals her own self-perception; she is often insecure, questioning her parenting and professionalism. The nonlinear structure makes her story unique; it switches from her days as a student to her experience as a newlywed to her failing marriage to her chance for redemption with Ian. The complex decisions at each turn build reader interest and investment in the characters.
A layered, bittersweet romance that questions consequences and explores second chances.