A harried events planner pines for the high-school heartthrob who got away, but is the feeling mutual?
Erin Edwards works for a world-class luxury resort in Virginia, coordinating lavish weddings, bar mitzvahs and birthday parties, like the Sweet 16 bash the hotel is hosting for Roxanne, the world’s brattiest teenager. Fielding Roxanne’s outrageous requests (helicopters, horses in the water park, a flock of eagles), Erin recalls her own much less entitled teenage years, overshadowed by her passion for Nate, her first lover. Although she went on to other loves and is the single mother of a daughter, she’s never found Nate’s equal in any man. Rick, her daughter’s best friend’s father, a prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer, has proposed and is waiting for an answer. There’s nothing wrong with Rick, except that he’s not...Nate. The book alternates between the mid ’80s, as the courtship of Nate and Erin charts its rocky course, and the present. Although '80s Erin can’t tamp down her longing for Nate, she still chafes at the fact that they never have a real date—instead they hang out with his Animal House–eligible contingent of friends. Nate is Romeo without the flowery speeches or depth. In the present, Roxanne refuses to believe that her ex-boyfriend can’t be somehow forced to attend her party. Witnessing Roxanne’s self-delusion leads Erin to ponder if Nate shares her nostalgia for their past. Convinced he moved away long ago, she can’t resist revisiting Nate’s former home. But as she passes the house, who should appear but Nate, slightly more grizzled. They fall back into bed without so much as a word, but then she finds his wedding ring. Should she have just let sleeping Nates lie? Although there are some trenchant social observations here, Erin’s ever-churning ruminations and regrets begin to pall. Harbison makes a vivid case for Nate’s sexual prowess but fails to illustrate any other traits that would qualify him for soul-mate-hood.
Readers will be casting their votes for Rick—and not the guy who got away.