The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan
To start off, if you haven't done so already, please read my Q&A with Polly Dugan. That will give you a pretty good glimpse into what I thought of the book.
The Sweetheart Deal really surprised me. I didn't think it was going to be bad... I didn't think the writing was going to be subpar or the plot unrealistic. I just didn't think this book would be for me. In 2015, I've been attempting to branch out (occasionally) from the darker litfic that I tend to gravitate towards. This year, I've realized there are types of covers that I'm instantly magnetized toward... and I can't even put into words what elements of the cover art attract me. You could put a schmaltzy romance between the covers of a book that looked like Boy, Snow, Bird and I'd probaby get halfway through it before I realizing it's not my thing.
The "day in the life of a regular family" cover of The Sweetheart Deal, admittedly, threw me off. As did "Sweetheart" in the title. But would an author who works for Tin House ever give me schmaltz? I didn't think so.
So while Dugan surprised me, she also didn't. She delivered to me something I didn't know I was looking for. A darker yet uncomplicated romance that is grounded in mutual love, respect... and a wee bit too much to drink. The relationship between Garrett and Audrey is mature and simple, yet nuanced in a way that lends intrigue to the story and an eagerness for the reader to finally see them together. We know from the beginning the're going to end up together. Because that's just what happens in fiction. But the journey was the most interesting part and the author wrote of their trip from friends to lovers without the rose petals and candlelight that I'm so sick of.
So in the end, the cover art was perfect. The main characters shared an every day, realistic love that I think people in their 30s eventually realize is the epitome of romance. I've been with my husband for 17 years and I don't miss the times he'd show up to my house (and as I was 17 years old, I was still living with my parents. So, I mean "...show up to my parent's house"). I treasure the moments where he's had a bad day and I go out for ice cream in my leggings at 9:30... and then we spend the next hour eating ice cream and talking about our days. Audrey and Garrett didn't start with the romance... they started with the ice cream. And therefore, their characters were so much more relatable to me (and I'm sure, to Dugans other readers).
The poignant story of what happens when a woman who thinks she's lost everything has the chance to love again.
Leo has long joked that, in the event of his death, he wants his best friend Garrett, a lifelong bachelor, to marry his wife, Audrey. One drunken night, he goes so far as to make Garrett promise to do so. Then, twelve years later, Leo, a veteran firefighter, dies in a skiing accident. As Audrey navigates her new role as widow and single parent, Garrett quits his job in Boston and buys a one-way ticket out west. Before long, Audrey's feelings for Garrett become more than platonic, and Garrett finds himself falling for Audrey, her boys, and their life together in Portland. When Audrey finds out about the drunken pact from years ago, though, the harmless promise that brought Garrett into her world becomes the obstacle to his remaining in it.