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The new book from the author of The Seven Year Slip! Read a sneak peek from A Novel Love Story by Ashley Poston


The new book from the author of The Seven Year Slip! Read a sneak peek from A Novel Love Story by Ashley Poston

Have you ever found yourself lost in a good book … literally?

Eileen Merriweather loves a good love story. The fictional kind, anyway. After all, imaginary men don’t break your heart.

That’s why she’s so excited for her annual book club retreat – instead, when her car breaks down en route, Eileen finds herself in Eloraton. A town where every meet is cute, the rain always comes in the afternoon, and the bookshop is always curated with impeccable taste.

It feels too good to be true … because Eloraton is the setting of her favourite romance series. And Eileen is sure she must be here to bring the town its storybook ending.

But there’s one character she can’t place. The grumpy bookshop owner with mint-green eyes, and an irritatingly sexy mouth. He does not want Eileen to finish this story, but how else can she find her happily-ever-after?

The next magical rom-com from the New York Times bestselling author of The Seven Year Slip and The Dead Romantics!

I was lost.

Not metaphorically— at least, I didn’t think so— but physically lost, hundreds of miles from home, in the middle of nowhere.

No cell service. An outdated map. A gas tank running on empty.

Oh, and I was alone. I’d never gone alone to the cabin before. When I started this road trip yesterday, after fifteen hours on the interstate and a pit stop at a dinosaur- themed hotel, I didn’t think I’d lose my way on the last leg of the journey. I was so close— the cabin within reach— but Google Maps kept glitching as I drove my way through Rip van Winkle country, until my phone screen was nothing more than beige land and my little blue dot roamed, without a road, in the middle of nowhere.

And just to rub salt into my wound, I’d taken the same road trip with my best friend for the last two years to the same cabin in Rhinebeck, New York, to meet the same people in our Super Smutty Book Club. I shouldn’t have gotten lost.

But this year no one could make it— except me.

Above me, angry-looking clouds rumbled with thunder, dark purple with the coming night and heavy with rain. I hoped it held up until I found the cabin, unearthed a bottle of wine from my back seat, and settled down on the rocking chairs on the front porch with a romance book in my hands.

The promise of a week of wine and happily ever afters had kept me sane all year, through circle- jerking literary bros and colleagues who lied when they said that War and Peace was a riveting read (sure, the one part with the great comet). The English department was rife with people who would love to talk to you for hours about Beowulf or modern literary theory or the intersectionality of post-modern texts. But for one week out of the year, I looked forward to a week where I could shuck off my professorial robes and disappear into the twisting roads that hugged the soft hills of the Catskills, and read about impossible meet-cutes and grand romantic gestures, and no one would judge me for it.

And when everyone else pulled out because life got in the way, it was just going to be Pru and me— and that was perfect, too. I needed this. Pru didn’t understand how much. No one did. So when she told me last week that she couldn’t go, either, it surprised me. No, that was the wrong word—it disappointed me— but I didn’t want it to show. I sat on the couch opposite of her, The Great British Bake Off in the background, digging my fingers into the comforter I’d pulled over my legs, because she always kept her and Jasper’s apartment freezing.

“I’m sorry,” she’d said, twisting the rings on her fingers nervously. Her dirty blonde hair was done up in a sloppy ponytail, and she was still in her pajamas and fuzzy slippers. She was petite and perpetually sunburnt in the summers, with wide brown eyes and a scar on her chin where my teeth went into her face when we were twelve and trying to do backflips on the trampoline. Between the crack in her open bedroom door, I could see her suitcase half- packed already with warm sweaters and cute knit hats. Definitely not summer apparel. “Jasper surprised me with a trip to Iceland, and this is the only time we could go because of, you know, his job,” she gushed quickly, like saying it faster would make it hurt less— ripping a proverbial Band- Aid off a very hairy leg. “I know it’s not ideal but he just told me. We just found out. And . . . we can all go again next year?” The question dipped up, hopeful.

No, I wanted to tell her, but I couldn’t quite muster up the word. No, we can’t. I needed this. I still need this.

But if I said that, then what would happen? Nothing good. She would still go off to Iceland, and I’d be stuck exactly where I was. Besides, we both knew what Iceland meant: a proposal. Finally.

It was something she’d been waiting for for years.

So really, what did it matter if she couldn’t come to the cabin this year? It was nothing, really, in the face of what she had to look forward to. So I put on a smile and said, “Obviously. Next year we’ll be back to normal.”

“Absolutely,” she promised, and she didn’t suspect a thing. “Oh, and maybe this year we can all Zoom together?”

“No, no, it’s fine!” I replied, finishing my glass of wine. I needed to go.

She clenched her jaw. “Elsy . . .”

“Seriously, it’s cool. Besides, if Jasper’s taking you to Iceland, you can’t say no.” Then I held up my hand and wiggled my bare wedding ring finger. “You know what he’s gonna do.”

My best friend closed her eyes. “Eileen . . .”

Uh-oh, now she’d graduated to my full name. She was being serious, but so was I, and I seriously needed to leave. “Go, have fun, don’t think twice about it,” I urged, because I didn’t want her to see how upset I really was. Because Jasper was a pretty low-level employee at his law firm, he only had certain days off, once in a blue moon, and this was a last- minute trip that he’d managed to snatch up for them.

So, in the summer of my thirty-second year, with no money and no prospects and one too many AI- generated papers waiting for me to grade for my college English 101 class, I set off on a sixteen- hour road trip alone.

Prudence might’ve been able to sacrifice this trip, but I certainly couldn’t. I was desperate for it— I needed to get drunk on cheap wine and cry over happily ever afters, even if I’d be the only one in the cabin this year.

I needed to get lost in a book.

More than I needed anything else.

Besides, it was the ten-year anniversary of the publication of Daffodil Daydreams, by Rachel Flowers, and that was something that I wanted to celebrate. The author had passed away a few years ago, and her books had brought the book club together.

And, I think, deep down I just wanted to get away— no matter what.

On the sixteen-hour drive, I decided to get a head start and began to listen to Daffodil Daydreams. The audiobook narrator was in the middle of my favorite scene. I fished out a stale fry from the fast- food bag in the seat beside me and turned up the volume.

“Junie crossed the rickety bridge to the waterfall, searching the plush greenery for any sign of Will, but she felt her heart beginning to break a little with each beat. He wasn’t here.”

“Just wait,” I told her. “Love is neither late nor early, you know.” Then I frowned at my half-eaten fry, and dropped it back in the bag. I was so sick of fast food and gas station bathrooms. Almost twenty-four hours of it could do that to a person.

My puke- green Pinto, lovingly nicknamed Sweetpea, had started making this sort of high- pitched whining noise somewhere back in DC, but I’d elected to ignore it. After all, Sweetpea was a 1979 Ford Pinto, the kind that had a penchant for exploding gas tanks. So I was just betting that it’d want to go out in style rather than by a faulty gasket or an oil leak.

I had been tempted to turn around, because I couldn’t imagine anything worse than being stranded in a no- name town, but I was a part- time English professor who filed her own taxes and knew how to change her own tires, goddamn it.

I had a Taser in the glove compartment and had taken two self- defense classes, so I wasn’t totally helpless.

A fat rain droplet splatted on my windshield. Then another as in the audiobook Junie worked up the courage to leave the water-fall, succumbing to the awful nightmare she’d been afraid of all along— that Will didn’t love her. Not in the way she did him.

I knew these words like Holy Scriptures. I could recite them, I’d read them so many times.

In just a few paragraphs, Will would come running up the trail to the waterfall, out of breath and exhausted. He’d pull her into his arms and propose that they fix up the Daffodil Inn together— make it their home. Their happy ending.

I knew what she’d say, but I still had a death grip on the steering wheel anyway.

I knew her voice would be soft, and it would be sure as she took him by the hands, and squeezed them tightly, under the glittering spray of the waterfall. And there would be magic there, in that moment. The heart- squeezing, tongue-tying, breathless, edge-of-your-seat magic of Quixotic Falls. Of true love.

What did it feel like to love someone so much you ached?

I thought I knew once.

If life were like a storybook, I would be a premier scholar on the material. Most of the year, I taught English classes at my local university. I waxed poetic about history’s greatest romantics. I taught at length about Mary Shelley’s devotion to her husband, and Lord Byron’s . . . promiscuity. I handed out the letters Keats wrote, and challenged students to see the world through rose- tinted glasses.

I graded papers on The Vampyre and Lord Byron, and I taught that Mary Shelley kept Percy’s calcified heart in her desk drawer because that was the closest thing to romance as real life could get.

I didn’t need love. I didn’t need to fall into it. I didn’t need to find it at all.

Because love stories were enough. They were safe. They would never fail me.

The rain came down harder, and my hands grew clammy with nerves. I hated driving in the rain. Pru always did whenever we went anywhere. I rubbed my hands on my jean shorts, muttering to myself that I should’ve planned out another day and booked a hotel for the night. Maybe I still could, because I didn’t know where the hell I was.


I gave up on trying to fix Google Maps and returned my eyes to the road.

Somehow, the rainstorm seemed to get comically worse, until I found myself driving through a complete washout. I think I passed a town sign, but I couldn’t make out what it read. The rain on the roof of my car was so loud, I couldn’t hear the audiobook anymore.

“Will pressed . . . kiss . . . whispered . . . ‘It sounds . . . lo . . . dream . . . forever?’ ”

“Damn, that’s my favorite part,” I muttered, turning up the volume, but it was already as loud as it could go.

Then— the road seemed to veer off ahead.

Putting my blinker on, I turned off onto the road. There was an old barnlike covered bridge ahead, crossing a small river that over-flowed and frothed with white water. I slowed down to putter over it. I was sure in the sunlight this drive was gorgeous, but right now I felt like I could go hydroplaning off into the wilderness at any moment and never return. The road beyond the bridge turned around a steep embankment of pines and wound down between more tall firs, plush and verdant with summer. I thought I’d made a mistake, because the road didn’t seem to end, until through the haze of gray rain a tall clock tower appeared, and with it came the soft lines of buildings and light posts and cars— a small town.

Night was coming fast. I tapped my phone one last time to see if I could refresh the map— there had to be cell service in the town, right?— but I must’ve tapped it too hard, because it came dislodged from its magnet holder and fell down into the floorboards, ripping out the cassette converter with it.

Almost immediately, Junie’s quiet musings about gardens and true love turned into a blaring pop song, so loud it startled me straight in my seat.

Come on, Eileen,” the eighties song sang.

A blur of something caught in the headlights. I saw it out of the corner of my eye a moment before I looked up to the road again—

A man. There was a man standing in the—

Shit!” I cut the steering wheel to the left. Sweetpea’s tires squealed. I jerked into a parking spot, tires slamming against the curb. My car gave a clunk (a disastrous clunk, actually), and came to an abrupt and final stop.

A Novel Love Story by Ashley Poston will be published on the 3rd of July 2024.

Pre-order your copy here.

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