“You guys, this book. I can’t get over it.” —Nikki T.
“It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G-!” —Karen K.
“It’s BEAUTIFUL. And it’s so well written. And it talks about what it’s like to be 40 and female and it’s just so real. I promise you’re missing out if you don’t give it a chance.” —Andrea C. L.
“I read it because it seemed like my kind of book and loved it! I know it isn’t for everyone but the emotion and heart in it was beautiful to me.” — Val E.
“I loved the hell out of it! It’ll definitely be on my top reads of 2018.” —Alissa M.
I don’t know many books that have gotten as much attention among my book junkies as this book has over the past few months, but they simply can’t stop talking about it. And the vast majority of those who’ve read it have also loved it LIKE CRAZY. For reasons I can’t discuss because they’d be a huge spoiler for those unfamiliar with the story, I have fought reading this book for far too long, stubbornly sticking to my comfort zone, but it’s time to bite the bullet. So, if you’re in the same boat as me, this great scene from the book might help you decide—it’s their first meeting!
“It wasn’t until thirty minutes or so later, when I’d almost polished off a glass of Perrier-Jouët and extricated myself from the writer, that Hayes approached me in the corner.
“Well, hello, Isabelle’s mum…”
“So-lène…” He took his time with it. “Like, ‘So, lend me some money and I’ll pay you back’?”
I laughed. “Exactly.”
“So-lène,” he repeated. “I like that. It’s French? Are you French?”
“My parents are. Very.”
“So-lène.” He nodded. “I’m Hayes.”
“I know who you are.”
“Yes. Fancy that.” He smiled this half smile, the left side of his mouth turning up at the corner, putting precious dimples into relief. His mouth was too big for his face—wide and unapologetic. But he had dimples, and what might have been arrogance came across as endearing. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“I am, thank you.”
“Good.” He stood there, grinning, arms folded across his broad chest. He was doing that thing that tall guys sometimes do, copping a very wide stance to bring him closer to my eye level. “Did you like the show?”
“It was … entertaining.”
His smile widened. “You didn’t like it.”
“It was surprisingly loud,” I laughed.
“No one warned you? I’m sorry, Solène.”
There was something about the way he kept saying my name: raspy voice, unwavering gaze, the roll of his tongue. It felt … intimate.
“I was warned, just not enough, clearly. Your fans are—”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
He laughed, tossing back his head. He had a beautiful jawline. “They’re a wild bunch. Next time we’ll get you headphones.”
“There’s always a next time.” He said it with a straight face, but there was something there that gave me pause.
“How old are you, Hayes?”
“Twenty,” I repeated, and then downed the rest of my champagne. One gulp. Well, at least that was better than nineteen.
“Twenty.” He bit down on his bottom lip and smiled.
Right then would have been a good time to excuse myself. Collect the girls and call it a night. But I could see the expressions on their faces from across the room. Simon was patting Georgia’s hair again, and Liam was showing off his breakdancing moves, and the euphoria was palpable. We’d been there less than an hour. Pulling them now would be cruel.
“You’re thinking about leaving, aren’t you?” Hayes’s voice drew me back in. “Please don’t. I’m going to get you another drink.”
“No, I’m good, thank you.”
“Rubbish. It’s Vegas.” He winked before taking the empty flute from my hand and heading over to the makeshift bar.
There hadn’t been many since Daniel: a series of dates with one of the dads from Isabelle’s fencing team and a two-month dalliance with the TV writer from my spin class. Neither had been consummated. Once they’d threatened to go beyond casual flirtation, I’d closed up. I’d shut down. And while three years of accidental celibacy had been oftentimes miserable, I was not going to jump into bed with a rock star barely half my age because he’d winked at me at an after-party. I was not going to be a cliché.
Before I could fully plot my exit, Hayes returned with another glass of bubbly and a bottle of water for himself. His hair had dried into an enviable mop of silken curls. There were blogs dedicated to Hayes’s hair—this I would learn later—but there in the belly of the Mandalay Bay, I resisted the urge to touch it.
“So, Solène, what is it that you do when you’re not attending August Moon concerts?”
“You are amusing, Hayes Campbell.”
“Ha. You know my last name…”
“Yes, because I live with a twelve-year-old girl.”
“But not your ex-husband?”
“Not my ex-husband, no,” I laughed. “I could be your mother, you know.”
“But you’re not.”
“But I could be.”
“But you’re not.” He held my gaze, smiling his half smile.
I felt it then, that little flip-flop in the pit of my stomach that told me that whatever this twenty-year-old was doing, it was working.”
“Are you going to give me that glass? Or did you just bring it over here to tease me?”
“To tease you,” he laughed, and took a sip of my champagne before handing it over. “Cheers.”
I stood there, staring at him, not drinking. Enjoying it. “You’re bad…”
“Does that work for you?”
He laughed then. “Mostly. Is it not working now?”
I smiled, shaking my head. “Not as well as you think it is.”
“Ow, that hurts.” His eyes darted across the room then, searching. “Oliver!”
Oliver looked up in our direction. He was still being cornered by the guy in the shiny suit and seemed eager to have an out. I watched as he excused himself and made his way over to us.
“Ol, this is Solène.”
“Hi, Solène.” He smiled, charming.
The two of them stood peering down at me, equally tall, equally confident. And for a moment I wished I hadn’t worn flats, because even at five foot seven, among these boys I felt small.
“Tell me, Ol, could Solène be my mother?”
Oliver raised an eyebrow, and then took an extended moment to look me over. “Most definitely not.” He turned to face Hayes. “And your mother is a very beautiful woman…”
“My mother is a beautiful woman.”
“But she doesn’t look like this.”
“No, she doesn’t.” Hayes smiled.
Oliver’s eyes were arresting. “What are you doing slumming in Vegas?”
I took a sip of champagne then. Game on. “I got roped into attending an August Moon concert. You?”
They were both quiet for a second. Hayes laughed first. “And a brilliant wit, to boot. Ol, you can go.”
“You just invited me to the party, mate.”
“Well, now you’re being uninvited.”
“Hayes Campbell. Doesn’t play well with others,” Oliver said, deadpan.
“I just saved you from the wanker in the bad suit. You owe me.”
Oliver shook his head before extending a graceful hand. “Solène, ’twas a pleasure, albeit brief.”
Albeit brief?Who werethese guys? This rakish quintet. Clearly Isabelle and the other umpteen million girls around the world were on to something.
“‘Doesn’t play well’?” I asked once Oliver had departed.
“I play very well. I just don’t share.”
I smiled up at him, taken. His face, like art. His mouth, distracting. And that which crossed my mind was not all pure.
“So,” he said, “tell me about you.”
“What do you want to know?”
“What are you willing to share with me?”
I laughed at that. Hayes Campbell, twenty, and making me sweat. “As little as possible.”
He smiled his half smile. “I’m listening…”
“So you are.” I took a sip from my glass. “Where to start … I live in L.A.”
“Are you from there?”
“No. The East Coast. Boston. But I’ve been there for a while now, so … it’s home, I guess. I own an art gallery, with my girlfriend Lulit.”
“Girlfriend?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Not that kind of girlfriend.”
He smiled, shrugging. “Not that I was judging…”
“Just that you were fantasizing?”
He laughed, loud. “Did we just meet?”
“Do you want to know more or not?”
“I want to know everything.”
“We own an art gallery. In Culver City. We sell contemporary art.”
He let that sit there for a second, and then: “Is that different from modern art?”
“‘Modern art’ is a broad term that covers about a hundred years and encompasses many different movements. Contemporary art is current.”
“So your artists are all still alive, I gather?”
I smiled. “On most days, yes. So…” I was going to need more champagne. “What is it youdo when you’re not attending August Moon concerts?”
He laughed at that, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m not sure that I remember. This has kind of consumed the last few years of my life. Touring, writing, recording, publicity…”
“You write your own music?”
“Most of it.”
“That’s impressive. You play piano?”
He nodded. “And guitar. Bass. A little saxophone.”
I smiled at that. Clearly I’d been underestimating boybanders. “Do you ever just go home and do nothing?”
“Not often. Do you?”
“Not as much as I’d like.”
He nodded slowly, sipped from his water, and then: “What does it look like? Your home?”
“It’s modern. Clean lines. Lots of midcentury furniture. It’s on the Westside, up in the hills, overlooking the ocean. There are walls of glass, and the light is always shifting. The rooms change, at dawn, at dusk. It’s like living in a watercolor. I love that.” I stopped then.
He was standing there, staring at me in a way that he probably should not have been. He was so ridiculously young. And I was someone’s mother. And in no world could this lead to anything good.
“Wow,” he said, soft. “That sounds like a pretty perfect life.”
“Yeah. But for—”
“But for the ex-husband,” he finished my thought.
“Yeah. And everything that comes with that.”
As if on cue, Isabelle skipped up to us, wide-eyed and happy. “Mom, this is the best party ever! We were talking about it, and this is even better than Harry Wasserman’s Bar Mitzvah.”
“Not Harry’s Bar Mitzvah?” Hayes had snapped out of wherever his thoughts had taken him and returned to teen idol mode.
She blushed, covering her mouth. “Hiiii, Hayes.”
“You remembered my name?”
“Lucky guess.” He shrugged. “What’s Liam doing over there? Is he showing you how he does the worm? You know I taught him everything he knows, right? Shall we have a worm-off? Liam!” Hayes called across the room. “Worm-off! Now!”
I could sense Isabelle bursting out of her skin when Hayes threw his arm around her shoulders and began leading her away. “Excuse us, Solène. There’s a competition to be had.”
The sight of the two of them, my awkward daughter and the comely rock star, making their way across the room was so bizarre and ironic, I had to laugh.
Hayes was in his element. In no time, he’d become the center of attention, lying prostrate on the floor, psyching himself up for the competition, his bandmates and fans swarming around him. While Liam’s wiry frame and jerky moves might have made him the more natural dancer, Hayes was far more captivating. There was a grace to him, sliding across the floor in his black jeans and boots. His feet kicking high up into the air, lifting his hips intermittently off the ground. Arm muscles straining with each thrust. A sliver of abdomen peeking out from beneath his thin T-shirt. He was such a vision of virility, it almost felt dirty to watch.
There was hooting and whistling, and when Hayes finally rose from the floor, Simon grabbed him in a man-hug. “This lad right here!” he howled, his blue eyes wide, his blond hair standing on end. “Is there nothing he can’t do?!”
Hayes threw back his head and laughed, hair in disarray, dimples blazing. “Nothing.” He beamed. But at that moment his eyes caught mine and the charge was so strong, I had to look away.