Last Friday my local Athenaeum threw a book launch party to celebrate the release of my Harlequin Extreme Blaze contemporary romance novel, The Haunting. The book is set in downtown Fredericksburg, VA, the 40-block historic district, to be exact. So was the party. Not in the heart of Manhattan where I’d always imagined my book release party would be, if indeed I was fortunate enough to have one but in Fredericksburg, the small town where I’ve made my home for the past six years–and counting.
Fredericksburg is very much a character in The Haunting much like Manhattan in the Candace Bushnell bestseller, “Sex and the City.” I jokingly refer to The Haunting as “Sex in the Itty Bitty City” to some people’s amusement and others’ chagrin.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a huge “Sex and the City” fan–the television series, that is. I faithfully watched the episodes when they were first broadcast on HBO, and I watch them in re-run most weeknights.
During the program’s last season on the air, I gathered with girlfriends every Sunday night to drink Cosmos (what else) and nosh on themed snacks as we counted down to the final episode. Like the ubiquitous spin doctors who rear their “talking heads” post-televised Presidential speech, we’d hang around afterward to dissect the underlying truth of that night’s episode, which invariably held far reaching implications for our own less-than-perfect romantic lives.
Most devotees of any TV program have their personal favorite episodes, and I’m no exception. I have a few. I actually thought the producers did a great job with the final episode and though it’s probably not politically correct to admit it, I really liked that Carrie ended up with Big. Heart of gold aside, Aiden was always a little too earthy for me and as for Carrie’s other main love interest, fellow author John Burger–“Burger”–well, he always struck me as a whiny wimp. I mean, dude, your book tanked. Get over it and write another one. (All joking aside, Burger would never make it in romance fiction. We romance writers are made of sturdier stuff.)
The mention of Burger brings me to one of my top favorite episodes, the one where Carrie’s publisher throws her a posh Manhattan style book release party. There is a Cosmo bar, an enormous blow-up poster of the book cover featuring Carrie looking fabulous in short black coat dress and f-me-pump designer high heels, and the two Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum publisher reps cooing over our girl as though her book’s the greatest thing to roll off the press since Gutenberg invented it. For her part, Carrie sports a chic shorter ‘do, a killer party dress and even more killer designer shoes–either Jimmy’s or Manola’s, we’re not sure.
But all is not exactly paradise. Friend Samantha’s face is an angry orange from a chemical peel gone bad. Other friend Charlotte is down-in-the-mouth about…something and Miranda is characteristically sarcastic albeit supportive. The guest of honor is dateless. Love interest John Burger shows up to wish Carrie well but despite the quantity of lingering looks exchanged, he leaves to go home to his girlfriend. Standing on the balcony staring onto the crowd, Carrie admits to herself she isn’t just alone. She is lonely.
She ends the night solo in a cab headed for home. The female driver learns she’s published a book and insists on stopping for a celebratory hot dog. The hot dog vendor, equally impressed with her accomplishment, refuses to let anyone pay. Sitting in the backseat of the cab with a sloppy hot dog in hand, Carrie suddenly realizes the night isn’t just kind of perfect–it really is perfect.
My book release party was held in a converted third floor artist’s studio with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto Caroline Street, downtown Fredericksburg’s main drag. Despite the conspicuous lack of traffic noise–okay, lack of traffic in general–I could almost imagine I was in a trendy converted warehouse in the Manhattan meat packing district. There wasn’t a Cosmo bar but there was some really nice wine and nice noshes to go with it and best of all, a bevy of good friends who turned out to celebrate with me along with a sprinkling of new faces who, like the cab driver in the “Sex and the City” episode, stopped in not to curb my enthusiasm but to share in it.
At the book signing earlier that day, I’d sold out of books, the book store’s copies and finally my own personal inventory. The party was the proverbial icing on the cake. Like Carrie, I didn’t have a date. Afterward, though, instead of going home alone in a cab, I went out with a group of friends to Bristro Bethem, our favorite downtime restaurant, where the owners Blake and Aby treated us all to a champagne toast.
It wasn’t exactly as I’d imagined my book release party to be–it was a hundred times better. Like the song says, “You can’t always get what you want but you get what you need.”
What times in your life turned out differently than you’d envisioned–only as good or better? Are there events you look back on with the 20/20 wisdom of hindsight and thank the Universe, God or so-called “dumb luck” for *not* letting you have what at the time you really, really wanted? Is there “someone” or maybe a collective of someones working 24/7 to save us from the hubris driving our all too frequently blind human desires?
Wishing you a springtime blossoming with needs fulfilled and dreams exceeded…