In “It Had to Be You,” Georgia Clark doesn’t just give us one romantic tale; she provides us with five different stories, all woven together beautifully, of love lost, love found, and love deferred. They all center around Liv Goldenhorn, whose husband and business partner Eliot, has a heart attack in the arms of another woman. To make matters even worse, he leaves his half of their wedding planning business to this “other” woman. Savannah, from Kentucky, shows up in their New York office, which also happens to be the home Liv shares with her young son, to claim her share. We are privy to Liv’s grief and her anger at learning how Eliot betrayed her. We also are there as she moves past her grief to try to resurrect her business with the help of Savannah.
There are also Liv’s friends, many of whom work with her in the business—the wedding business, of course. We meet Henry and Gorman, the florists who work together and live together. Not quite in harmony because young Henry desperately wants to be married to Gorman, with a child in their home. Gorman isn’t ready to commit, and he still has a roving eye. Will their relationship last when Gorman meets a young man who can make his dream come true?
Another couple, who over the course of the story go from business partners to romantic partners and then, through a series of mishaps and poor decisions break up, is Darlene and Zach. They seem to have nothing in common, he from a wealthy British family with a trust fund in his near future, and she struggling to pay the bills and get the money to record an album that will make her name. Zach is a playboy, bopping from one lovely blonde to another, while Darlene is African American, more sensible and level-headed than Zach, but mightn’t that be just what he needs?
Zia is a world traveler who goes from continent to continent working for global nonprofits and helping those in need. In between jobs, she lives with her sister Layla, who struggles to provide for her two young children. Zia also waits tables at weddings for Liv, and that’s where she meets Clay, and up-and-coming actor who is pretty much set for life, and very publicity shy after his last relationship went south. Zia loves dancing, eating out, hitting the town, while Clay is afraid of publicity and hides their relationship. Is he being too controlling like Zia’s former boyfriend, a total creep who was abusive?
We are also privy to Savannah and her slow self-realization that while she grew up with the whole Southern Belle stereotype, she might just really need something different. Her parents expect her to return home, but can she make it in NYC? When she meets Honey, and they seem to be such perfect friends, she suddenly realizes that Honey wants more than just friendship. Is that something that Savannah might also want?
And lastly, there’s Liv. When she meets Sam, a chef, she’s worried about so many things. Her business, her son, her life, her late husband. Can she make room in her life for this sweet, uncomplicated man? We adore him because he’s everything one might want. Who wouldn’t want a man who cooks, cleans, and can take a fallen tree and fashion a table out of it. He is sensitive and thoughtful, and most importantly, he’s perfect for Liv.
Each story is woven together as time passes in New York, and with Liv’s company, In Love in New York. We get to vicariously attend some really lovely weddings, and we get to see what goes on behind the scenes of those weddings. As someone whose husband was in the “business,” and was a successful band leader, I can attest to the veracity and the realism of Clark’s portrayals of the wedding planning business and the music business. Clark also manages to make all the characters completely likable—we are really rooting for them to be successful in love and to attain their dreams.
This story has no mystery, no dark side, just sweet romances with a diverse cast of characters, and a lovely setting that moves from the Catskills to NYC to the Hamptons. It’s a quick, light read, but also one with characters who will stay with you for a while because they are realistic and lovingly created with some depth and veritas. It’s a perfect beach or weekend read. Enjoy.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher, Emily Bestler Books (Atria Books), for review purposes.