Don't get me wrong, I made a lot of fruitless pulls. But I also, very early in the search, accidentally nailed the exact thing I was craving: The Sweetheart Deal, by Polly Dugan. Serious enough not to be general chick lit, but not dark and depressing, either. A romance at its core. But not designed solely as one. That is a rare sweet spot.
Keep in mind I was not -- officially -- trying to AU Miles and Rachel. I just wanted Casting Director powers. But damned if that is not essentially the outline I got anyway.
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.
Do you know how far and wide and long and hard I have looked for books about people north of 35 falling in love? Especially a parent north of 35? It's impossible. It can't be done. And yet it has been. And to ping my VERY FAVORITE TROPE about falling for the widow of your best friend at the same time? And throw a family in with it?
I have already read it and it was everything I wanted it to be and basically, I'm now singing in the rain.
[edit: the only flaw is that instead of being satisfied, I'm that person pounding my empty glass on the table and shouting, "ANOTHER!", with apparently no appreciation of what it took to find this one.]