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It Had to Be You

A Novel

LIST PRICE $17.00

About The Book

“A wedding planner dies and leaves the business to his wife—and his mistress. What could possibly go wrong? A charming rom-com to kick off your summer.”—People

An Elin Hilderbrand Entertainment Weekly Summer Reading Pick

“The book-equivalent of a perfect first date... Highly highly recommend.” —Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A heady kaleidoscope of romance, heartbreak, and healing that’s both rich in insight and enchantingly funny.” —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author

The author of the “emotional, hilarious, and thought-provoking” (People) novel The Bucket List returns with a witty and heartfelt romantic comedy featuring a wedding planner, her unexpected business partner, and their coworkers in a series of linked love stories—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.

For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love in New York, Brooklyn’s beloved wedding-planning business. When Eliot dies unexpectedly, he even more unexpectedly leaves half of the business to his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah. Liv and Savannah are not a match made in heaven, to say the least. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.

It Had to Be You cleverly unites Liv, Savannah, and couples as diverse and unique as New York City itself, in a joyous Love-Actually-style braided narrative. The result is a smart, modern love story that truly speaks to our times. Second chances, secret romance, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this sexy, tender, and utterly charming rom-com that is “so much fun” (Casey McQuiston, New York Times bestselling author).

Excerpt

Chapter 1 1
THREE MONTHS LATER

The first day of Savannah Shipley’s new life dawned cloudless, as if there was absolutely nothing standing in her way. The scrubbed-clean March sun that blasted the cold streets of Brooklyn seemed bold and ready to work.

At first, Savannah was stunned that Eliot Goldenhorn had left her half his business. Yes, she’d interned at An Event to Remember, Lexington’s most popular event-planning company, for two whole years. She’d met Eliot six months before he died, when she volunteered to give the consultant from New York City a tour. Knowing his line of work, she’d gushed about how much she adored weddings—the way they brought people together, the beauty of tradition. Eliot wasn’t the most attractive man she’d ever met, but he hummed with magical, big-city energy. Their conversations started in the office, graduated to dinner, and culminated in bed. The sex felt experimental on both their parts. He, “newly separated” (which she now knew to be a lie), and her, newly adult and curious. The way a deliberate moment of eye contact could transmute a relationship was a thrilling, frightening power.

When the shock of his death wore off, it started to feel like kismet. Eliot was a smart guy: he must’ve had his reasons, even if they weren’t clear. And Savannah had an unwavering faith in the universe and the God who created it. This was all obviously meant to be.

She arrived at Liv’s brownstone in Prospect Heights a full forty-five minutes early. The New York that Savannah had grown up seeing in movies conjured rows of the classic houses that were all exactly the same, standing to attention like a well-dressed marching band. But actually, the brownstones on Liv’s street were all slightly different shades of brown. This one bold mahogany, that one nostalgic sepia, the one next door a chichi caramel. The Goldenhorns’ had a weathered, washed-out facade. In the small front garden, a faded LOVE WON poster was stuck at an angle in the last island of dirty snow. Most people in Savannah’s small hometown voted against love winning. Savannah didn’t consider herself political, but maybe privately disagreeing with the status quo had set her on the path here, to New York, a city that was the same and different from her imagination.

She snapped a selfie in front of Liv’s house, swiped for a filter that bettered the color of the brownstone, and added it to her Instagram, @Savannah_Ships. She’d read in a travel magazine that the last American quarry to mine brownstone closed years ago, in Portland. It was actually a mediocre stone—just brown sandstone. Its softness made it vulnerable. An odd choice to clad a city where it appeared resilience was key. But New York also traded in beauty, Savannah thought, smiling at a woman walking two fuzzy Pomeranians. The woman smiled back, and why wouldn’t she? Beauty could be powerful, too.

At 10:00 a.m., Savannah picked up the potted orchid she’d purchased as a gift and marched up the wide front steps. She knew this wouldn’t be easy. She knew, by some measure, this was completely insane. But she had the moral high ground (she’d really had no idea Eliot was still with Liv), she had the legal grounds (Eliot’s will), and most important, she had the unwavering belief that this was the right thing to do. Not just for her, but for Liv. According to her online sleuthing, In Love in New York was currently nonoperational, following a scathing review entitled PIGEONS AND BEES RUINED MY WEDDING! that went mildly viral and now lived on every wedding planner review website. The diatribe was from a wedding last November. The day Eliot died.

Savannah could guess what Liv thought of her: a gold-digging airhead, a midlife crisis, a few mean words inked on a bathroom stall door. And that was just plain wrong. Savannah was determined to prove herself to Eliot’s wife and help resurrect a business that did the most noble thing of all: celebrate people’s love for each other.

Because Savannah Shipley was always up for a challenge.

She summoned the biggest smile she could muster and rang the doorbell.

Nothing. Her cheeks started to hurt.

She rang the doorbell again. And again.

A voice sounded from inside. “Jesus Christ, coming!” The front door cracked. Liv was in an old dressing gown. A cigarette smoldered between her fingers. Her tangled black bob looked like the aftermath of a fire. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Three months had passed since they’d met across the street from the brownstone. Savannah had assumed three months would be enough time to fall apart, mourn, and begin rebuilding. Clearly, Savannah was wrong. But to be fair, she had emailed about all this, many times.

“Good morning, Mrs. Goldenhorn. I’m here for our first meeting. With our new clients.”

“What are you doing in New York?”

Alarm edged into Savannah’s chest. “Like I said in my emails, I moved here. For this job.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“I’m very serious, Mrs. Goldenhorn.” Savannah shifted the plant from one arm to the other without breaking eye contact. “I moved here, from Lexington, to run In Love in New York. With you.”

Liv let out a hard bark of a laugh. She tightened her dressing gown and narrowed her eyes. “How did you get my husband to change his will?”

Savannah was unaccustomed to being accused. Heat seeped up her neck. “I didn’t. Like I said in my emails, I had no idea he’d done it until your lawyer called me. And I did not know y’all were still married. He told me you were separated.”

Liv tapped her cigarette. Ash floated onto Savannah’s shoes. “Do you know what the term undue influence means?”

Savannah’s smile dropped; she caught it and put it back in place. “Yes. And I know it doesn’t apply to me. I had no sway over Eliot at all. Honestly, Mrs. Goldenhorn, I’m here to help you. I sent you a deck. With a business plan, and a social media strategy, and a division of roles, and—”

“Couldn’t open it.” Liv cut her off with a curt wave of her hand. No ring on that fourth finger anymore. “I don’t have Key-whatever.”

“Keynote.” A program she could download for free. “But I got on a plane, I got a sublet, and our first clients are— our first meeting is today.”

“Meeting?” The bags under Liv’s eyes were the size and color of figs. “In Love in New York has been on hiatus since… actually since the last time I saw you.” Liv pointed her cigarette at the orchid. “I hope that’s not for me. I can’t keep anything alive.”

Savannah’s industrial-strength optimism finally cracked. “But I’ve messaged you about all this a dozen times: she’s an Instagram celebrity, he’s a talent manager—Kamile Thomas and Dave Seal—”

“She’s a what?” Liv’s nose crinkled. “Instagram… celebrity?”

“Yes! Her support will help get the business back on its feet. Good reviews are our number one priority right now.”

“Our?” The word was slick with contempt.

Tears rushed Savannah’s eyes. She’d come all this way. This was her big break. “But Dave and Kamile are—”

“Savannah?” An attractive young couple who wouldn’t look out of place in a renters’ insurance commercial stood behind her on the stoop.

“Early,” she finished. Dave and Kamile were here.

Savannah followed Liv inside as if it wasn’t the very first time she’d done it. The bones of the brownstone were impressive—high molded ceilings, sturdy hardwood floors. There was framed art on the walls: classy art, the kind that didn’t make sense. Somewhere, possibly upstairs, faint classical music was playing. Savannah’s shoe clattered against an empty wine bottle, one of many lining the wall. No way Dave and Kamile could miss that. She didn’t dare turn around to check.

Liv paused outside the first door to the right. If Savannah’s googling served her correctly, this was In Love in New York’s office. Liv’s hand lingered on the doorknob for a long moment. Savannah said a quick prayer as Liv turned the knob and led them inside.

Savannah could see how the large front room could be a lovely office. A three-cornered bay window looked out onto the quiet, sun-dappled street. A long white desk and two brown leather office chairs were at the opposite end. Four smaller chairs faced them. Above the desk hung the pink-and-black In Love in New York logo, an oval design Savannah felt was dated. A sofa and coffee table were tucked against the far wall, next to a tall bookcase stacked with wedding and photography books. Half a dozen framed magazine and newspaper articles hung on the walls, including the front page of the New York Times Style section. MEET BROOKLYN’S IT WEDDING PLANNERS invited the subhead, under a photo of a much younger-looking Liv and Eliot, lounging casually by the bay window. Of all the publicity photographs Savannah had found online of Liv, that one was her favorite. The dark-haired young woman looked cool, confident, and completely in charge. Hashtag boss lady. Savannah tried to replicate that facial expression in approximately one thousand selfies but always came across less like a CEO and more like a snotty heiress who owned too many whippets. The article suggested that a happily married couple working out of their enviable brownstone gave In Love in New York a unique edge. Engaged couples felt buoyed by both the home and the couple’s charm and class: This could be our future, married and living in a gorgeous brownstone in a tree-lined neighborhood. The article casually noted the celebrity clientele, which included Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the latter described as “very intelligent, with a strong sense of what she wanted on the big day.” Savannah could picture a productive and positive consultation in this room, where everyone hugged at the end instead of shaking hands.

If the room didn’t look like a squat.

In the middle of the floor was a bag of golf clubs that had once been set on fire. Strewn next to it were four bulging suitcases, a few boxes of books and records, and about two dozen men’s shirts and trousers still on hangers. A framed set of baseball cards under broken glass. Most shocking of all, a dozen vases of long-dead flowers. Most likely, three-month-old funeral flowers. They were responsible for the smell. The stench of death.

Savannah forced her mouth into a breezy smile and spun around. “Sorry about the mess: renovations. Come, take a seat.” Two patches of sweat circled from her underarms, staining her peach-pink blouse. Her heart, which had been bouncing with excitement all morning, was now thumping like an executioner’s drum.

Dave took in the room’s disarray with an expression of light confusion. In his expensive-looking chinos and blue-check button-down, he looked a bit like a Kennedy—someone for whom style was an instinct. Kamile wore tight white jeans and a silk shirt printed with tiny flowers. The rock on her fourth finger was the size of a skating rink. Kamile was a sorority sister, president when Savannah was a sophomore. She’d built her extensive online following (@TheRealKamile, on all platforms) by exploiting her natural beauty and her private life. The chance to help plan this successful woman’s wedding was Savannah’s first real career opportunity. As an intern she’d been indulged but never respected. Never put in the driver’s seat. And now she was sinking into the worn leather chair Eliot bequeathed her in his will. Its divot was off-putting; her feet didn’t touch the floor.

Rather than join Savannah behind the desk, Liv sat on the white sofa behind the couple. She gave the room a raw stare, took a drag of her cigarette, then ground it into one of the sofa cushions.

Kamile didn’t notice, instead angling her phone at herself, trying to find the best light. “Hey guys! Dave and I are here at our very first meeting with our wedding planner.” Big smile, hair flip. “We have so much to get through, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish us luck!” Kamile put her phone faceup on the desk and addressed Savannah. “Sorry, so rude. Hi. How long’s it been?”

“Too long!” Savannah was so flustered she honestly couldn’t remember. “It’s great to see you again, and meet you, Dave. You look great, and this is just so”—she raised her palms to the ceiling, smiling manically—“great.”

“You were the best social chair that Delta Zeta Lambda ever had,” Kamile said. “I know you’ll be an amazing planner.”

Savannah glanced at Liv, so distracted by her lack of involvement that she almost missed her cue to reply. “Thank you, yes, of course.”

A pause. Dave and Kamile glanced at each other, then back at her.

“Sorry,” Kamile said. “We’ve never done this before, obviously, so we’re not exactly sure…”

Savannah looked back at Liv, who slanted her eyebrows slowly, as if to say, Be my guest.

A tiny ember in Savannah’s chest began to glow hot.

The only thing on the desk in front of her was a pen and an In Love in New York branded notepad. Scribbled on the first page was the word FUCK, underlined three times. Savannah tossed it into a wastepaper basket and cleared her throat.

“It is the honor of my life to help you plan your dream wedding. We will merge sophistication and tradition in ways that will surprise and delight you, to create memories that’ll warm your hearts for years to come.”

Kamile put her hand on her chest, and gave Savannah a moved smile. Dave kissed his fiancée on the cheek.

Savannah beamed. Exactly the reaction she wanted. “Well, why don’t you start with what you have and, I guess, what you need?”

Kamile nodded, shaking her hair out with her fingers. “Okay. Wow. So we’re getting married on May fifteenth, two months away, which is totally crazy, I know. I was going to do all the planning myself, but work is insane. We’ve got the venue, thank God, a really cute farm upstate in the Catskills; we just need chairs and tables and stuff. For flowers: I’m thinking lilies, irises, things like that, very elegant and graceful and, um, baroque? No roses, I just don’t like roses—I know I’m weird—and obviously no baby’s breath or carnations or anything, like, cheap-looking.” She was speaking very quickly, gathering speed with every word. “Jazz for cocktail hour, nothing cheesy, sort of breathy and sexy and Norah Jones-y? And then a DJ who can MC—they all do that, right? Not to sound shallow, but I’d prefer someone good-looking—it’s probably illegal to say that, but whatever. Cocktails are important, we’re sort of cocktail snobs, so we’d love a certified mixologist who’s trained somewhere good and uses all fresh stuff; I don’t want everyone wasted on Long Island iced teas, that’s sort of my worst nightmare, apart from people not using the hashtag, which—given Dave’s last name is Seal—is, obviously…” She looked at Savannah, as if they should answer together. “Sealed the deal,” Kamile finished as Savannah guessed, “Kiss from a rose?”

Kamile looked mildly appalled. “Cute, but no, and literally just said I hate roses.” Kamile started ticking off her fingers. “Got my dress; Dave’s got his tux. Need hair and makeup, someone who’s done a million brown brides before, obviously. I don’t want anyone who’s, like, ‘I don’t have foundation dark enough for you!’ Like, what a nightmare. Need a photographer who can shoot for social, that’s nonnegotiable, I have, like, three hundred thousand followers now; it’s nuts. Do you know any good DPs who can livestream? Definitely planning on doing a tasteful amount of sponcon, so it’ll be good for you to middleman that. Sorry, should I be saying middlewoman now? You know what I mean. Oh, and the caterer has to be vegetarian/gluten-free/farm-to-table, locally grown, one hundred percent organic but yummy.” A deep breath. A smile at Dave. “Whew! Did you get all that?”

Savannah looked down at her notepad. Cat’s kills (?) No BB breath. Norah Jones. Baroque MC = hot. Yummy.

Silence feathered into the still room. Impossibly, Liv was smiling. The sight of her smugly amused face spiked a burning flash of rage. The feeling was so unprecedented, so radically unfamiliar, that for a long moment Savannah forgot entirely who she was.

“So… you have your… dress.”

“Yep.” Kamile nodded.

“And Dave’s got his… his tux.”

“Yep.” Dave nodded.

Savannah pretended to write this down, when in reality she wrote FUCK and underlined it three times. “And, you’re… you’re thinking about sponsoring your livestream?”

“No, I’m getting some things sponsored, but I want you to organize the livestream.” Kamile cocked her head. Her voice became a little more assertive. “Not to sound rude or anything, but this is our wedding, and I kind of need it to be perfect. You’re up for this, right, Savannah?”

Savannah opened her mouth, ready to deflect this silly questioning of her competence. She was Savannah Shipley: head of the yearbook committee, champion fundraiser, the best social chair Delta Zeta Lambda ever had!

Not a single word escaped.

Savannah stared at Liv. Please, please help me I need you.

Kamile and Dave twisted around to eye the hungover, half-dressed woman on the couch behind them.

Liv exhaled a short puff of air: Okay, fine. “How much? Our fee,” Liv clarified, before changing it to “my fee: partial planning costs ten percent of the budget or eight thousand dollars, whatever’s higher.”

Kamile traded a look of unease with Dave before turning to Savannah. “I thought I was pretty clear about that.”

“You were.” Savannah heard her own voice, tiny as a church mouse. She willed it louder. “You were. Mrs. Goldenhorn, I said we’d do the wedding for free. In exchange for some posts on Kamile’s social media.”

Liv rose from the couch, dressing gown dangerously close to falling open, and moved to shake hands with Kamile and then Dave. “Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. This has been extremely… ridiculous.” She walked out of the room, leaving everyone staring, dumbfounded, after her.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for IT HAD TO BE YOU includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Georgia Clark. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

The author of the “emotional, hilarious, and thought-provoking” (People) novel The Bucket List returns with a witty and heartfelt romantic comedy featuring a wedding planner, her unexpected business partner, and their coworkers in a series of linked love stories—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.

For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love in New York, Brooklyn’s beloved wedding-planning business. When Eliot dies unexpectedly, he even more unexpectedly leaves half of the business to his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah. Liv and Savannah are not a match made in heaven, to say the least. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.

It Had to Be You cleverly unites Liv, Savannah, and couples as diverse and unique as New York City itself in a joyous Love Actually-style braided narrative. The result is a smart, modern love story that truly speaks to our times. Second chances, secret romance, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this sexy, tender, and utterly charming rom-com.

Topics & Questions for Discussion (12-15 Discussion Questions)

1. The novel starts with a disastrous wedding day and Liv learning that her husband has passed away—and that he was unfaithful to her with someone much younger. Why do you think the author chose to begin the novel this way? What does this scene accomplish?

2. Liv and Savannah are vastly different people in different stages of their lives who are forced together as business partners. At the beginning of the novel, Liv hopes she’ll “never see or hear from that girl ever again” (page 9). How does their relationship grow and how is it tested throughout the novel? In what ways do they learn they’re similar through these experiences?

3. How does working in the wedding industry come across in this novel? Does it match what you believed about it when you began the book?

4. Each chapter in the novel focuses on a different set of characters and their unique dreams, goals, back stories, and relationships. Do you think this was an effective storytelling technique? What overall effect did this have on your reading experience?

5. Age, race, and sexuality are diversely represented through the characters in the novel. How does this rich diversity affect the plot and structure of the novel? What does the wide range of experiences allow the author to express throughout the course of the novel?

6. In the past few decades, Brooklyn has become an increasingly prevalent setting in pop culture; how does It Had to Be You compare to your ideas of Brooklyn from other books, movies, and TV shows?

7. Zia, a caterer who keeps her cards close to her chest, is forced to open her heart when she meets Clay, the movie star. How does Clay get her to come out of her shell? How does his fame impact their relationship? Would you be able to date a celebrity and the baggage that accompanies them?

8. Gorman and Henry are funny florists who also struggle with deviating stances on marriage and children. How does this impact their relationship and how are they able to move past these stark differences?

9. Another set of characters are Darlene and Zach, a wedding band duo who decide to fake a relationship that ends up sparking real flames. How does their relationship influence the arc of the story?

10. Savannah follows her own emotional and romantic journey, leading to her relationship with a female fashion student at the end of the novel. Why do you think it was important for the author to include this storyline of Savannah’s journey to coming out and finding love in the novel?

11. Reread the lines quoted from Rumi in the epigraph at the beginning of the novel. What is their significance? How do they set the stage for the story to come?

12. At the end of the book, Liv has learned to be more comfortable in her own skin. What changed to make this possible? How have Savannah and Sam influenced Liv’s new outlook?

13. Discuss the title of the book, It Had to Be You. Who does the “You” refer to? Does it refer to multiple characters? Can it refer to friendships as well as romantic relationships? What effect does the song of the same name have on the final scene when all of the couples are dancing together at Liv and Sam’s wedding?

14. The last line of the book is Sam saying, “We’re already home” (page 368). Why do you think the author chose to end the book with this phrase? How have each of the characters found their own “home” within each of their relationships?

15. The author has publicly stated, “Can rom coms save the world? I think so.” What does she mean by this? What themes of the book exemplify better ways to live our lives and in turn, positively influence others?

Enhance Your Book Club (3-5 Enhance Your Book Club Suggestions)

1. It Had to Be You joins the ranks of great rom-com novels like Red, White, and Royal Blue and The Wedding Party. Choose one of these books to read in your book club, and compare and contrast their depictions of dating, life, and love.

2. It Had to Be You has all the elements of a classic romantic comedy. Poll your book club and see which rom-com film is the group’s favorite. Then, as you watch it together, mark down the similarities and differences between the movie and It Had to Be You.

3. It Had to Be You has an utterly charming cast of unique and relatable characters. What actors would you cast for the screen version? Discuss with your book club whether it should be a film or TV series.

4. Visit @georgialouclark on Instagram and georgiaclark.com for more information on It Had to Be You. Consider inviting her to Skype with your book club.

A Conversation with Georgia Clark (8-10 Questions)

Q: It Had to Be You is your first rom-com. How did the writing process differ from how you approached writing your previous Atria novels, The Regulars and The Bucket List?

A: In the first draft, the story was more laser-focused on Liv, who was a much darker character. In the first scene, Liv (who back then was “Jude”) showed up drunk and wild with grief to Eliot’s funeral, where she does’t recognize her own mother (a purely comic character I ended up cutting) and then gave an epically awful funeral speech. I thought it was blackly funny: my agent Allison described it as “prickly.” Regardless, in the fall of 2018, we sold the book off a 25,000-word submission (we call that “a partial”). Over drinks, Allison suggested making Liv less angry and more vulnerable, and leaning into the warmth of the book’s premise. When my editor Emily agreed, I decided to change tack.

I’d never written a rom-com but felt quite jealous of people doing good ones. I loved the genre, and as a sensitive, romantic queer girl, rom-coms are political for me: representation matters. Because this was my fifth novel, I was feeling confident that I could pull of something more ambitious. How about not just one love story; how about five? I’m a sensation seeker: I liked the extravagance of the idea. I wanted to see if I could pull it off.

I started from scratch on a new outline in early 2019 at the blessedly indulgent Rowland Writers Residence. I wrote the (new) first and second drafts that year, all while planning, then having, my own wedding. The final edits were completed in March 2020 as the world was starting to change forever.

I loved playing in the genre and finding ways to subvert it while still delivering whatt readers of romance want. While It Had to Be You features five romantic couples, the pairing at the center of the story isn’t a man and woman, nor is it romantic. It’s Liv and Savannah, two women a generation apart from entirely different backgrounds whose mutual lover’s death ultimately allowed them both to form truer identities. That felt unique in a rom-com. It wasn’t until I finished that I realized I’d told a story about people coming together across deep ideological divides.

Q: There’s a long tradition of romantic comedies set in New York City, on-screen and in books. Were there any movies or novels you drew on during your writing? How much did you want them to influence your book, if at all?

A: Why is New York so synonymous with romance? Perhaps because finding happiness in this city requires imagination, generosity, and a degree of cool practicality, not unlike maintaining love itself. Love is an intangible shared act of will: where better to conjure it than the city of dreams? Perhaps it’s because the city is so antithetical to love (just ask anyone on the apps): love in New York is a victory, against the odds.

I’m a Nora Ephron devotee. I rewatched her classic rom-com trio (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You‘ve Got Mail) to channel timeless, witty, romantic repartee. When Harry Met Sally is probably my fave: the characters still feel so real and fresh and modern (some minor gender politics aside). Having my editor compare my writing to Nora’s in the editor’s letter in galleys was my greatest triumph as a writer to date.

I revisited Four Weddings and a Funeral, Serendipity, and Notting Hill; the latter helped inspire Clay’s and Zia’s story. I liked the idea of working straight from a well-known trope—waitress meets movie star. It’s a classic; it’s compelling. It was sexy and fun getting to know Clay and Zia; I enjoy writing about fame and the strange demands it makes on individuals. In early drafts Zia was more of a party girl; my smart developmental editor Sarah helped mature her into someone wise and responsible, recovering from trauma. The simple trope evolved into an entirely believable love story.

And of course, there’s a boundless amount of wonderful rom-coms reads. I’m obsessed with the queer/modern/cool vibe of Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, the accessible sexiness of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date, and the underrated Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke, another clever kaleidoscope-of-love-stories. The Hating Game, The Kiss Quotient, Talia Hibbert for ultimate URST. It’s not a rom-com but The Nest was a well-executed ensemble story that stuck with me.

I also read a lot about the wedding industry (such as One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead), to get into Liv’s more cynical brain, and was necessarily reading wedding planning books for my own purposes (I think every bride-to-be is given a copy of A Practical Wedding).

I wanted to absorb the warmth and wisdom from these rom-com classics in order to create my own.

Q: The wedding industry is multifaceted, from planners to florists to caterers to musicians, and you describe them all in such detail. Can you talk about the research you conducted in this sphere for the book? Were you familiar with it before you began your research?

A: My research adventure for this book began when I shared an Uber Pool with a wedding photographer, Alea Lovely. We struck up a convo and a few days later, she let me take her out for lunch. At an outside table at Enids in Greenpoint, she took me on a deep dive into working as wedding vendor. Alea also connected me to a handful of wedding planners who I started interviewing, some over the phone, and a few in-person here in New York. I struck up a friendship with Amy, the founder of Modern Rebel, a very Brooklyn-esque planning company, and was even able to moonlight as an assistant on a wedding they were working to get a true behind-the-scenes look.

The other profession I really wanted to get right was the musicians, Zach and Darlene. I reached out to my friend Jill Lamoureux, lead singer of the band Scavenger Hunt. I am in no way musically talented (despite the fact my dad is a musician), Jill helped with the band specifics and the shifting space two working musicians who are also attracted to each other would operate in. Darlene also required research to help me articulate her race consciousness. For that, I worked with women of color beta readers to write her take on race and racism in a way that felt honest and accurate.

I really enjoy research — it’s essential to creating authentic characters and scenarios. It really does make your writing richer; the extra effort is always worth it.

Q: Why did you choose to write the novel in a braided narrative-style and focus on five different modern love stories?

A: . This question presumes that I have slightly more control than I feel I have. It feels less about choices being made and more like listening closely to characters or ideas to understand what they already are or could be. There’s a degree of push-pull between myself (as writer) and the idea itself. If you impose too much of your own will (your own agenda), the idea can get overburdened, and fall flat. Too light a hand, and it romps off in another direction like a puppy off its leash. When things are going well, I feel like a director working with a really talented and committed cast. I’m in charge, I call “action,” but it’s a group effort made possible by everyone’s willingness to open up or be funny or whatever the scene calls for. I love that feeling, that my characters and I are all in this thing together, trying our best to create a story we can all be proud of. Novelists are thought to be solo creatures, but really we’re team players.

So maybe the question is more like, why do you think this story wanted to be told through five couples? In a novel that asks big questions about love, it felt right to hear a variety of perspectives. Stories validate existence and are a way to claim cultural territory. I wanted to claim that territory for a cast varied in race, sexuality, age, and background. I was interested in the idea of a Love Actually-style structure, and to be honest, updating that story for modern readers. Of course I like Love Actually, but as is well documented on the interwebs, the stories don’t really hold up: they’re almost all straight-white-male fantasies about women with very little agency. I thought we deserved better.

Working with an ensemble cast broadened the conversation about marriage, love, and commitment. These big ideas mean something different to everyone: why? The braided narrative allowed me to explore different voices and the psychological nuances that give us our various perspectives and personalities. Plus, it let me have fun with multiple meet-cutes and first kisses and grand gestures: the stuff all romance readers love.

Q: Ironically, you were planning your own wedding as you were writing It Had to Be You! How did planning your own wedding influence the book, and vice versa?

A: I never had any doubts about getting married to my wife, but to be perfectly frank, I found wedding planning incredibly stressful. Not just the overwhelming logistics and financial burden: turns out getting married to an American in America brought up a lot of family and identity issues for this Aussie ex-pat.

Of course it helped the work, making Savannah’s understanding of the industry authentic. But the best thing about writing this book over planning my wedding was the escape it provided! It was a true balm: the tone and humor and heat of this story were very soothing and fun. It was a pleasure to spend time in these character’s worlds, doing all the careful writerly work of making something feel airy and honest and beautiful.

The opening page of the story states the thematic territory: tradition and ritual didn’t arise from some universal experience of love and commitment. Rituals were reinvented and reinterpreted all the time. All of the characters are negotiating the tension between tradition and modernity: between who they should be vs. who they are. That’s essentially the conflict most couples wrestle with in wedding planning, and I was no exception: Do I want to wear white or do I feel I should wear white? What is my true desire? Who am I?

On the flip side, while weddings are steeped in tradition that can be stifling, they’re also a Bacchanalian space outside of regular life where change happens and surprises occur. And there was something interesting about seeing all that through the lens of people not getting married, but helping others get married, as a day job. How does constantly assisting with the performance of love affect your own love life? I’m always interested in paradoxes like that.

Q: You’ve created a beautifully diverse and authentic cast of characters who are navigating love in different ways. Who was your favorite character to write and why?

A: I truly enjoyed being in every single one of these character’s heads: I’m a Pisces, prone to fantasy, so all I every really want to do is lose myself in a dreamy otherworld . . . It was fun being in Zach’s head: not only is he outrageously charming and funny and a total horndog but as I spent time with him, I realized how deep Zach’s river ran: he’s a sensitive soul, and more complex than people give him credit for.

I also really enjoyed channeling Gorman. I relate to his ambivalence about marriage as an institution, his artistic ambition, and his dry-as-a-bone sense of humor. Gorman’s a dark horse; maybe I am, too.

Q: Do you have a favorite scene?

A: I still tear up every time I read Vanessa’s and her dad’s father-daughter dance scene . . . and I’ve read the manuscript a lot. That scene moves me because it speaks a simple truth: that life is better is we love and accept each other, and it’s never too late to make amends. When something moves you in fiction, it’s because you’re sensing a truth or a hope. I love connecting with people in this way. Comedians want to make you laugh. Novelists want to make you feel.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this novel?

A: Because meaning-making is personal in art, it’s tricky for me to project any hope about it. But, okay: I hope you swoon. And laugh. And fall in love with my characters (and, by extension, me). I hope it makes you feel good, and hopeful, and happy. We’re living in a dark and complex time: I hope this book reminds you that, to quote famed therapist Esther Perel, “the quality of our lives are defined by the quality of our relationships.” Even though they are never perfect, our ability to love and forgive is in us, always. That’s what I was circling around in the epigraph, “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along”: so much about loving and being loved is allowing it to happen in ourselves. Maybe falling in love with someone is, in part, about falling in love with yourself? Or maybe believing in love is like believing in something like New York City: an act of imagination, courage, and a dash of total delusion . . .

Q: Do you have any plans for future projects? Will you stick to writing rom-coms (we hope so!)?

A: I had so much fun working in rom-com, of course, I had to do it again. My next book is another ensemble comedy/drama that takes place in a wild and beautiful setting: I promise you will have never read a book set there before. Its centered around two families, one Australian, one American, with a sweet-and-sexy queer rom-com at its giant beating heart. As someone who came out at nineteen, it’s bizarre to me that I haven’t written a central girl-on-girl love story yet. My next book will remedy that: fans of queer rom-com will fall hard for Liss and Amelia. I’m having a ridiculously good time hanging to with this funny, charming cast, telling a beautiful, feel-good story surrounded by the natural world. I’m incredibly excited to share it with everyone, as soon as I can.

About The Author

Photograph by Lindsay Ratowsky

Georgia Clark wrote the novels It Had to Be YouThe RegularsThe Bucket List, and others. She is the host and founder of the popular storytelling night, Generation Women. A native Australian, she lives in Brooklyn with her hot wife and a fridge full of cheese. Want more? GeorgiaClark.com. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 4, 2021)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982133191

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Raves and Reviews

“IT HAD TO BE YOU is the book-equivalent of a perfect first date. It’s instantly engaging, fun, inclusive, big-hearted and most importantly, it’s smart. Georgia Clark is a fierce talent and her storytelling powers are on full display here. I’m SMITTEN with this novel. Highly highly recommended!” 

– Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of 28 SUMMERS

"This ensemble rom-com explores the messy entanglements of a wedding crew in the alternating-POV style of Love Actually. At its center, though, is one of the most delightfully unlikely pairings I've read in a while: an exhausted wedding-planning widow and the chipper (and much younger) mistress of her decesed husband. So much fun."

– Casey McQuiston, New York Times bestselling author of RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE and ONE LAST STOP

"Clark has concocted a heady kaleidoscope of romance, heartbreak, and healing that’s both rich in insight and enchantingly funny. A magical set of intertwined stories that speaks to our times."

– Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE

"Perfect for fans of Modern Love and Love, Actually, Georgia Clark's smartly mixed cocktail of intertwined romances also underscores the importance of resilience, self-discovery, and the transformative power of friendship."

– Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, bestselling authors of THE HEIR AFFAIR

"IT HAD TO BE YOU is a glorious love letter to second chances, taking risks, and following your heart. This romantic comedy is a tender reminder that vibrant, life-changing love is out there for all of us, even (and especially) when life has knocked us down. I adored each of these memorable characters and have missed them ever since I reached the final page. Georgia Clark has outdone herself!" 

– Hannah Orenstein, author of HEAD OVER HEELS

"This beautiful compendium of love stories is a witty, sexy hybrid of Four Weddings & a Funeral and Love Actually. Georgia Clark cleverly illustrates how romance comes in all shapes and disguises in this warm and delightful romp of a novel that’ll make you fall in love again and again!"

– Melanie Cantor, author of DEATH & OTHER HAPPY ENDINGS

"Reading Georgia Clark's IT HAD TO BE YOU feels much like attending a spirited, joyful wedding: you’ll find a wild mix of guests, some unexpected drama, a whole lot of love, and that one gorgeous groomsman who gets all the attention. A delightfully festive romantic comedy!"

– Amy Poeppel, critically-acclaimed author of MUSICAL CHAIRS

"With a perfectly imperfect cast of characters, just the right mix of humor and heart, and a plot that will have you flipping the pages as fast as you can read, IT HAD TO BE YOU is unexpected in the best possible way. Georgia Clark just happens to be my new favorite writer."

– Camille Pagán, bestselling author of I'M FINE AND NEITHER ARE YOU

The First Wives Club meets Love Actually in this entertaining story of friendship and second chances… Clark delivers a humorous, poignant story about rebuilding after tragedy…This is a charmer.” 

– Publishers Weekly

“Clark creates a quilt of diverse love stories, overlapping and meandering warmly throughout New York City . . . Each story Clark tells packs an emotional punch, but Savannah’s and Liv’s respective relationships, as well as their own evolution to friends and colleagues, are standouts.” 

– Library Journal

“Reads like a love letter to New York-set rom coms. Full of immersive details, rich characters, and great banter, Clark’s latest perfectly balances sweetness with an edge of realism that will draw readers in.” 

– Booklist (starred review)

“When Liv's husband Eliot dies suddenly and leaves her to run their wedding-planning business, that's bad enough. Until she finds out he left his half of it to his young mistress, Savannah. Liv is, shall we say, less than thrilled. But over time, the two women form an unlikely friendship in a quirky, modern love story that will melt your heart like a popsicle.”

– Good Housekeeping, "The 20 Best Beach Reads to Add to Your Summer Reading List"

“Clark's prose is engaging, her characters are likable, and the plot moves quickly… a fun bit of escapism.” 

– Kirkus Reviews

“Anyone else feeling desperate for an escape from reality in the form of a book? Same, which is why we're positively jazzed about Clark’s latest, about a Brooklyn wedding planner who dies unexpectedly, and instead of leaving half of the business to his wife and business partner, leaves his share to…his much younger mistress. Chaos and hilarity ensue.”

– PureWow, "10 Books We Can't Wait to Read in May"

“20 Best Beach Reads of Summer 2021.”

– The Pioneer Woman

“Think of IT HAD TO BE YOU as the Love Actually of beach reads. Written in sparkly and entertaining prose, the novel follows a series of intertwined love stories that revolve around a wedding planner. The book will reaffirm that there's enough love to go around for everyone.”

– Oprah Daily

“[Clark] takes every diverse coupling, professional nightmare and swoon-worthy love story in her arsenal and creates something deeply joy-filled, tender, sexy and charming.”

– BookReporter

“IT HAD TO BE YOU . . . follows a rotating cast of characters whose love lives are as diverse as the city they all call home.”

– The San Francisco Chronicle

"Books to Brighten Your Summer."

– The Washington Post

"Best Beach Reads of Summer 2021."

– PureWow

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