From romantic comedy author M.J. Pullen comes a unique story about finding help when you need it most, and love where you expect it least.
Even though their daughters have been in the same Jewish preschool class for three years, struggling store owner Julia Mendel and sports blogger Dave “from the Man Cave” Bernstein have never gotten along. She sees him as a definitely arrogant, possibly misogynist symbol of everything that’s wrong with the men in her life. He sees her as the odd, short-tempered PTA president, out to make his life more difficult at every opportunity.
As part of his job, Dave accepts an on-air challenge: go out with a different woman from a Jewish dating site every Saturday for the next four months, and blog the results. He quickly secures his daughter’s favorite preschool teacher (and super-nanny) Ms. Elizabeth to make the experiment possible. Little does he know Julia is in desperate need of the same sitter for the same schedule, so that she can take a part-time job while pacifying her son, who has severe OCD.
A confrontation in the carpool lane leads to an uneasy compromise: they will pool their resources to share Ms. Elizabeth’s services every-other Saturday night. After a while, Dave finds himself sharing his dating stories with non-Jewish Julia across her kitchen table; while she reluctantly turns to him for the masculine perspective – especially for her son – she’s been missing since her divorce. As the Saturdays wear on, however, they may discover they have more in common than car seats and custody schedules.
“I didn’t know you read my blog,” Dave said.
“Just the Betty Rubble one. And…a couple of others. I was avoiding work. Plus, I was curious to see how you’re not a womanizer.”
He smiled. “Hard to be a womanizer if you never get past a first date. I’m starting to think this whole experiment is going to do more for my blog than my personal life. None of these women are doing anything for me.”
“It makes sense,” Julia said thoughtfully, releasing her hair from the painfully tight bun she’d constructed with her wet hair this morning. It was still damp in a couple of spots and smelled like shampoo, sawdust, and garlic. “Not enough proximity.”
“There’s been research—I can’t remember where I read this—that shows you are more likely to form attachments with people you’re around the most. That’s why so many people get involved in workplace relationships. We’re hard-wired to look for love where it’s convenient.”
“That’s ridiculous. By that logic, I’m going to end up with my regular waitress at Flingers. I see her more than just about any other woman. Besides you.”
With effort, Julia ignored the rush of blood to her face. “Either way, you’d be stuck with a waitress.” She gestured at her uniform in an attempt at a deflecting joke.
“You’re not a waitress. You own a business.”
“Does it still count as a career if you’re not bringing home a salary?” She said it before realizing this was not the kind of thing she wanted to share with Dave Bernstein. “Your waitress probably makes more than I do.”
“Slight difference between you,” he said. “For one thing, I don’t think the server at Flingers knows anything about proximity and relationships, much less reads studies about it.”
“She probably doesn’t regularly drop whole trays of lasagna, either,” Julia lamented. “I swear if I weren’t her sister, Caroline would have fired me by now. She’s probably trying to figure out how much more lost food she can afford before nepotism goes out the door.”
He smiled. “So, proximity, huh? Would you say it’s more likely that I’m going to end up dating one of the women I meet toward the end of the experiment? Like the December candidates have the best shot?”
Julia considered. “The research I read was all about physical proximity over a period of time. So, like, people who see each other often are more likely to develop feelings for each other. Which makes sense. I’ve always believed we have thousands of potential partners out there, and which one you end up with has as much to do with luck, as with some kind of soul mate connection.”
“Jeez. That’s romantic,” he said. “I thought women were supposed to believe in all that true love stuff.”
“Do you?” she countered, maybe too defensively. “I mean, you can’t possibly still think there’s one person for everyone?”
“I don’t know. I still want to believe that.
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About M.J. Pullen
MANDA (M.J.) PULLEN, former therapist and marketer, is the author of complex, funny contemporary romances. She was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta by a physicist and a flower child, who taught her that life is tragic and funny, and real love is anything but simple. She studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia, and Professional Counseling at Georgia State University.
Manda has a weakness for sappy movies, juicy gossip, craft beer and boys who talk baseball. After traveling around Europe and living in cities like Austin and Portland, she returned to Atlanta where she lives with her family.