The Day We Met
Maggy O’Brien’s life seems far from the stuff of romantic fantasy when we first meet her in Barbara Bretton’s The Day We Met. She’s the divorced and harried mother of two, coping with the news that her ex-husband is about to remarry, and hoping not to get caught in her pajamas as she drives her daughter to school.
Then Maggy’s two sisters intervene and send her off to a weekend in Atlantic City, complete with a glamorous makeover and a non-soccer-mom wardrobe. And magic happens. She meets a wonderful man, Conor O’Riley, and spends the weekend with him.
This part of the book sparkles. The settings, from Atlantic City’s tawdry glamour to Cape May’s Victorian charms, are well drawn and accurate. As I grew up in that area, the descriptions of a frigid, rainy weekend made me shiver in recognition, and get a bit homesick. The weather is an effective counterpoint to the glowing attraction between Maggy and Conor. They barely notice the cold and wet and have a marvelous weekend in spite of it all. By the end of it they are both on the verge of falling in love, if not already there.
But that’s not what this book is about, really. Bretton does a great job of showing the exhilaration of the magic weekend, but where this book really excels is in showing how the everyday pressures of the real world can slowly chip away at that magic and make people question and doubt their feelings. Maggy and Conor don’t exist in a vacuum – they both have family, none of whom approve of their relationship. Maggy’s daughter, in particular, reacts with a massive snit and becomes a key part of the story in her own right.
Whether or not this book will appeal to you depends on how much you need the larger-than-life aspects to make a romance work for you. On one hand, the best part of this book, the portrayal of real romance against a backdrop of humdrum ordinary life can get, well, too real and ordinary and makes some parts of the book a bit of a slog. On the other hand, the book is enough of a romance that Conor and Maggy do have appropriately dramatic moments, particularly at the climax of the book. Die-hard fans of either all-romance or all-realism may be disappointed; I found that the book ultimately struck a pretty good balance between the magic and the everyday parts of life.
The biggest problem in the book is the portrayal of Maggy’s first marriage and divorce. I have no problem with divorced heroines, and was relieved that for a change the husband was not abusive or a cheatin’ lyin’ snake (thus justifying the heroine’s divorce from him). However, Maggy seemed almost cavalier about her first marriage. She remembers it as good, basically, but at some point she and her ex-husband just…stopped loving each other and grew apart. She doesn’t dig any deeper than this, and that leaves the reader questioning the happy ending. What is so different about Conor? How can the reader believe in happy ever after when it seems possible that in ten or twenty years, true love might again give way to “we just grew apart?”
I found myself torn on this issue. After all, I liked the realism of the book, and marriages in real life end with whimpers rather than bangs all the time. I also don’t believe a heroine has to suffer the torments of purgatory before a divorce is justified. But in the end, I have to admit, I can’t see what Maggy learned from the experience of her first marriage that precludes the same ending with Conor. And that tarnishes some of the magic of the romance in The Day We Met.