By K.M. Jackson
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“A rollicking rom-com full of fun, complex characters, laugh-out-loud one liners and delicious banter,” perfect for pop culture fans (NPR).
Bethany Lu Carlisle is devastated when the tabloids report actor Keanu Reeves is about to tie the knot. What?! How could the world’s perfect boyfriend and forever bachelor, Keanu not realize that making a move like this could potentially be devastating to the equilibrium of…well…everything! Not to mention, he’s never come face to face with the person who could potentially be his true soulmate—her.
Desperate to convince Keanu to call off the wedding, Lu and her ride-or-die BFF Truman Erikson take a wild road trip to search for the elusive Keanu so that Lu can fulfill her dream of meeting her forever crush and confess her undying love. From New York to Los Angeles, Lu and True get into all sorts of sticky situations. Will Lu be able to find Keanu and convince him she’s the one for him? Or maybe she’ll discover true love has been by her side all along…
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People always looked at me like I was half crazy. Made me feel like the odd girl out, but not True. Never True.
I guess that was why when he'd said I'd gone mad—or maybe the word he'd used was insane—this time I took it to heart. Sort of. Okay, fine. So I may have only briefly paused to give his reaction to my plan a smidge of consideration before continuing my full-steam-ahead charge.
But he had to understand, life was happening. The world was still spinning, even if it felt like mine had stopped. Once again.
Or maybe I wanted it to stop. I didn't know. But that part didn't matter, did it? Does it?
What mattered was that True got me. That he had me. That he understood, that he'd still be there for me, be my friend. Bring me back from the edge. Like before. Like always.
Besides, True always knew it was Keanu or nothing for me.
89 days ago
BREAKING: The sky isn't falling, but prepare for the storm! Keanu Reeves is tying the knot in 90 days! America's favorite boyfriend is a boyfriend no more…
I heard something go pop in my ear, like a burst balloon, and suddenly felt dizzy. Time seemed to stop and do a weird sort of axis shift. It was almost as if I was floating—and not in the good "I don't want this buzz to wear off" way, but the "Crap! Somebody stop this ride. I'm about to throw up, so let me the hell off. Now!" way.
I could see myself in the spot where it all was happening, strangely outside my body, looking in like a spectator on the drama that was my life. There was me, Dawn and, of course, True—the three of us gathered as was usual for a Saturday in my West Harlem loft. On my worktable, lit by the sun streaming through the skylight, was my latest not-quite masterpiece, still in its rough form on canvas. Faint washes of color and fabric swatches with torn news clippings waited to be set into place. But the project was currently pushed to the side to make room for the fresh bagels True had brought in with him after his morning run.
Moments before, everything had been normal, each of us talking over one another as we stuffed our faces with carbs and cream cheesy goodness and drank enough coffee to keep a triple shift of ER interns alert.
But now here I was, clutching the edge of the worktable with one hand while holding tight to my phone with the other as I stared at the screen in disbelief. This had to be a joke. Probably a stunt or a promo tweet. I swallowed. Well, I attempted to, but the dry lump that had materialized out of nowhere wouldn't go down my throat. I scanned the nonsensical tweet again and told myself it was just that: No. Sense. Nonsense. Clickbait. It had to be. Keanu was the bait, but I wasn't going in for the click. No freaking way.
Sweat popped out along my brow, defying the comfortable air-conditioned temperature in my loft as I tried to resist the temptation of those three dots at the end of the tweet. Clicky little enticements, just messing my head up with silent little whispers of Come on, you know you wanna know.
My fingers practically twitched. I think maybe my hand was even slightly shaking. But I couldn't click. Clicking would only lead to doom.
If I clicked, I'd either (a) look like an ass and have my feed clogged with ads for whatever these evildoers were pushing for the next month—most likely some dating app or other such crap to highlight why I shouldn't be happy in my current perfect singledom status. Or (b) it would lead me to the supremely unlikely realization that the story was true and—horrors—Keanu was actually getting married, which also meant that life as we knew it to be would essentially cease to exist in ninety days.
Either outcome would be a disaster, and it seemed the only mentally stabilizing way out was smashing my phone to bits.
It was then I heard a clap, followed by the snap of fingers way too close to my face.
Wait. Was someone shaking me? And now they were hitting me on the back. Holy roughness! The hell?!
I blinked. True was standing in front of me.
Sweet, sweet True. My anchor and life preserver all in one.
He was wiping at my mouth. Shit, had I been drooling? Still, a napkin would have been nice in this moment because (a) germs, and (b) his thumb swiping across my bottom lip was hitting too hard on my sexual sensory buttons, even through my shocked stupor.
I scrunched up my face and pulled back a notch, still not enough to get out of his close range. Eep, his face was practically on top of mine. His big brown eyes clouded with worry. And I couldn't help noticing his full lips were drawn tight to the point of looking pained. Oddly, though, all these facial expressions made him somehow even more handsome, with the scruff on his chin extra scruffy, not hiding his dimples. It was quite unnerving, and slightly panty quivering. Not that I'd ever tell him that.
"Lu! Lu! Bethany Lu!"
Oh, damn. True was going in with my full government name. Something he only did when really riled up. He snapped his fingers again and reached out, putting his hands on my forearms, like he was about to give me another shake. Time to bring the brain back to earth. Lucky for me, Morphie did most of my heavy lifting and broke the scene apart with an ear-piercing, squeaky bark.
I glared at True as I pushed down on his hands, and he immediately backed up a step. "What are you doing?" I snapped at the same time Morphie nipped at True's worn New Balances. Good dog. It was so unlike my mini beagle to come off his lazy little high horse and put effort into anything that I got a swell of pride seeing those brown ears flop around on account of me.
But True being True and those old sneakers being damn near bulletproof, it seemed he'd hardly felt a thing from Morph's valiant efforts. Instead, he ignored poor Morphie and his spectacular show of chivalry and kept his focus on me. "What am I doing?" His voice mimicked the disbelief in his eyes. "That's what I should be asking you. At first, I thought you were choking on a piece of bagel, the way it looked like you lost your breath, but then you started zoning out, looking at your phone like one of the Walking Dead, mumbling about ninety days."
Well shit, I hadn't even realized I was thinking out loud. I coughed, then attempted something between a laugh and a growl. "Grrr."
True stared at me deadpan.
"You and your zombies," I said. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna eat your brain. It's probably unseasoned anyways."
His only reaction to my joke was a blink and the tiniest nostril flare letting me know the comment didn't pass his hearing.
I felt my lips twist. Bet he wouldn't have been all stoic and unreactive if I had licked his damn thumb like I'd been contemplating a moment before. Bet that would have gotten more than the flare of a nostril. I sighed, knowing I'd keep all thoughts of tongue licking to myself. I could joke and tease about a lot, but licking True's um…extremities…that was definitely off-limits. Forever.
Besides, the impulse was probably just a direct result of being cooped up in my loft too long and letting my double-A battery supply run low. "And speaking of," I said, though no one was speaking of anything of the sort, but I had to get my mind off licking and batteries. "What's with you and those old sneakers? Didn't I give you a new pair not long ago?" I pointed at his feet. "How those are still functioning I'll never know. They're so worn and dirty you could give my dog an infection. The least you could have done is changed them before you came upstairs from your apartment."
True lived in the same building, down in 4B. My father owned the property and had given us both a nice deal.
He looked down, then back at me like I'd grown another head. "So now my sneakers aren't good enough for your little penthouse, Ms. 10A? Should I have showered before I came or just dropped off your brunch at the door?"
"You know I didn't mean it like that."
True's left brow quirked. "Sure. Besides, these are fine. They still have some miles left in them."
I snorted. "Miles? They're practically running by themselves at this point."
He stared at me. I stared back. This was us. Standing off. Doing what we do.
"So you're good?" This question came from Dawn, breaking our little stare down and leaving us in a draw. "Can I take my finger off the 911 speed dial because for a minute there you had a sister damn near fretting, but since we're only talking sneakers and the Walking Dead, I'll cancel the red alert." Dawn was looking at me with a high level of impatience. She waved her phone in my direction and then across my worktable. "I don't know what gets into you, Lu. One minute you're normal"—she let a heavy pause rest here before continuing—"-ish, talking business, schedules and your work, and the next you're who knows where."
"I'm fine! It's no big deal. Well, probably no big deal," I said, looking back at my phone.
Dawn raised an eyebrow while I shot back with narrowed eyes plus a "seriously, stand down" silent gesture. This only caused her to grimace at me more intensely, in that moment flipping between her dual roles of my art agent and best friend since high school.
Actually, me, Dawn and True have been connected since high school. Not the trio we are now but more of a clunky quartet, brought together by time and circumstance.
Dawn shrugged and traded her phone for a cheese bagel with extra cream cheese. The handmade bagels from the place on Broadway and 94th were her weekly carb indulgence. Even with my near freak-out she wasn't missing out on this. Hell, I should be thankful she even slowed down. Dawn despised deprivation, so my manic panic would have to get put on hold. "You sure, you're fine?" she asked through a mouthful of dough and cream cheese. Her eyes shifting from my artwork laid out on the table then back to my face.
I nodded, then looked back at my work. The mass of color, torn paper and fabric now hardly made any sense to me.
I felt my lips go tight. I wasn't fine. Not by a long shot.
Keanu Reeves was getting married.
This is fake, right? There's no way it can be true." I pushed my phone toward Dawn. She had been going on about my upcoming schedule and asking when I thought my next batch of canvases would be done.
"What?" Dawn took the phone from my hand, her touch surprisingly gentle. Not the brisk way she usually had. Not that I'm saying my friend was in any way rude or snatchy, but gentle wasn't generally her style either. Between Dawn going in with the soft touch and True with my full name, I must have put them both in a panic for a minute there.
Dawn glanced at my phone, and her eyes went wide. There was a brief flash of alarm, and I could guess exactly how she felt. Was she cold? Did her insides recoil and twist inside themselves?
"No way. And in ninety days? This is bullshit. It sounds like they are pulling from that reality show."
"Right?" I said, agreeing with her. Thank goodness for Dawn. I could always count on her when it came to seeing things my way. "That's what I thought." I laughed. It may have come out slightly hysterical. "He'd never do that. Not to us. Not to me. Not to the world. Also, that show is crazy pants."
"In the best way," Dawn interjected. She shook her head and handed me back my phone. "Nah. Definitely not. This really is bullshit. Keanu wouldn't do it, hon." She went from riled back down to soft and gentle again, amping my anxiety. It was as if she were talking to a small child or someone praying in the waiting area of an ICU surgery center. Fuck. Could it be Dawn thought there was some truth to this tweet?
I tried hard to look beyond her wall of defense. Through to the bond of our almost thirty-year friendship. We connected, she and I, in a way that no one else on the planet ever had and I suspected ever would. Well, all except True, but he was different. You know, given he had a penis and all, and the fact that he was, I don't know, just…True.
Dawn tapped at her phone, then looked at me, the placating tone now laced with an edge of anger. "Actually, I'm low-key pissed at whoever on the PR team thought it was a good idea to release this news. Ninety days my ass. Are they putting us all on some sort of fan-flail doomsday countdown clock? Just do it if you're ready, or get engaged and be quiet about it. We'll find out when they are on the cover of People like everybody else or when TMZ releases the telephoto shots. It's not like he's a royal. Damn!" She shook her head as she turned up her lip and placed her phone back on the edge of the worktable, careful not to put it where it would get paint or glue on it.
She glared at the phone. "Keanu is never getting married. He'd never settle down and make just one woman, man, person…ferret, that happy while ruining the lives of the rest of the world. I have a right mind to make a complaint."
"I agree with you, but where would you even start?"
She shook her head and gave me slightly overconfident "trust me" eyes, which I'd learned from all our years of near misses, whoops and almost-had-its not to trust all that much. But with the glint she had going on, I half expected her to go protesting at some PR firm in a stunning vintage '70s designer outfit, signage in hand, shouting about how someone must pay for these grievous misdeeds.
True let out a groan, as Dawn and I swiveled toward him in unison.
"Seriously? This is what your whole zone-out was about? Damned Keanu Reeves?" He took a step back. Lucky for him, just out of my arm's reach.
"Watch it with the blasphemy, mister."
He hit me with an eye roll and a sigh before rubbing his short nails over his close-cropped curls. "I can't with you, Lu," he said, before shifting to Dawn. "You either. The fact that you fall right in, entertaining her mess, makes you just as bad."
Dawn gasped. "Bad? The hell you say!" She scrunched up her nose and her mouth went wide with feigned shock. "I don't know what you're getting on me for, Truman Erickson, you giant soggy blanket."
"That part," I added. "Just because you're grown, don't think you're grown-grown."
True's eyes went back and forth between the two of us in silent irritation. I could almost see words being swallowed back down his throat, and I opened my mouth to argue against them. But this wasn't the time to fall into one of our bickering spirals. This was serious.
The fear had my stomach knotting up. I reached for my phone, then paused. True was right. As much as I hated to admit it. Dammit, True was right.
What the hell was I panicking for? And Dawn was right too. It had to be fake. Keanu would never be tied down. He was a free spirit. He was the free spirit.
And so was I—grown-ass, forty-plus fangirl that I was. There was no reason to be afraid. I was fine. I smiled and fought to slow my heart rate.
Quick Lu, think of something calming! But shit, the meditation app I'd sworn I'd listen to every day had lasted less than a week. The pressure of daily relaxation was too stressful. Now all I had was a monthly bill because I kept forgetting to cancel the stupid subscription in the app store. Besides, if I did cancel, that would mean giving up on meditating and therefore admitting defeat. And Carlisles don't give up. We see things through. Till the end.
I looked over to the far corner of the loft and sighed. I had set up the perfect tranquil space with a cool-ass altar and tufted pillow to get my meditation on. So what if Morphie had co-opted it?
"Look, you've got to relax. There is no need for you to get all worked up over a bit of poorly placed celebrity gossip," Dawn said.
True let out a grunt as if agreeing to this as his phone buzzed low from his pocket, indicating a text.
"Hey, tell your T and Ai-meeee, you're busy. We have a crisis over here," Dawn continued.
"Is that what you're calling it?" True quipped back.
The inner twelve-year-old in me had to suppress a chuckle over Dawn's jibe as I piled on top. "Yeah, isn't the semester over, Professor Hottie McHottieson? Can't she ease up a bit now?"
True frowned at his phone, but I'm sure the face was really meant for me.
His teacher's assistant Aimee was into him big-time. Though he liked to annoyingly put on as if he didn't know it. Fact was, True acted as if he didn't know a good percentage of the students who took his economics and world studies class were into him. As if. For all his brilliance, at times the man didn't have a clue about how sexy his "I don't have the time to be concerned about mundane things like metro male grooming because I'm too busy thinking on higher pursuits" vibe made him.
"I swear you two have a combined age of twenty-four," he grit out as he tapped at his phone.
Dawn and I looked at each other and shrugged. "I would have accepted anything under fifty combined, so this is a win in my book," she said.
True shook his head as he picked up his mug. It was the one he usually used at my place, simple white on which I'd painted a bent spoon and the words THERE IS NO SPOON in block letters. He knew good and well it was a homage to a scene from The Matrix, and if he had trouble with my fangirling or bouts of immaturity, he could have just as easily brought one of his own plain mugs up from his place.
True took his Matrix mug and his text convo with Ai-meee and headed to the far side of the kitchen island. I guess out of firing distance of me and Dawn for a little privacy. I didn't blame him, but still, it grated a bit. His nimble thumbs tapped along his screen before he paused, placed the phone down and picked up another bagel from the bag of leftovers on the island.
Like Dawn, he always had at least two bagels, and with all his running he didn't even have to worry about the carbs. And unlike me, True claimed his runs were a form of daily stress relief and enjoyment. The concept seemed ridiculous, no matter how many times he'd tried to explain it. He'd do better trying to get me to understand market conversions by country and rates of fluctuations. It didn't matter, though. True's tall, lanky but muscular frame could support one bagel or three.
Still, by the almost beastly way he tore into the poor everything bagel, I had a feeling that he was stuffing his mouth to clamp down on comments to Dawn and me he thought were better left unsaid. It was one of the deflection tactics he'd honed after years of being caught in the crossfire of our mini rants. At least that was what my WHET app had taught me—aka Women's Health Empowerment Therapy—which was the app I did more religiously keep up with, not only for its cutting-edge sex talk and vibrator discounts but the fact that they had certified therapists writing pretty solid takes on their blog. But here it was again; I was going off the rails and the topic. Maybe I needed to check in on the app a little more frequently.
"Oh, let the soggy blanket sulk," Dawn said, as if she could see inside my head.
Dawn and I have been arm-in-arm BFFs since we first met as freshmen at Forresters Academy, an exclusive private high school just outside of Manhattan. Forresters was and still is a who's who of New York's second-tier rich progressives' kids. Those who were not A-listers, old money, ultra-wealthy, library donor types. We were the class of new money, the start-ups or perhaps second cousins of the A-listers who had to work management that kept the old money moving.
My father happened to be one of the new money movers. And he was so good as a private equity investor that the name Carlisle could just about open any A-list door. Money was funny like that.
But lucky us—not—we were C-list all day. Sure, on a good day we could pull off B-list, on account of being upwardly mobile and, in many folks' eyes, uppity Black and not where we belonged—a myth my mother loved to clap back on whenever she got the chance.
That myth is part of how we'd ended up at Forresters. My mother getting "mistaken" for a nanny at my old school's pickup one time too many. There were only so many straws before a camel's back broke or a Black mother had had enough with the bullshit and went off. And that was what happened at my private middle school before I was sent to Forresters.
I remember the day clearly, coming out of the exit on the quiet, tree-lined Upper East Side street just off Fifth Avenue where our school was. Right off Museum Mile. We were supposed to be the elites. Tourists even stopped to get glimpses of us looking so unbothered and upper-class New York chic in our navy, burgundy and tan uniforms. But there was my mother, blaring at Trishna Greenberg's mom, "You think I'm the nanny? What nanny wears Patrick Kelly and Chanel to a pickup?"
I was mortified. Though she had a point. Still, it didn't stop me from wanting one of the sidewalk cracks to open up and devour me whole. All the kids were staring like we were some sort of aberration, a strange wonder to behold. They always looked at her like that. The same way they looked at me when they spared me a glance. Once again, I wondered why couldn't she just blend. Why couldn't she be inconspicuous like the other moms in the latest Ralph Lauren getup? Or better yet, not pick me up at all?
God. I was a shit daughter even back then.
But it wasn't the slights to my mom or my secondhand embarrassment that got me to Forresters. It was the incident. The one where the new math teacher swore that I cheated off Felicity Mathis instead of the other way around. That was the final straw.
My mother could take a lot, explode and then move on, but my father wouldn't give a penny to an institution that questioned our honor. Even though I was never a math whiz like my brother, Dad never questioned me or asked if I'd cheated. He never asked for an explanation. He only said that my overpriced school would miss our money and be sorry when another school had it.
I was glad to be done of it, already on my four-year countdown to graduation and art school in Paris or London and all the things I dreamt about when I wasn't trying to disappear into the wall cracks.
But once I got to Forresters and after meeting Dawn, I lost that rush to fly away, and even the need to fade into the paint started to dissipate. Suddenly I wasn't so alone. Finally, I wasn't the only brown girl in my class. Of course, Forresters was still expensive (i.e., exclusive; i.e., pretty damned white), but the Forrester founders seemed to have had some sort of come-to-Jesus moment or maybe they were low-key class shaded too, so they liked to consider themselves woke before being woke was a thing. Ignore the fact that it still cost approximately $48K to give a kid their form of progressive wokeness.
Still, they were highly philanthropic and had a 15 percent diversity rate, but made sure to show at least 30 percent of the students in all their promotional brochures and literature were people of color. But I wasn't mad. I was happy to be out of my old school and even happier when I met Dawn on the first day.
"Bobby Brown is sooo cute. Right, Bethany?" Kaitlyn Smith, the upperclassman assigned to giving us our tour of the campus chirped by way of bonding with the Black girls. My Spidey sense went up immediately and I was getting Felicity Mathis (I'll use you till I abuse you) vibes out the gate with this one, but I stayed chill. Better to not rock the boat.
"And you look a little like Whitney Houston, but way prettier. I think she's great, but Madonna sings better," Kaitlyn continued. Dawn and I gave each other immediate wide eyes because (a) blasphemy on that Whitney/Madonna comment, and (b) what the hell was with this chick?
It went on from there—new school, same stupidity, but whatever. It was high school. At least now I had a friend to vibe with and one who understood when these not-so-micro aggressions came up. Dawn and I had something in common, and even better, we were equally silly in our immaturity and over-the-top love of '80s punk and '90s pop. B-boys were an obsession, and foreign romance drama heartthrobs were our ultimate crushes.
Always a little quirky, I had done my quirking in relative quiet. Dawn, who was a bit bolder and innately perceptive, picked up on my inner wild child and coaxed her out. There were SoHo shopping trips, sunbathing layouts on her West Village rooftop when we were out of school on the weekends. The best were our long sessions of Fuck, Marry, Kill—Comic Edition. The fact that thirty years later we could still pass time pretty much doing the same things, playing the same games, well, I didn't know if it was a good or a bad thing.
If Keanu was getting his shit together and settling down, then what did that mean for me and my life?
“A rollicking rom-com full of fun, complex characters, laugh-out-loud one-liners and the kind of delicious banter that keeps you smiling from page one to the very end.”—NPR
“Jackson's book is a deftly feminist take on the ways
in which thirst and fandom can be therapeutic practices.”—Entertainment Weekly
"It would be enough if Jackson’s latest were simply a charming rom-com replete with laugh-out-loud one liners and pop-culture references, but it’s also a moving, heartfelt story about coping with grief, stress, and major life changes. It doesn’t hurt that Bethany Lu Carlisle, an endearing 40-something Keanu Reeves fangirl, and her best friend, True Erickson, are the kind of characters one can’t help but root for. ...The rom-com trappings keep things lighthearted and welcoming even as Jackson probes heavy emotions. Readers will be wowed." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“An over-the-top romp with a complicated heroine and great banter.”—Booklist
“An extremely enjoyable friends-to-lovers rom-com…with humor and heart, and a supremely satisfying conclusion.”—BookPage
"Hilarious and heartwarming. K.M. Jackson strikes the perfect balance of comedy, friendship, and romance in this addictingly entertaining tale."
—Farrah Rochon, USA Today bestselling author of The Dating Playbook
“A cheerful read starring a plucky, eccentric fortysomething protagonist with a healthy dose of movie references that any Reeves fan will love.”—Bitch Media
"With a ton of laughs, lots of love, and just the right amount of Keanu-magic, this gem of a rom com packs an emotional wallop, too. With one of my favorite HEAs ever, I loved this book from start to finish!"—Farah Heron, author of Accidentally Engaged
“I knew the Keanu references and that K.M. Jackson’s always on-point banter would shine, but this book turned out to be so much more.”—Bookish
"Witty and heartfelt, with characters that feel like old friends, How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days is a delightful read. Kwana has gifted us with a rom-com in its purest form."—Xio Axelrod, USA Today bestselling author of The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
- On Sale
- Nov 2, 2021
- Page Count
- 336 pages