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The Perfect Find
By Tia Williams
Formats and Prices
- ebook (Digital original) $5.99 $7.99 CAD
- Trade Paperback $17.99 $22.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 30, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Will a forty-year-old woman with everything on the line – her high-stakes career, ticking biological clock, bank account – risk it all for a secret romance with the one person who could destroy her comeback, for good?
Jenna Jones, former It-girl fashion editor, is forty, broke and desperate for a second chance. When she’s dumped by her longtime fiancé and fired from Darling magazine, she begs for a job from her arch nemesis, Darcy Vale. Darcy, the beyond-bitchy publisher of StyleZine.com, agrees to hire her rival – only because her fashion site needs a jolt from Jenna’s old school cred. But Jenna soon realizes she’s in over her head.
Jenna’s working with digital-savvy millennials half her age, has never even “Twittered,” and pretends to still be a Fashion Somebody while living a style lie (she sold her designer wardrobe to afford her sketched-out studio, and now quietly wears Walmart’s finest). What’s worse is that the twenty-two-year-old videographer assigned to shoot her web series is driving her crazy. Wildly sexy with a smile Jenna feels in her thighs, Eric Combs is way off-limits – but almost too delicious to resist.
Just Jenna: Style Secrets from our Intrepid Glambassador!
Q: “I’ve had a series of terrible BFs, but I just met this awesome guy and I hella-heart him. The issue? I’m six-foot-one and he’s 5’10.” When I’m in stilettos he looks like Kevin Hart and I feel like Lurch. Are kitten heels the worst?”—@LongTallSally1981
A: Yes, sugar, kitten heels are the worst. Only appropriate if you’re Michelle Obama or Carla Bruni, you’re a smidge taller than your president husband, and you absolutely cannot dwarf him in front of the world. The Obama-Bruni Clause. Excuse me while I have this notarized…
Here’s the thing. You seem charmed by the new man. Focus on the thrill of new love. It hardly ever comes in the package we envisioned. Instead of hiding an imagined flaw, enhance it. He knows you’re tall and loves it. You should love it, too. Rock the most obscene heel you have and watch him gaze up at you like he’s just aching to climb your mountain. I’d suggest Guiseppe Zanotti’s Grommet Ankle-Buckle Heel. It’s so S&M fierce. Like something out of the Red Room. Raowr.
Jenna Jones clicked the “publish” button, sat back in her new chair at her new desk at StyleZine.com—and grinned. She whipped her compact out of her makeup bag and freshened her lip gloss. It was the Friday of her first week on the job, and she was due in her boss’s office in five minutes. As she fluffed up her Flashdance-style curls, she felt relieved. Her stomach might’ve been in knots, but at least she looked perky.
She crossed the bare-bones, industrial loft space filled with cubicles. One wall was tiger-striped, the floor was made of steel, and the only decorations were a few banana yellow chaise lounges and an oversized print of Marc Jacobs in drag. Jenna’s look that day was “Cerebral Charlie’s Angel” (since elementary school, she had a near-OCD level need to name every outfit in her orbit): a vintage Seventies denim wrap skirt, an oxford rolled up at the sleeves, and sky-high cork stilettos. Getting dressed that morning, she almost felt confident—like the woman she used to be, before her life fell apart. Before she fled to her childhood home in rural Virginia.
She was trying her hardest to fit in at StyleZine, an online fashion mag devoted to street style, but Jenna missed the print world, where she felt safe. She ached for her glitzy life at Darling magazine, where she worked as the fashion director for ages until her quasi-nervous breakdown. She mourned the loss of her healthy clothing allowance, massive photo shoot budgets, and the pony skin rug in her office (God, that rug was so good). Sexy Cosmo girls, icy Vogue bitches, fiercely toned Self chicks—it was all she knew.
But that world, with its Columbia School of Journalism degree-wielding socialites and high-glam aesthetic was old school and barely breathing. To be a fashion expert these days, all you had to do was decide you were one. Any wily twenty-year-old with a covetable look, a WordPress account and enough followers could be a powerful style insider. They’d displaced major editors from the front row at Gucci!
She arrived at her boss’s office and Terry, an associate editor, hurried over to intercept her.
“Jenna, I was supposed to tell you that Darcy’s gonna be late. It’s a thousand percent my bad,” Terry said. She was the eyes and ears of the office; a cheerful gossip who made it her business to know everyone’s business, and who always said exactly what she was thinking, blithely and with no filter. The combination made her a social magnet, and the person to have as an ally. Jenna needed a friend in the office, but so far, everyone regarded her with a polite, slightly patronizing wariness.
She was determined to befriend that girl, if it killed her.
“No problem,” said Jenna. Terry was wearing a backless cherry red bodysuit, purple throwback Reebok high-tops and black lipstick. The part of her strawberry blonde hair that wasn’t shaved was scraped up into a tight topknot. Jenna mentally labeled the outfit “Athleisure Lolita.”
“Your bodysuit is gorge,” Jenna continued. “Kenzo? I’ve always been a fan of Kenzo.”
Stop being so gushy, Jenna thought. Twenty-something fashion girls can smell fear. I should know; I once was one.
“Yeah. Kenzo’s cute, but way too expensive.” Terry was multi-tasking, scrolling through her phone while chatting. “I mean, whatever, it’s a leotard. But they gave it to me for free. All I had to do was IG a selfie in it for #OOTD. You know how that whole thing goes.”
“Absolutely,” said Jenna. She did not know how that whole thing went, and had never heard of #OOTD.
“Speaking of #OOTD, did you take a pic of your outfit today? You should. It’s a totally new look for a StyleZine staffer. You’re giving ‘established grownup realness.’ You’re so pulled-together.” Terry said this with the slightest hint of condescension. It was not lost on Jenna that in an office of artfully mismatched millennials doing a punky-funky-urban thing, she stuck out as slightly too…sophisticated. “Carolina Herrera?”
“Good eye!” Her outfit wasn’t Carolina Herrera. It wasn’t even Old Navy. But before Terry asked any more questions, she decided to change the subject. “I meant to tell you that your Instagram is truly breathtaking.”
Jenna had done her new-job research, scrolling through the Insta-accounts of all of StyleZine’s editors, each of whom had a zillion followers.
“You have this one shot in a furry white vest, and oh!” Jenna clutched her heart. “With your white-blonde hair and the animal print leggings? It reminded me of an Alaskan cover shoot I did with Karolina Kurkova in 2000. There were artificial igloos and white tigers. So dazzling! You’re twins.”
“Never heard of her.”
“Karolina? She was a Czech supermodel.”
“Ohhh yeah, I sort of remember that Eastern Bloc era. Way back in, like, second grade when I used to cut up mom’s fashion magazines to make collages. All the models were like slumped and pale, and looked mad bummed.” She giggled. “Chernobyl chic.”
“Chernobyl chic, so funny,” said Jenna. Her mom’s magazines?
Terry’s phone buzzed, and she looked down at it and groaned. “Ugh, it’s Kevin, fuck my life. He’s so obvious, with his black nail polish and generic polysexuality. Dude, you’re a former high school lacrosse player from Myrtle Beach; you’re not dangerous. Whatevs, I’m breaking up with him after the Watch the Throne concert.”
Jenna cleared her throat and tried another angle. “So, I was really impressed with the quality of your photos. They look professional.”
“I’m the queen of filters,” said Terry. “What’s your Instagram?”
“I don’t have one. I mean, not yet.”
Terry’s jaw dropped. “It’s 2012! You’re not on the ‘Gram?
That’s completely dysfunctional.”
“Actually, I’m just a terrible photographer.” The truth? During Jenna’s tear-stained sabbatical, she’d rejected technology and fully missed the social media revolution. “I’ve never even taken a selfie!”
“Well, it’s an art. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”
“Question. If someone else takes the pic for you, is it called a ‘self-helpie?’ You know, because you got help?’”
As soon as the attempt at a joke left her mouth, she knew how dumb she sounded.
“Umm…no,” said Terry slowly, like she was talking to a child.
“Of course, I know,” tittered Jenna. “Duh.”
Why was her personality coming off so weird in this place? All week, she’d been wearing her past like armor, praying that no one could sense that she was an expensive-looking fake. Even her outfit was fake—which, for someone who was supposed to be an arbiter of style, was unthinkable. Carolina Herrera? Please.
I am a forty-year-old woman in a $4.99 shirt from Wet Seal because I sold all my designer clothes to move back here, and I have exactly enough in my account to cover this month’s rent, and right now I’d consider American Eagle an extravagance. I’m a former glamour girl hoping that no one notices the vague stain on my skirt—a stain I don’t even know the origins of, since I got it at a stoop sale in my new ‘hood, a sketched-out Brooklyn block where I share real estate with a KFC and beauty salon called Snip It Real Good. I am a grown woman wearing 1974-era heels I stole from my mother’s closet.
Terry shot Jenna a pitying look, then whispered, “Just so I’m clear… you were kidding about the self-helpie thing, right?”
“Dude! You’re, like, awkward squared!” She said this brightly, without a trace of meanness. “It’s always weird being the new girl. Just relax.”
“Thank you,” said Jenna, smiling weakly. “I haven’t had coffee yet. I should never attempt to be funny before noon.”
Terry lowered her voice. “Are you nervous because you’re working for Darcy? Don’t be. I mean, we’re all terrified of her, but you’re, like, contemporaries, so she’ll probably go easy on you.”
Darcy was the CEO of Belladonna Media, the digital media company that owned StyleZine and eight other successful women’s online magazines. She was widely known to be an unrepentant bitch.
“She’s so frightening,” continued Terry, in a low whisper. “She banned me from work for a week last month, no pay, because I had some bad sushi at Chuko and my face broke out. She said my skin was making her gag.”
“That’s Darcy,” said Jenna, rolling her eyes. “But I’m not scared of her. I’ve known her since we were editorial assistants. When I look at her, I see a twenty-five-year-old dressed like the frontwoman of a ska/hip hop fusion band.”
“I was so much flyer than Gwen Stefani,” said a withering, raspy voice behind Jenna.
Terry’s face blanched. Jenna turned around and saw Darcy, standing with her hands on her hips.
“Hey, Darcy!” said Jenna.
“Well, if it isn’t the patron saint of wanna-be fashionistas from flyover states,” said the elfin CEO. She clocked in at only five feet, but her presence was massive. With her enormous, always-appraising (and never quite impressed) hazel-brown eyes, perfect miniature body, and smoky voice that always sounded like she just woke up, she was one of those mesmerizing women that men couldn’t get enough of without understanding why.
She focused her attention on Terry. “We need to talk, lover. Your post on the blonde in the Giambattista Valli ethnic print swing blouse? Incredible style, but she looks like Mayor Bloomberg. No ugly girls. We need our readers lusting to look like these broads, or else we lose traffic, advertisers, and our jobs. Wake up!” She clapped in her face, twice. “Mitchell’s such a clued-in photo editor, what was he thinking? That husky queen needs to spend less time photographing himself in front of gelato shops,” this was a reference to his fledgling food blog, “and focus on the job that pays his goddamned bills. Fucking gelato. That’s why he’s built like a 9 volt Duracell battery.”
“I…I’m sorry, Darcy, I’ll delete the post.”
“Damned right. Leave us.”
Terry scrambled away, and Darcy shot Jenna an exasperated look. “Children.”
Jenna fake-smiled and nodded, almost blown away by that diatribe—but not really. She was used to Darcy’s acerbic persona. Actually, given her history with the CEO, it was bizarre that they were even in the same room and on speaking terms, let alone working together.
It had all started with a man. When Jenna was twenty-three she dated an Arista Records exec named Marcus. For a small town girl new to the big city, dating a guy that was a major industry player was magical! For months, she ignored the fact that Marcus’ phone rang at weird times, and that he was only available at the most random hours (dinner at either 5 or 11?). But he was a great kisser and he knew Method Man personally, so she was super-into him.
On Valentine’s Day, Jenna decided to surprise him at his Brooklyn apartment with a homemade cake. But he didn’t answer the door—a tiny, furious chick with a chic pixie-cut did. It was Marcus’ real girlfriend. His fiancée, a twenty-four-year old Mademoiselle editorial assistant named Darcy Vale.
She grabbed the cake and slammed it in Jenna’s face. Hard. Not only was Jenna knocked out, she had an icing-smeared cut on her lip that required three stitches.
Both women were soon-to-be powerful in media (and powerful black women in media), so their social circles intersected a thousand different ways. The two were at the same parties, fashion shows, and weddings. There was no avoiding her as they ascended in the industry, and Darcy tortured Jenna every chance she could.
“So, how was your first week?” asked Darcy, striding into her office, with Jenna following behind.
“It’s been fun,” said Jenna, fussing with her hair again. The curls, like everything else about her, were new. In Virginia, she’d been too Xanax-zonked to deal with relaxers, so she let her natural hair happen. “Thanks again for the opportunity.”
“It wasn’t a favor. I’m a businesswoman and, the truth is, I need you. StyleZine has some of the sharpest fashion brains in the industry, but they’re kids. They’re lacking connections, real access. I needed an experienced OG editor to attract flashy advertisers and media attention. Darling’s Fashion Director? The good-cop judge on ABC’s cheesiest hit, America’s Modeling Competition? You’re perfect.” She tousled her honey-highlighted Halle spikes. “Though I don’t know why I trust you after you stole that Harper’s Bazaar position from me, fifteen years ago.”
“I didn’t steal it,” Jenna said, patiently. “You got fired and I got hired.”
“You’d been campaigning for the position for months. But it’s all good. Forever ago, right?” Darcy smiled, slightly menacingly. “Where are you living now? Certainly not the West Village townhouse; I read somewhere that Brian’s still there.”
Jenna flinched when she heard his name. “I moved to a one-bedroom on Reade.”
“Reade in Tribeca? Those rents are astronomical; Brian must’ve hooked it up for you. You can’t afford it on your salary. God, I’m so tickled to have gotten an establishment editor basically for free.”
She’ll never let me forget that I was desperate enough to accept a humiliating pay cut. Anything for a second chance.
“No, Reade in Brooklyn,” Jenna said, trying to temper her irritation. “It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood.”
“Charming.” Darcy crinkled her adorable nose. “So, how was Virginia?”
She pasted a cheery smile. “Cathartic. I loved taking the time to unplug.”
“Ha! That’s what every out-of-work editor says when she’s spending the day doing Kegels and obsessively updating her LinkedIn profile.”
Jenna ignored this, returning to her rehearsed spiel. “Also, the style theory class I taught at the community college really gave me a fresh insight to…”
“Whatever. Just know I was sympathetic to your situation,” Darcy interrupted. “You’re better off without Brian. All that jet-setting without you. Those rumors! You can’t trust a self-made millionaire. Their dicks are too hard for the lifestyle. Next time, get a man with family inheritance.” She winked. “The money’s less sexy to them.”
Jenna stared at her for a beat, too shocked at her audacity to speak.
“Darcy, I respect you. And I’m thrilled to be here. But I’d appreciate it if you stop mentioning my ex-fiancée.”
Darcy raised her eyebrows. “You’ve gotten feisty in your old age. I like it.”
“Not feisty. Direct.”
“Okay.” She eyed her old rival. “Let’s get something straight. I won’t forget how you dropped every ounce of professionalism and skipped town over personal drama. You have an eight-month contract—I expect you to triple StyleZine’s readership in that time. Fail, and you’re fired. Because if you fuck me, you know I’ll fuck you harder.”
Jenna looked at her, galled. This was a girl who, at a Def Jam assistant’s house party in 1997, made besties with a famed video vixen—and then convinced the vixen’s rapper boyfriend to pay her rent for a year. A woman who, in 2003, purposely dated a photographer who’d snapped nude pics of her Seventeen publisher, and then secretly sold copies to the gossip blogs—resulting in her boss’ dismissal and Darcy’s promotion to her spot. A shark who, after predicting in 2007 that magazines were doomed, lured tycoon businessman Louis Belladonna away from his wife, pillaged his bank account to launch Belladonna Media, transformed two style blogs into an eight-website beauty and fashion conglomerate…and then divorced him.
Jenna had her number. So, there was no way in hell she’d allow Darcy to threaten her. “You’ve already made it clear that I need to deliver. I’m here to write my ‘Just Jenna’ advice column and develop a fashion web series. Let me do my job, Darcy, and we both know I’ll make this site more successful than ever.”
“I’m loving this new you,” said Darcy. “I wish you’d always been this feisty. Sparring with you would’ve been so much more satisfying.”
“Sparring?” Jenna laughed. “In ‘99, you impersonated Karl Lagerfield’s publicist and emailed me a fake itinerary for the Chanel press trip! Ten fashion editors were flown to Ibiza for the weekend, and I ended up at a sweatshop in Gowanus.”
“Which inspired your ‘ugly beauty’ Darling shoot at the Gowanus Canal with ballerinas wearing tattered Vivienne Westwood. You’re welcome.”
“Those were the good old days,” said Jenna.
“These are the good old days,” said Darcy, eyeing her Cartier tank watch. “I’m late for lunch at Brasserie.”
She stood and headed for the door, shouting directives at Jenna as she went. “I need three more Just Jenna posts by 5. And come up with ideas for your web series—the new videographer is starting on Monday. And get your social media footprint together. Our editors are digital stars; you need to be one, too. Figure it out.”
It was then that Jenna truly started to panic. Social media footprint? What did that even mean?
Jenna had shut the world out in Virginia. It was just her, hiding out in her parents’ house in a holy flannel shirt and circa-1989 Bart Simpson boxers (“Trailer Park Hopelessness”), developing a smoking habit and binge-watching “Game of Thrones.” She’d been groggy with isolation and languishing in her childhood bedroom, which was overflowing with trash bags full of her designer clothes, handbags and shoes—artifacts from a past life. There was no waxing, no mani/pedis, no sex, and she only used the Internet to check the weather. The last thing on her mind was social media. But now, it was time to figure it out.
Jenna flipped open the laptop perched on her desk in her tiny office (as StyleZine’s Elder Stateswoman, she was awarded a former custodial closet instead of a cubicle. Thrilled to have a door, she accepted). Since the idea of wading through Twitter incinerated her brain, she pulled up Facebook. From 2010 to 2012, the site had gone from a chatty family reunion to an orgy of oversharing.
She had so many questions. GIFs—did no one think they were disturbing, like bad acid trip hallucinations? Who created those spiritual epithets written in spunky fonts over pictures of sunsets? Was there an approved list of hashtags somewhere? Pausing to photograph your pecan-encrusted French toast before eating it—was this the digital version of saying grace? Kanye, Kim, and kale—did nothing else matter? Jenna felt like she’d just rocketed from the Paleolithic era in a Delorean.
Already overwhelmed, she swiveled her chair around to stare at the wall behind her desk. She hadn’t yet decorated, save for one important thing—her beloved vintage movie poster of Nina Mae McKinney in the 1928 musical Hallelujah. Forgotten today, Nina Mae McKinney was the most beautiful black woman in Hollywood before Halle, Dorothy, or Lena ever drew a breath. Just a small-town Southern girl who was plucked out of the chorus line to star in the first black musical, ever—and then Charlestoned her way through Europe, romancing royals and drinking bathtub gin. She was Jenna’s spirit animal. The poster had hung in every office she’d ever had.
Who would she be today? thought Jenna. Probably Beyoncé, since Nina was a triple threat, too. Is Beyoncé a great actress, though? She was glorious in Dreamgirls, but she looked like she was nursing an ulcer as Etta James in Cadillac Records…
Just then, her iPhone vibrated on top of her desk. Swiveling around, she grabbed it—and when she saw who it was, all breath left her body.
Brian Stein. Her former Jewish Adonis. Why would he be calling? What did they have to talk about?
Paralyzed, Jenna stared as the phone vibrated five times. And then, a millisecond before the call went to voice mail, she answered. “Jenna?”
“Is this Stromboli’s Pizzeria again? I didn’t order; you have the wrong number.”
“Hi.” She held her breath.
“Hi. I can’t believe I’m actually hearing your voice.”
“Yeah. Weird. Can I help you?”
“I assume a ‘welcome back’ is in order? I was surprised to hear that you were back in the city. I thought you would’ve called me.”
“Honestly, I didn’t think it would affect your life in any way.”
“I know we’ve been through hell, JJ, but you can’t pretend we’re not connected. We were together for twenty years. Can’t we be friends?”
“You left me.”
“No, I told you I was opposed to your vision for our future.” “You told me? I wasn’t your secretary, Brian. We were two people in a relationship!”
“You weren’t happy either.”
“I wasn’t happy because the love of my life—my first and only love, since I was a freshman at Georgetown—wasted my sexiest years, pretended he wanted to marry me, and then changed his mind about being a husband and a father. That was thrilling news for a woman with thirty-eight-year-old eggs.”
“Look, I just want us to be on good terms. Are you open to grabbing coffee? I’ll send a car to your office.”
“Brian, I wish you well. But I’m not interested in sipping lattes with you and pretending you didn’t ruin my life.”
“Fine, JJ.” He sighed. “There was another reason for my call. I…I guess I wanted you to hear this from me. I’ve been seeing someone, seriously.”
“Oh?” Jenna clutched her stomach and shut her eyes. She knew this moment would come, but she wasn’t ready. And she’d wanted to have a boyfriend first.
“You might know her. Lily. She works for Salon.”
“Lily L’Amour? You’re seeing the relationship columnist at Salon? You couldn’t find someone in a different industry? And her name isn’t Lily, by the way. It’s Celeste Wexler.”
“Anna must be thrilled you have a Jewish girlfriend.”
“You know my mom adores you. Won’t even look Lily in the eyes, she’s so loyal to you. The first and last time I took Lily home, she had an episode of America’s Modeling Competition playing on DVR.”
This gave Jenna a surge of ex-girlfriend satisfaction. “Well, I’m happy you’re happy.”
“You were gone. You didn’t even give us a chance to figure it out.”
“Figure what out? You threw yourself into your work, into being the famous real estate developer, the man I helped make. You hadn’t touched me in over a year.” She swallowed. “I’m still wondering who you were touching.”
“Holy Christ. I’m not dignifying that with a response.”
“You never have.” She slumped down in her chair, hit by a tidal wave of sadness. “We’d planned a whole life together. You backed out.”
“I didn’t want what you wanted. But I didn’t want to lose you.”
“And the award for most classically male declaration of selfishness goes to…”
- The Perfect Find's unyielding lightheartedness is the best gift a romance novel can give you.—The Washington Post
- This juicy page turner is the ultimate beach read…with characters you’ll think about long after the last page. The chemistry is so steamy.—InStyle
- Adorable heroine. Great plot. A delightful book—Essence
- Tops our collection of can’t‑put‑down page‑turners. Our new favorite beach read!—People StyleWatch
- The Perfect Find is a deliciously good time!—Nicola Kraus, author of The Nanny Diaries, Nicola Kraus, author of The Nanny Diaries
- On Sale
- Mar 30, 2021
- Page Count
- 368 pages
- Grand Central Publishing