On a Night Like This
San Francisco Best Seller!
Translated in 6 languages!
They met in high school, but had nothing in common: Blair Clemens, the weird hippie-chick who kept to herself, and Luke Bellingham, the golden boy--rich, handsome, and destined for greatness. Now, years later, Luke has fulfilled his early promise and is one of the country's most acclaimed screenwriters. Blair is a struggling single mother with a teenage daughter, a job as a chef, and a tragic secret that will test all of her emotional resources. Still as feisty and as offbeat as ever, Blair loves no one other than her daughter and she intends to keep things that way. That is, until she crosses paths once again with Luke Bellingham. Now, Blair is faced with the decision of her lifetime: what to do when the right man comes along...but at the wrong time.
Take a deceived man who thinks he doesn't want to live, and introduce him to a woman who thinks that if she has enough sex she might not have to die, add a good kid and a great dog, a wicked humor and a clean prose style and you have a novel that's hard not to read in one sitting. — Pam Houston, Cowboys Are My Weakness
On a Night Like This is thoughtful, graceful and poignant, full of tenderness and toughness, blessed by a powerful sense of place, balancing the redemption of love against the terror of illness.
— Roxana Robinson, Sweetwater
Ellen Sussman eloquently takes on the twists and turns of real people in complex relationships - mother/daughter, lovers, friends - in this page turning novel. I couldn't put the book down, cheering Blair on every step of the way. — Lalita Tademy, Cane River and Red River
Like all compelling fiction, On a Night Like This is funny and sad and true. Blair Clemens is a complex heroine, today's answer to Love Story's Jenny Cavilleri. I couldn't stop reading from first page to last. — Katharine Weber, The Little Women
Ellen Sussman's San Francisco is moody, lovely, and tattered around the edges, like the two heroines of her magical debut, On a Night Like This. — Amanda Eyre Ward, Sleep Towards Heaven and How To Be Lost
From the first few extraordinary pages of On a Night Like This, I was completely sucked into this book. Ellen Sussman's characters are vivid, contemporary and compelling, true to their off-beat lives and to their own definition of love and family. The relationship between the mother and the daughter is particularly moving, heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. I felt myself rooting for the characters until the very last page. — Lian Dolan, Satellite Sisters
Ellen Sussman's beautiful novel offers readers the best of both worlds - gorgeous prose with a page-turner plot. The characters are so real and funny and smart and sad that I felt I could reach into the pages and touch them. While Blair's secret is heartbreaking, by some miracle the end of this story is reassuringly peaceful, and even happy. I found great solace within these pages.
— Lolly Winston, Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately
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Excerpt from Chapter 1
Blair lifted the man's arm and slid out from under him. She tucked a pillow back in her place, and he embraced it, easily. She smiled at that. Men. She gathered her clothes from the floor and tucked them under her arm, picked up her shoes, stopped in the doorway. She looked back at the man, his long, lean body curled away from her, his hair a tousled mess, his face half-buried in the pillow. I could climb back into bed and stay there awhile, she thought. She closed the door quietly behind her.
The hallway of his apartment was dark and she slid her hand along the wall until she found a light switch, flicked it on, squinted in the sudden brightness. She hadn't looked at the clock. Had she slept all night or only an hour or two?
She headed down the hall, drowsily dropped a shoe which thudded on the hardwood floor. Suddenly another door opened and a woman appeared, pajamaed and sleep-rumpled. Blair recovered her shoe, stood and shrugged, naked, too slow to cover herself up.
"Are you a roommate or a wife?" Blair asked.
The woman peered at Blair. Someone without her glasses.
"Roommate," she mumbled.
"Good," Blair said. "Go back to sleep. I'm leaving."
Perry. That was his name.
"Sleeping. Sorry I woke you."
The woman plunged back into the darkness of her room. Blair continued on down the hall.
She found the kitchen, dropped her clothes and shoes on the old pine table, found a glass and poured herself water from the tap. She drank, then opened the fridge. Filled the glass with white wine, sipped at it, took it with her back to the table. Microwave clock read 11:45. She had barely slept. Amanda would still be awake, maybe waiting for her. She found a phone, curled into a chair at the table, dialed and drank.
"Hey," Amanda said into the phone.
"I'm sorry," Blair told her. "I'm late."
"Or early," Amanda told her. "I thought maybe you'd crawl in sometime tomorrow."
"I don't crawl, Amanda."
"Then you'd tango home. Who's the guy?"
"Maybe I'm at the library. Studying for a master's degree in quantum mechanics."
"You coming home?"
"Did you get worried? Damn, I should have called."
"I didn't get worried. I'm not a baby."
"What did you eat for dinner?"
"I finished the lasagna."
"Damn you. I've been dreaming about that lasagna."
"I'll make you some eggs."
"You go to sleep."
"I'm not tired."
Blair smiled. "O.K., then I'd love a mushroom omelet. With cheese. Tons of cheese."
She hung up the phone, took one last swig of wine, pulled herself up and out of the chair. When she half-turned, reaching her sweater over her head, she saw someone standing in the doorway and gasped.
"You scared me," she said. Perry. Naked and watching her. She reached for her jeans, pulled them on. Stuffed her bra and underpants into her backpack.
"Who was that? Your boyfriend?"
Blair smiled, shook her head. "My daughter," she said. "Sixteen years old. Waiting for her mom to come home and tuck her in."
"You're some teenager's mom?"
"That I am." She slipped her feet into her shoes and turned toward him.
"You can't stay?" he asked.
"I don't stay," she said. "Something you should know about me." Blair put her hand on his chest, pressed her palm into him. "But I had fun."
"Too bad," he said, covering her hand with his own.
"Tell me where we are. How I get home. That sort of thing."
They had met at a bar. He had driven them back to his place. She hadn't paid attention to anything except his slow voice, his hand on her thigh, the soft blur of streetlights from her tequila high.
"I'll drive you," he said.
"No," she told him. "I'll find a cab. Go on back to sleep."
"That's it?" he asked.
"You mean are we now formally engaged? I don't think so."
He smiled. "I mean, can we try this one more time."
"Maybe. Give me your phone number."
"You don't give out yours."
He walked to the kitchen counter, pulled out a drawer, rifled through, found a business card which he passed to her. He was comfortable being naked - she liked watching him.
"I'll call you," she said.
"Maybe," he told her, smiling.
She pulled her backpack onto her back, headed toward the door. She looked back at him, blew him a kiss. He was watching her.
"Do you always do this?" he asked.
She stopped, leaned back against the door, suddenly tired. She waited.
"Is this what men do? And you do it better?"
"No," she said.
"Been burned too many times?" he asked.
"No," she said.
"I give up."
"I'm dying," she told him. "It's easier this way."
Neither spoke for a moment. It was the first time she said it. Something in her chest tightened. Blair leaned over, placed his business card on the side table by the front door.
"AIDS?" he asked, and she could imagine his mind flashing: condom, we used a condom, hallelujah for condoms.
She shook her head. "I wouldn't do that to you," she said. "Just cancer. Nothing to be scared of."
"Except relationships," he told her.
"Right," she said. "Everyone's a therapist these days. Gotta run. It's been grand."
She opened the door, walked out, pulled it closed behind her.
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