By Kate Spencer
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Franny Doyle is having the worst day. She’s been laid off from her (admittedly mediocre) job, the subway doors ripped her favorite silk dress to ruins, and now she’s flashed her unmentionables to half of lower Manhattan. On the plus side, a dashing stranger came to her rescue with his (Gucci!) suit jacket. On the not-so-plus side, he can’t get away from her fast enough.
Worse yet? Someone posted their (entirely not) meet-cute online. Suddenly Franny and her knight-in-couture, Hayes Montgomery III, are the newest social media sensation, and all of New York is shipping #SubwayQTs.
Only Franny and Hayes couldn’t be a more disastrous match. She’s fanciful, talkative, and creative. He’s serious, shy, and all about numbers. Luckily, in a city of eight million people, they never have to meet again. Yet somehow, Hayes and Franny keep running into each other—and much to their surprise, they enjoy each other’s company. A lot. But when Franny’s whole world is turned upside down (again!), can she find the courage to trust in herself and finally have the life—and love—she’s always wanted?
A clever, tender rom-com romp for readers of Jasmine Guillory, Abby Jimenez, and Sophie Cousens.
Read this if you love:
- Opposites attract romance
- A love letter to New York City
- An adorable meet disaster
- Found family
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No one plans on getting laid off when they wake up in the morning.
No one sips their first drop of coffee and thinks, Today’s the day, fifteen minutes into checking my morning email and drafting a reply to that pain-in-the-ass client Melinda, that I’ll get a notification in Slack telling me to head down to the main conference room for an “important chat.”
No one imagines that the super successful interior design start-up they work for—you know, the one that had a massive hiring blitz four years ago, keeps fridges full of organic cold-pressed juices, has beanbag chairs in all the conference rooms, and hosts weekly rooftop happy hours—will lay off half their staff in a matter of forty-five minutes.
No one dares to consider that the venture-capitalist money that had poured in, so much endless cash that it had instilled an overblown sense of possibility and security and allowed the twenty-six-year-old founder to increase staff from twenty-seven to seventy-four people over just the last year (and buy a cherry-red Maserati along the way), would be mismanaged by the team at the top, and totally gone, just like that.
At least, I didn’t.
In fact, it seemed impossible that the same people who once had excitedly told me about their standard four weeks of vacation for all employees, even entry-level ones, would be one day sitting across from me on multicolored midcentury-modern chairs (not ones I’d ever choose for a client, if I’m being honest), with giant cups of Starbucks in front of them, uttering these words:
“We’re so sorry, Franny. We’ve really valued everything you’ve contributed to Spayce. But we need to consolidate the digital and design team. Even marketing is taking a big cut. This is just part of working in the start-up space. You know how it is. We grew too quickly, and now we need to scale back.”
I should have known that when you’re working for a company that promises to “disrupt” things, they might just mean your life.
The promotion that I’d been assured was right around the corner—for over a year—never came. Instead, I’d been unceremoniously sacked, all before ten in the morning. It felt like I’d just been dumped by someone I thought was about to get down on one knee and propose.
I walked back in a daze to the massive bright-white worktable I shared with six other junior designers, tears stinging the corners of my eyes. Tightness spread across my chest, panic settling into my body. My brain was suddenly a running list of numbers and bullet points, ticking across a screen in my head.
Those custom checkered Vans I had forked over one hundred dollars for while doing some late-night online retail therapy last week.
My apartment was “affordable” by New York City standards, but on my salary it was still a stretch, an expense I justified because I loved the space so much. Tiny, yes, and occasionally visited by a cockroach or two. But it was all mine.
And, of course, I had big plans to knock down some of my credit card debt and pay off that trip I took to Miami three years ago, where I ordered a $300 bottle of wine by accident at dinner and was too embarrassed to tell the waiter I’d made a mistake.
I’d put all my hopes and dreams for the year on the vision board I’d made alongside my two best friends, Cleo and Lola, and a mound of bagels from Russ & Daughters on a Sunday morning in early January. A promotion at work, financial freedom, a vintage black Chanel purse made of soft buttery leather with a gold-chain strap. Losing my job had definitely not been on there. And I still didn’t have that Chanel bag. I guess at least now I could definitively say vision boards were 100 percent BS.
Doug, the head of IT, circled our communal desk with an awkward look on his face, logging us out of our computers with a few quick taps. Melinda was never going to get a reply from me about the bright-red velvet couch I’d sourced for her Austin living room. The fact that she’d be sitting there, irritated and awaiting my reply, was the only bright spot in this otherwise garbage day.
A stack of cardboard boxes was now in the center of the office, strewn atop the bright-pink couches that served as our design team’s morning meeting gathering space. Ramona, my quiet, introverted, and brilliant coworker, who created life-size papier-mâché sculptures at her art space in Queens on the weekends, stood across from me, sniffling as she placed a few items from her desk into a box.
“Ramona,” I said as I caught her eye. “I’m so sorry.”
She wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve and gave me a weepy smile. “I haven’t told anyone here yet, but I’m pregnant.”
My mouth fell open. “Oh god.”
She nodded. “And Chris—” She got choked up again as she said her partner’s name. “He just quit his job so he could do culinary school full-time. We’re so screwed.”
My stomach flipped with that about-to-puke feeling at the thought of how they were going to afford everything they needed for a baby.
“It’s so messed up,” I said. “My student-loan bills are already a nightmare. I don’t know how I’m going to pay them down now.”
Conversations around us were muted and whispered, but the panic was tangible. Most of the office was under thirty, and almost half of us were now out of work, sent into the wilds of the New York City job market with whatever severance we’d been given. I’d spent four years plugging away at a job that maybe hadn’t always stimulated me creatively, but it had paid well, and my coworkers were fun and easy to be around for nine hours a day.
And now, like me, they were reduced to shoving what was left of their time at Spayce into a sixteen-inch cardboard box. A cube-shaped crystal award for Best Digital Design Start-Up. A small green turtle figurine my coworker Raphael had brought me back from Mexico. The framed photo of Keanu Reeves someone had left on my desk as an April Fool’s joke. The branded stainless-steel water bottle everyone at the company had gotten last Earth Day.
The last four years of my life, packed up in ten minutes, ready to be lugged home on the subway.
With my vintage bejeweled purse on one shoulder and my canvas Spayce tote bag still packed with my lunch of pasta leftovers on the other, I grabbed my box, mumbled some hushed goodbyes, and headed to the elevator, pressing the neon-blue call button with my knee.
We were in the middle of a heat wave in New York City, one of those bizarro stretches where it goes from sixty to ninety degrees in the middle of May. At seven thirty in the morning, just hours earlier, a billowy blue-green tank-sleeved silk dress (my best friend Cleo called it my “fancy sack”) paired with black high-top Chucks had seemed like a perfectly reasonable outfit choice.
But huffing the three blocks through Times Square while weighted down with all this crap turned me into a sweating tangle of bags and clothes, armpits damp and sweat beads clinging to my curls. And a blister was rubbing itself into existence on my right heel.
After what felt like an hour of digging around, I found my MetroCard and gave it a swipe through the large metal turnstile at the station. By the time I’d made it down a flight of stairs and maneuvered around the late-morning wall of humans still rushing to work, I was a seething, irritated mess. I walked toward the downtown 2/3 train, only to be greeted with a sign by the stairs that declared NO DOWNTOWN TRAINS AT THIS STATION DUE TO CONSTRUCTION.
Everything that could possibly go wrong today was happening. I shifted directions, grumbling curse words under my breath, and headed toward the Q train. This would at least get me to Brooklyn, and then I could loop back on the 2/3 from Atlantic, which would suck. God, I just wanted to get home.
As I tried to catch my breath, I inhaled the pungent stink of the subway that was set free the second warm air descended upon our fair but smelly city. “Oh my god,” I muttered, holding in a gag.
And then I heard it: the squeal of brakes, a sure sign that my train was arriving at the platform, which was down yet another flight of stairs in front of me. I dared to breathe through my nose—ugh, everything smelled like urine—and took off jogging, the tchotchkes in my box bouncing with every step. I hit the stairs and caught a glimpse of the silver glint of subway car. It was still in the station.
Ding ding, the subway doors announced. Any New Yorker knew what that sound meant. It was time to run.
“No, no, no!” I shouted, and sprinted onto the platform just as the doors were, mercifully, opening a second time. The train was a blur, but I could see through the scratched-up windows that it was packed—bodies next to bodies next to bodies. An entire barricade of humans stood just inside the doors.
“Excuse me,” I huffed, wedging myself next to an older woman with a wire grocery cart, who shuffled forward into the center of the car, and a giant of a man who was long and lean and all suit.
“Sorry. Thank you,” I said, angling myself sideways to squeeze on. There was no way to shrink myself with this stupid box in my arms. But still, I was inside, with inches to spare. And I was finally heading home to escape this god-awful shit show of a morning.
As the train lurched forward, I sighed with relief and leaned my back against the doors of the car. Wrapping my right arm around the edge of the box, I reached my left arm for my purse, hoping to grab my phone so I could text Cleo and Lola with my news. Just as my fingers grazed the hard plastic of my phone case, I felt a firm tug behind me.
“What the hell?” I muttered, trying to shift again. But I couldn’t move. It was like something had pinned me to the doors of the train, securing me in place. I stepped forward, inadvertently leaning my weight against a pregnant woman who was holding on to a handrail for balance. Why didn’t anyone offer her a seat? I thought as I apologized for bumping into her. My brain was skipping around between worrying about her to wondering why I couldn’t move, and then suddenly my ears connected with something else:
The sound of my dress ripping down the back.
My heart rate picked up, beating its own chant of Oh my god, oh my god. My dress—the gorgeous locally-made-in-Brooklyn, cost-a-small-fortune soft silk dress that I’d splurged on at Alter in Williamsburg—had gotten stuck in the subway doors and ripped straight down the seam, from the back of my neck right past my butt. My fancy sack was now a fancy mess.
“Oh my god,” I said out loud.
New Yorkers are well practiced in the art of not staring, but dare to step into their personal space and their eyes turn into lasers that can incinerate upon contact. Unfortunately, no one’s personal space was safe around me as I frantically tried to grab the back of my dress with my free hand and hold it shut. At first, my elbow smacked into someone’s arm, and I was met with a “Jesus Christ” from the skateboarder who’d been on the receiving end.
“Sorry!” I stepped forward to recalibrate and squashed someone’s foot underneath mine.
“Excuse me,” hissed a woman in fancy athleisure wear as she recoiled.
“Sorry!” I squeaked again. God, my arms ached. I shifted the box onto my left side and shimmied as far as I could against the door, hoping I could buy myself some time before the next stop. But as I grabbed the material by my butt and held it shut, the dress started to slip off my shoulders.
Is it possible to laugh and cry at the exact same time? Because just as tears pricked along the edge of my eyes, hot and huge, I let out a guffaw. This day.
“You okay?” the pregnant woman asked, a look of genuine concern on her face.
“My dress.” I gestured toward my back. As I did, the right shoulder strap slipped off my body completely.
“Oh no,” she said, horrified.
“I know,” I replied, the panic evident in the high octave of my voice. “I’m having a massively shitty day, and in a few minutes I’m going to be mooning the station when the doors open.” All it took was one blink before the tears began dripping down my face. Everything awful that had just happened to me was spilling out, in the most public place possible.
Before I could stop her, the pregnant woman shouted into the crowd of commuters, “Does anyone have any safety pins?” Her voice was loud enough to startle almost every person nearby. “Safety pins? Anyone?”
A few people looked up and then looked back down at their phones. A girl in an NYU hoodie, her hair in a giant topknot on her head, glanced over and offered me a sympathetic smile. The older woman began to dig into her massive purse.
“It’s fine. I’m fine,” I tried to assure her, even though I was obviously not. I pressed myself against the door as we chugged toward the next station.
“Here, honey!” The older woman waved, and the pregnant woman reached out her hand. “It’s not a safety pin, but it might help.”
When the pregnant woman stepped back toward me, she opened her palm and revealed a small hair clip.
“Do you want me to try to close it up with this?” she asked me, a skeptical look on her face. But before I could tell her no, a deep, calm voice shot through the din of the subway.
It was the giant suit standing next to me, except now he was just crisp white shirt and soft blue tie, his shoulders hitting right at my eyeline. His navy jacket was dangling neatly from his hand. “Here,” he said again, clearly perplexed by my inability to understand exactly what he wanted me to do with his coat.
I looked up to meet his eyes.
Even in my Holy shit, my dress has ripped open straight down the back, and I’m in the one thong I own and never wear, because thongs are miserably uncomfortable, but I bailed on doing laundry last night, so here I am, and to top it all off, I just got let go from my job and I still have at least five more years of student loans to pay state, I could register that he was handsome. The kind of good-looking stranger that causes you to think Whoa when you pass them on the street.
I knew just by the confident, assured way he held himself—shoulders back, chin just slightly tilted to the sky—and by the cut slopes of his jaw and his thick brown hair, that this was a man who had never known an awkward phase. While the rest of us were running around seventh grade with oozing zits and blinding metal braces (I had to sleep in headgear, for god’s sake), he breezed through with ease, all long muscles and creamy, clear skin and enviable cheekbones and dark lashes, from the day he was born.
And then there were his eyes, stern and serious but also big and beautiful. At first glance, they looked brown, but with a second look I realized they were so inky and dark that they came closer to matching the navy of his suit. He had the body of a runner or a cyclist or—it clicked then—a triathlete. I could see him in one of those skimpy running suits now, muscle pulsing against spandex, not caring that everyone in the world could see every angle and curve of his perfectly sculpted body.
“Please.” His voice was caught between concerned and annoyed, and the slight wrinkle between his brow underscored his tone. “Take it.” He even had good eyebrows, the kind that somehow looked well-groomed even though he was surely too cool to wax them.
“What?” I said, my voice shaky. “You want me to take your jacket?”
He nodded and offered a small smile. “Yes.”
And then he blinked, holding his eyes closed an extra beat, showing off those lashes, the kind women revered with both jealousy and awe.
“I have five more of these at home.” He said this firmly, like it should be obvious. “It would be of much more help to you.”
Five more? If I wasn’t half-naked on the subway living through my worst nightmare, I’d make some crack about selling his fancy suits to pay my rent. But instead, I pursed my lips together, which I’d painted in my bright-red all-day lip stain just hours earlier. It was an attempt to push down the tightness in my throat, but it was no use. The misery of this morning was rushing out of me in heavy sobs.
“That’s really nice of you. Thank you.” I sniffed, my nose stuffy now. Good lord, why does snot need to be a part of crying? I already looked like a newborn sloth when I cried, and the dripping nose only made things worse. “But I can’t take it. Your suit jacket. How would I even. Get it back to you?” My breathing was choppy, and the words came out in gasps.
Before he could reply, the train lurched forward and I stumbled a step, my left arm instinctively shooting out to stop myself from falling. I reached for a pole to grab on to, but there was nothing there, and instead I face-planted into him, my left cheek smooshed against his chest, which was warm and solid. My arm that had searched for the pole slid along his side instead, and I wrapped it around his back just to have something to hold on to, my fingers gripping his shirt like a steering wheel. The jolt sent my dress flapping behind me. He took a step forward to balance himself, and his hand landed on my butt where my dress hung open, his fingers firm on my skin.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” I heard him say from somewhere. Something about the soft press of his palm—hot and brief on my bare skin—was both electric and comforting, all at once. We stood like this for what felt like minutes: two strangers awkwardly embracing, my cheek still flush against his chest, so close that if I actually stopped to listen I could probably hear his heartbeat.
“It’s okay,” I babbled into the cool relief of his shirt.
He pulled his hand off me and steadied it on the roof of the subway car. “Excuse me,” he said, taking a small step back, holding his hand out like it had just been burned. “That was an accident. My apologies.”
Then he glanced down, first at me, and then at his shirt, where I’d left two wet blotches where my eyes had been. And right below it—oh god—was a trace of snot. Suddenly, getting laid off didn’t seem like the worst thing to happen to me today.
I backed away from him, and the pregnant woman gave me a sympathetic look as I accidentally bumped into her. Again.
“I would take it,” she said as I muttered another apology. “Unless you want—” She gestured to the clip in her hand.
The conductor’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker as the train rolled to a slow stop in the tunnel. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re just holding here as we wait for a train to leave the station ahead of us.”
“Okay, yeah.” I nodded at the stranger on the subway. “Thank you so much.”
He held up the jacket in front of me by the collar, like the men did for their dates in the black-and-white movies that my grandma and I used to watch. Gingerly, he draped it over my shoulders, tugging it ever so slightly so it hung snug over my body, his cheek coming dangerously close to brushing against the top of my head. I breathed a sigh of relief that I was no longer showing my ass to the entire city. As I did, I caught a whiff of his scent lingering on the collar. Apparently, this man’s neck smelled like an afternoon spent with old books stacked on wooden shelves as icy rain cracked against the window, with hints of spicy pine and a fireplace that roared with hot flames and flickering coals. It was heady and decadent, steady and dark.
Someone handed me a tissue, and I blew my nose into it until it was too damp to use. “I just got laid off,” I blubbered. “And now this.” I gestured with my head, as if I could somehow point to my dress with my forehead. “It’s really been a bad morning.”
He offered me a small smile and a nod but said nothing.
I tucked the tissue into the pocket of his coat and noticed a small grimace ripple across his face.
“I’ll get it dry-cleaned and back to you as soon as I can.”
He shook his head. “I swear, I’m good. Besides, I think you need it more than me.”
I nodded. He wasn’t wrong. I did not want to ride the subway all the way to Brooklyn and then make the twelve-minute walk back to my apartment with my dress ripped open down the back.
“I really appreciate it,” I said, and I could feel the sobs hovering at the back of my throat, ready at any moment to make another appearance. I gritted my teeth and took a breath, calming myself, reining the tears back in. “This is worse than the time I peed myself from laughing too hard outside Cherry Tavern and had to buy a sweatshirt on Saint Marks to wrap around my waist and wear home.”
“I’m sorry, what?” He looked genuinely confused. “You peed yourself?”
It was a bad habit, a tic, the thing I did when other people just bit their nails or twirled their hair. I tried to change direction with humor. “It’s nothing. Anyway, I’m really grateful. You quite literally saved my ass.”
But he didn’t laugh; he barely cracked a smile. Instead, his brow tightened in response, his cheeks pinkish and bright. His mouth was a straight line, and as he glanced away, I noticed the hint of his tongue running across his bottom lip.
God, I wished Cleo and Lola were here to witness this. Laid off. Humiliated in front of an entire subway car. Butt cheeks bared to the world. Topped off with a hot guy coming to my rescue—a hot guy who was clearly not impressed by my ability to rip an entire article of clothing in half without even using my hands.
One day, this would make an amazing story, retold through swells of laughter over pitchers of beer. The kind of tale that earned a declaration of “This is going in my wedding toast for you,” which was the highest praise we awarded the mortifying moments we shared together. I’d literally lost both my job and the clothes off my back, and my dignity was not far behind.
Thinking of my friends calmed me, and my breathing steadied a bit. Inhale, exhale. The train lurched forward again and roared into the Canal Street station, in the heart of downtown Manhattan. I stayed focused on Cleo and Lola and imagined what we would all nickname this guy when I told them the story. Hot Suit. He was definitely a Hot Suit. Maybe not my best work. Certainly, not very original. But it was to the point and easy to remember. He was hot, and he wore a suit. Done and done.
I glanced back toward him, the man formerly known as Stranger on the Subway, as he bent to pick up a leather briefcase that he’d planted between his feet. It was smooth, polished brown leather but still looked vintage. Well loved, even. I’d never met anyone under the age of sixty who carried a freakin’ briefcase, but then again, I didn’t mix much with men who wore suits to work either.
When the train rolled to a stop and the doors opened, Hot Suit offered me a polite nod. “Well, good luck,” he said. “With everything.” I was so dazed by the whole experience that it took me a beat to realize he was getting off.
“Hey!” I shouted out the door as he stepped onto the platform. He angled his head back toward me, and our eyes met again. “Thank you! Seriously. I owe you one!” He shook his head and gave me a slight wave of his hand, a curt goodbye from a stranger who had just swooped in and saved me—my butt included—without even blinking an eye.
“I’m sorry about crying all over your shirt!” I yelled again, but he didn’t turn around. And then, Hot Suit was gone, swallowed by the crowd pushing off the train.
* * *
Back in the safety of my tiny apartment in Brooklyn, I dumped the box onto my sliver of kitchen counter and dropped my bags to the ground before shrugging Hot Suit’s jacket off my shoulders. I held it in front of me, examining it skeptically. I hadn’t found anything in the pockets besides my crumpled tissue (yes, I’d checked on my walk home), and it looked and felt either brand-new or impeccably cared for. My finger brushed against the edge of a tag stitched along the collar. Gucci. Wow. This was now officially the nicest piece of clothing I owned.
Hanging it on a hook inside my closet, I let my ruined dress slide off my body and then collapsed onto my bed in a heap. I was achingly exhausted. Having the worst day of my life, I texted my friends. pls send bagels.
Lola responded immediately. BRB meeting will text asap!!! I knew this meant I might not hear from her for hours. When your job is breaking celebrity news on the internet, reporting about the latest divorce or scandal usually comes before texting your friends back. But Lola was loyal; even if she couldn’t always respond right away, she never failed to show up when it counted.
- "A tender, When Harry Met Sally–worthy romance . . . the romantic tension and words unspoken will leave you visibly swooning page after page."—Kirkus, Starred Review
- "Spencer's bubbly, opposites-attract debut romance doubles as a love letter to New York CIty . . . this is a joy."—Publishers Weekly
- "This slow-burn romance makes for a delightful, sweet debut."—Booklist
“Spencer writes with a wry lilt and a gift for dialogue. The novel is as much a love-letter to New York City as any Nora Ephron screenplay, an ode to sticky days in Central Park, bodega shopping, and the serendipity that can crash into you in a city that big and bustling. Grade: A ”
- “Spencer writes with a wry lilt and a gift for dialogue. The novel is as much a love letter to New York City as any Nora Ephron screenplay.”—Entertainment Weekly
- "A New York minute is all the time you'll take to gobble up this hilarious, heartwarming story of missed connections, friends as family, and Big Apple magic." —Georgia Clark, author of It Had to Be You
- “Spins a catastrophic meet-cute into a richly realized romance that's surrounded by even more love stories—between friends, between families, and between New Yorkers and their city. You'll devour it.”—Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, USA Today bestselling authors of The Royal We and The Heir Affair
- "It's sure to be a rom-com classic!"—Maureen Goo, author of Somewhere Only We Know
- “Sincere, tender, and charming as hell. Kate Spencer's debut novel is a love story to friendship, discovering what—and who—makes you feel truly yourself, and New York City. I flew through this book and enjoyed every moment!”—Jasmine Guillory, New York Times bestselling author of While We Were Dating
- "Sweet, with a touch of steam and a lot of laughs . . . I adored the hilarious, memorable meet-cute and wanted to hang out with Franny and her friends. The vibrant New York setting was the perfect backdrop to ride along with Hayes and Franny as their lives were turned upside down by love. A delightful debut!"—Farah Heron, author of Accidentally Engaged
- “A frolicky, playful rom-com about finding Mr. Right when everything else goes wrong.”—Abby Jimenez, New York Times bestselling author of Life’s Too Short
- “A Nora Ephron romp for the modern age, IN A NEW YORK MINUTE serves up a subway meet cute that goes viral before it goes very wrong—and then delivers an absorbing, heart-achingly good HEA. With characters so boisterous and loyal you’ll want to send them cards on their birthdays (and bagels, lots of bagels), and a stoic, fumbling, romantic dream of a hero, Kate Spencer’s novel is a sparkling delight about found and chosen family, being brave even in the tiny moments, and the rewards we can reap when we put our authentic selves out there. What a sweet, hilarious treat.”—Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author
- “If you’re looking for the perfect ‘meet cute,’ look no further. Adorable banter and countless laugh-out-loud moments makes this charming romance a true delight.”—Farrah Rochon, USA Today bestselling author of The Dating Playbook
- “A perfect New York romance, as sweet, steamy, and surprising as the city itself.”—Abbi Waxman, USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
- On Sale
- Feb 7, 2023
- Page Count
- 336 pages