Real Love

A Novel


March 7, 2023 | ISBN 9780593357118


March 7, 2023 | ISBN 9780593357125

About the Book

Reality-TV love may look tempting, but real love could change everything in the debut novel from the Bachelorette star and author of Miss Me with That.

Maya Johnson lives her life according to The Plan: to become the youngest-ever female director of her company, marry her college sweetheart, and build a fabulous life in Miami. Seeing as she’s almost near checking every last one of those items off her list, she doesn’t feel the need to go on the nationally beloved reality dating show Real Love. So when she’s offered the chance, she turns it down and tells the producers that her best friend, Delilah, should take part instead.

But as she watches Delilah become the lead, fall in love, and change her life, Maya begins to wonder if she’s as happy as she thought—she doesn't have much in the way of a work-life balance, her relationship isn’t quite where she thinks it should be, and very little in her life is sparking joy.

When Maya's free-spirited whirlwind of a little sister, Ella, blows into town for a surprise visit, Maya finds herself newly intrigued by Ella’s unrooted existence—and she’s equally intrigued by Ella’s gorgeous friend and fellow world traveler, Kai.

At a crossroads with both her professional and personal happiness, Maya will have to decide which path to choose: The Plan she’s worked so hard for, or something new entirely.
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Praise for Real Love

“A beautiful battle between head and heart punctuated with punchy dialogue and vibrant scene setting . . . this vibrant tale of self-discovery is sure to win fans.”Publishers Weekly

“Pure fun, a fizzy and relatable mixture of female friendship, romance and career struggles, with a dash of behind-the-scenes reality TV.”BookPage
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Real Love


I hit ignore when my phone starts to ring . . . again.

I’m never late to anything, so I understand why everyone is calling. They’re probably worried my old ladyish driving skills finally brought forth my demise against some hotshot street racer on my way to Delilah’s.

Or they’re wondering where I am because this party is being broadcast live on national TV. Traipsing into Delilah’s living room late like I don’t have a care in the world could possibly mean making a fool of myself—­and/or Delilah—­for all the world to see.

Not that I’d ever admit it out loud, but I’ve been dreading tonight for months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m over the moon for Delilah. She was one of my very first friends in Miami. She threatened to poison Mark’s spinach wrap when he hushed me—­actually, literally hushed me—­during my first meeting at Wright, Ghoram, and Degrate. She understood me on a level nobody else ever has and has been a constant in my life . . . right until she up and moved across the country for three months to find a husband on a reality show.

The ringer on my phone goes off again. My finger hovers over the ignore button, ready to send the call to voicemail, but at the last second, I decide to answer it. What if Delilah finally came to her senses and took off to a small village in Mexico where nobody would ever recognize her from that one American TV show where she spent twelve weeks kissing strangers? That’s news I’d want to hear in real time.

“Hello?” I say.

“Where are you? This is live, we can’t wait for you!” Bailey’s southern accent slips through in her panic. She moved to Miami from Georgia at eighteen for college and she never went back. She’s a southern belle with roots in pageantry and she specializes in subtle shade, but she’s very much a Florida girl now.

“Relax.” I mimic the deep breathing techniques the teachers do when she drags me to yoga class with her. “I’m on my way.” I leave out that I may or may not still be in my apartment. “I’ll be there soon enough, but if I’m late, I’ll just wait outside until one of you calls me in. I promise not to ruin Delilah’s big moment with a late entrance.”

This is the first time I’ll see Delilah since she threw her life into a tailspin, and I’m a little nervous. What if this happily-­ever-­after she bet everything on takes a turn for the worse? Maybe things are great now, but what about in a week? A month? A year? When all that’s left of this is unemployment and endless GIFs and memes plastered across the internet?

And what makes me even more nervous, the part I definitely wouldn’t admit out loud, is what if the person I loved so much before she left is gone? I fully understand that growth means changing and evolving as a person. But old Delilah was one of my favorite humans—­what if I don’t recognize this new version of her? Or worse, what if this new version of her doesn’t like me?

“Oh my god.” Bailey huffs into the phone, and from the fading noise in the background, I know I’ve annoyed her into changing locations. “This isn’t about you being here for her big moment. This is about you being here because she loves you and knows she wouldn’t have had this opportunity or her fairy-­tale ending if it weren’t for you turning the opportunity down.”

Even though she can’t see me, I narrow my eyes in suspicion—­that sounds a little too earnest for the Bailey I know. I sit on one of the pristine white stools tucked beneath my even more pristine white countertops. “And?”

And you’re the only person who will drink whiskey with me. I don’t want to have to drink wine all night and end up snoring on her couch during a live broadcast!”


There it is.

I’m not a drinker per se, but I do enjoy a Crown and Coke on occasion . . . and also every Thursday for happy hour and whenever someone suggests grabbing a cocktail. A girl’s gotta have her signature drink.

“Ulterior motives.” I tsk without malice. She gets so worked up it’s just fun to play with her emotions. Especially when mine are already on the fritz. “But since you were so honest, I’ll even go five above the speed limit and be there as fast as I can.”

“Five above? Whoa there! Be careful, I don’t want you getting whiplash from driving so fast.”

“Smart-­ass.” I slide my feet into my Rothy’s and grab my classic Chanel bag off the counter. “Just for that, I’m using cruise control and sticking to two miles over.”

Because as much as I want to stay home and watch anything other than Real Love until Vaughn comes over to regale me with all the shenanigans from the Miami clubbing scene, I want to be there for my friends more.

I also want to partake in the free alcohol with Bailey.

“Please speed,” Bailey begs. “I’ll pay for any tickets you get and I’ll pay for lunch on Thursday.”

This is when I know she’s desperate. In the words of her unapologetically southern mom, bless her heart, Bailey is notoriously cheap. I’m not sure she’s ever offered to pay for anything over the course of our entire friendship.

This should make my exit even more urgent, but it slows my steps instead.

“Is it that bad?”

While being filmed watching a show that makes me cringe so hard I feel like I’m going to pass out was never on my to-­do list, tonight is the kind of environment Bailey thrives in. Free catered food and booze, attention galore, and an excuse to dress up? I can’t imagine why she sounds so desperate. She should be in her element.

“Uh . . . well . . . you know . . .” She struggles to string together a sentence. Her accent is the only thing overshadowing her nerves. “It’s not bad, but I think she’s nervous. She needs you here.”

And when I hear that, it’s like the bat signal lights up the already bright Miami night sky.

“I’ll be there in ten.”

Before Delilah signed up to be the lead on Real Love, she lived in a great studio apartment in the heart of Miami Beach. The building was amazing, and her amenities were top-­notch—­her pool was our favorite—­but her space was minimal. She always said the size made it easier to clean and that she didn’t need much room for anything other than her clothes . . . which is why pulling up to her new house in Coral Gables is a huge shock.

Cars line the street in front of her place. The large homes with their perfectly manicured lawns are highlighted by the streetlights. I’m sure if I drove down this street during the day, the sidewalks would be filled with nannies walking together while the future leaders of Miami skip down the street blowing bubbles and running in the grass.

Now, however, camerapeople with giant battery packs are running up and down the street from RVs to Delilah’s front door. The commotion and activity are a stark contrast to the quiet, almost suburban vibe this neighborhood is known for.

Just a few months ago Delilah’s life was calm and organized. Now it’s a freaking circus.

And I find it’s one more reason I’m so happy with my decision not to do this.

I drive farther down the street until I finally find an open spot to park my car, grateful she at least chose one of the safer neighborhoods to lure me to so late at night. I’m just glad I wore my flats instead of the strappy stilettos Bailey tried to talk me into wearing. I might not know everything, but I do know there’s never a reason to wear stilettos to a friend’s house.

I tap out a quick text to Bailey letting her know I’m walking up and will be there in a second. I rush down the wide sidewalks, avoiding the men with long microphones who pass me with muttered apologies. I turn into her walkway, but before I can pause to take a breath and brace for whatever the night has in store for me, I hear someone I don’t know shouting my name.

“Maya? Maya Johnson?”

I nod my head yes, looking around the yard, trying to figure out who called me, when a woman with her blond hair pulled into a bun on the top of her head appears by my side. She loops her arm through mine and pulls me off of the sidewalk and across the lawn, toward a tent set up at the back of the driveway.

“I’ve got Maya, give us three and we’ll be ready,” she yells into her walkie-­talkie. I think somebody responds, but I can’t understand what they say through the thick static.

About the Author

Rachel Lindsay
Rachel Lindsay is the creative force behind Caked by Rach on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, where she shares her clever cupcake creations. What began as a hobby in 2012, has grown into a source of inspiration and delight for nearly 2 million fans worldwide. Rachel currently resides in Perth, Australia with her family. More by Rachel Lindsay
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