Ready or Not

A Novel

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February 13, 2024 | ISBN 9780593796023

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About the Book

A surprise pregnancy leads to even more life-changing revelations in this “absolutely buoyant read” (Elle, The Best and Most Anticipated Romance Books of 2024, So Far).

“Bastone delivers on this truly heartwarming, funny, and real story. Come for the dog bar, stay for the special, slow-burn romcom.”—Abby Jimenez, New York Times bestselling author


Eve Hatch lives for surprises! Just kidding. She expects every tomorrow to be pretty much the same as today. She loves her cozy apartment in Brooklyn that’s close to her childhood best friend Willa, and far from her midwestern, traditional family who has never really understood her. While her job is only dream-adjacent, it’s comfortable and steady. She always knows what to expect from her life . . . until she finds herself expecting after an uncharacteristic one-night stand.

The unplanned pregnancy cracks open all the relationships in her life. Eve’s loyal friendship with Willa is feeling tense, right when she needs her the most. And it’s actually Willa’s steadfast older brother, Shep, who steps up to help Eve. He has always been friendly, but now he’s checking in, ordering her surprise lunches, listening to all her complaints, and is . . . suddenly kinda hot? Then, as if she needs one more complication, there’s the baby’s father, who is (technically) supportive but (majorly) conflicted.

Up until this point, Eve’s been content to coast through life. Now, though—maybe it’s the hormones, maybe it’s the way Shep’s shoulders look in a T-shirt—Eve starts to wonder if she has been secretly desiring more from every aspect of her life.

Over the course of nine months, as Eve struggles to figure out the next right step in her expanding reality, she begins to realize that family and love, in all forms, can sneak up on you when you least expect it.
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Praise for Ready or Not

“Accidental pregnancy is a love-it-or-hate-it construct for most romance fans, which could leave Cara Bastone’s friends-to-lovers entry in a tough position. But for those willing to jive with that particular plot twist—and trust me, it’s worth it—Ready or Not is an absolutely buoyant read. Vivacious and funny, Bastone’s first-person perspective through protagonist Eve traces the tricky threads of single parenthood, long-term friendship, infertility, grief, and (yes) sex with skill.”Elle

Ready or Not is the very definition of the perfect slow burn, friends-to-lovers romance. Cara Bastone’s voice is wholly unique and sparkles with effervescence and joy. I savored every page.”—KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times bestselling author of The Chicken Sisters

“An absolute treasure of a book! Cara Bastone gives readers a gift, and pays humanity a compliment, with this warmly witty, profoundly tender story of a love that makes the world bigger and better. Ready or Not introduces indelible characters who navigate their entanglements with abundant, heart-bursting kindness. The result is one of the most emotionally satisfying romances I’ve read in years.”—Joanna Lowell, author of Artfully Yours
 
“A wholehearted meditation on all kinds of love, this novel is pure joy.”—Annabel Monaghan, nationally bestselling author of Same Time Next Summer

“With loads of humor, lovable characters, and a first kiss that will leave you flushed and breathless, Ready or Not is a delightfully romantic story that celebrates modern love and the excitement of the unexpected. Readers will adore Cara Bastone’s joyful, swoony novel!”—Amy Poeppel, author of The Sweet Spot

“Bastone enchants with this luminous contemporary . . . friends-to-lovers journey. . . . This is a gratifyingly modern take on the accidental pregnancy trope that acknowledges a family can come in many different configurations. The nuanced, believable characters and depth of emotion make this warmhearted romance a keeper.”Publishers Weekly

“[A] truly heartwarming emotional journey . . . Bastone is wonderfully unflinching when considering the way pregnancy changes relationships. . . . Funny and touching; Eve’s snappy voice and poignant vulnerability are a good match for the subject matter.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“In this contemporary rom-com, the story jumps right into the action, and even readers who don’t like the surprise-pregnancy trope will find themselves glued to the page for more of Eve’s snark and sense of humor.”—Library Journal
 
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Excerpt

Ready or Not

One

I didn’t start this day thinking I’d be handing over a Dixie cup of my own urine to a woman in lavender scrubs.

“What’s the verdict?” I ask about seven seconds after the nurse dips the stick into the cup on the other side of the exam room.

She is one of those ageless people whose fluffy gray-­brown hair could have been that of an unfortunate thirty-­five-­year-­old or a banging hot fifty-­five-­year-­old. Her face gives away nothing as she looks up at me.

“The doctor will be in to discuss your results, Ms. Hatch.”

AKA, I’m not gonna be the one to tell you there’s an egg in your biscuit.

“Call me Eve and, look, you can just tell me. I’m sure you can read the stick as well as the doctor can. I know I’m pregnant anyways. I took three tests on my own. I did the research.” (On the train on the way over here.) “I know that false positives really only happen for women who were just recently pregnant or taking certain fertility meds. There’s no way I’m not pregnant.”

I’m telling her. I’m telling myself. I’m telling the universe, because the facts are grounding me. I’m trying to be realistic here. I refuse to be secretly hoping for either outcome.

The nurse’s face shows zero signs of life. Maybe that’s the secret to her ageless success. If one never, ever moves one’s face, one can look forty in one’s seventies. I make a mental note to start having fewer emotions. Probably a super achievable goal right at the beginning of an unplanned pregnancy, right?

“The doctor will discuss it with you. Now, I just need some basic info from you.” She has me hop on a scale and then takes my blood pressure. I’m shocked when I don’t blow up the machine like a desktop plugged in during a lightning storm. She confirms my family history. And then the fun questions begin.

“Are you sexually active?” she asks the computer screen.

“You know, the term ‘sexually active’ has always been so weird to me. It doesn’t make sense. If I had gone on one run in the last three months and that was it, no one would classify me as being physically active.”

The nurse gives me that blank look as her hands twitch over the keyboard. Obviously, she is waiting for me to answer the damn question.

“But you schtup one bartender . . .” Apparently, I can’t resist.

Her blank look evolves into a slow blink.

“Anyways,” I continue through a small cough.

“Miss . . .” the nurse prompts.

“Right. Yes. I had sex about four weeks ago. If that answers your question.”

Her fingers type-­type-­type away, sealing my fate into the computer. I am now, officially, an irresponsible sex-­haver. Add it to my permanent record.

My eyebrows rise as the nurse continues typing. Thirty seconds pass. Another fifteen. I don’t think had sex once four weeks ago should possibly take that long to input. What is she, writing a novel over there? A diary entry? Updating her blog?

Finally, she looks up. “Date of last period?”

“I don’t know. I’m really irregular and I don’t keep much track. Maybe September?”

More novel writing. This woman is obsessed with typing. Her grandfather invented the typewriter. In her family, it’s a rite of passage to learn how to type six thousand words a minute.

She looks up from the computer. I brace for more questions that all seem like they could contain the word vagina but for some reason never do.

“Honey,” the nurse says. “Are you all right?”

I blink at her. That was not the type of question that I expected her to ask me. I hate it significantly more than all the others.

“I’m on my lunch break,” I say to her, as if that explains absolutely anything about my well-­being. Stay in your lane, blank-­faced nurse. Let’s get this over with.

Apparently, though, it answers her question. She nods briskly and turns back to the computer screen. “I need to ask a few more questions before the doctor comes in.”

“Okay.”

“Are you in a monogamous relationship?”

“Can’t we just talk about my feelings again?”

She slants me a look.

I clear my throat. “No. I’m not. It was a random encounter.”

“Do you have sex with men?”

“I have had sex with men. I’m not currently sleeping with anyone.”

She types, clicks, scrolls, and types and clicks again. Apparently, I answered two questions in one.

“Do you have sex with women?”

“Nope.”

“Do you have vaginal sex?”

“Yes.”

“Oral sex?”

“Yes and yes.” I answer that way because that question can be construed in two ways. I promptly realize I’ve revealed too much when the corner of her mouth lifts for a brief second before she clicks, types, and scrolls.

“Anal sex?”

“Haven’t had the honor.”

More clicking. More scrolling. She turns to me. Her hands are folded. I don’t take it as a good sign.

“We recommend a full panel of STI testing for our patients who are not in monogamous relationships.”

“Okay.” Because what else can I really say? “But I really need to be back at work soon. Can I make a second appointment for that?”

“Yes,” the nurse answers briskly. “They’ll schedule you in for later this week, as it’s important to get it done as soon as possible.”

“Great.”

What a silly word great is. I only said it so she’d know I’m not trying to avoid my STI testing. I should have just said fine and moved on with my life.

She asks about fifteen more invasive questions and then stands up to go get the doctor. I watch the clock tick-­tock. I made a New Year’s resolution this year that I won’t aimlessly scroll on my phone when I’m waiting for something. I’ve never wanted to break my rule more than I do right now, but it’s already October and even though I’d love to drown in a round of Technicolor point-and-­shoot I’m only a month and a half away from being the only person on the face of the earth who has ever held to their New Year’s resolution for an entire year. This little speed bump shall not be my undoing. Because that’s all an unplanned pregnancy really is, right? A speed bump? A tiny little momentary blip that barely affects your regularly scheduled programming? Someone please confirm that for me.

My parents dealt with an unplanned pregnancy at the whopping age of fifty-­two.

The results? Moi.

I spent my childhood having other kids ask me why my mom had gray hair and watching my parents’ necks get red in church while people whispered over raised eyebrows about the fact that after three appropriately spaced older brothers, I, two decades later, must have been an accident.

Maybe accidents are genetic? I got my mom’s pointy nose, my dad’s bony feet, and both of their proclivity towards apparently irresponsible sex. How embarrassing.

They passed away when I was in college, but even if they were still around, this isn’t exactly the kind of thing I’d ask them for advice about.

My thumbs twitch, begging me to open my phone and let me match dancing fruit to other dancing fruit. But nay! A massively unexpected life change will not break me.

The uneaten peanut butter sandwich in my bag just might, though. The seconds of my lunch break are splintering away as I wait for my doctor. At this rate, I will definitely not have time to eat lunch before I get back to work. And it’s not like I can eat at my desk, or even right before I head back into the building. Micah, the junior accountant at Wildlife Fund of America, where I work, sits kitty-­corner from me and is deathly allergic to peanuts. I stow a toothbrush in my bag to keep the peanut-­related homicide to a minimum. But I won’t have time for that at this point. My sandwich could kill him with one puff of my breath and it would be all this tardy gyno’s fault.

There’s a brisk knock, not enough time for me to answer, and the OB-­GYN strides into the office. My former doctor apparently moved practices since the last time I was here, so this is a meet-and-­greet as well as the moment I find out I’m officially pregnant.

You know, just to make things easier.

The doctor is a statuesque bottle blonde who looks like a female version of a Ken doll. No, I don’t mean Barbie. This woman is ripped.

Nurse Blank follows in after her. The welcome brigade. Exactly the two people I would have chosen to tell me that my life will never be the same.

About the Author

Cara Bastone
Cara Bastone is a full-time writer who lives and writes in Brooklyn with her husband, sons, and an almost-goldendoodle. Her goal with her work is to find the swoon in ordinary love stories. She’s been a fan of the romance genre since she found a grocery bag filled with her grandmother’s old Harlequin Romances when she was in high school. She’s a fangirl for pretzel sticks, long walks through Prospect Park, and love stories featuring men who aren’t hobbled by their own masculinity. More by Cara Bastone
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