Love You, Mean It

A Novel

Paperback

April 30, 2024 | ISBN 9780593722961

Ebook

April 30, 2024 | ISBN 9780593722978

Audiobook Download

April 30, 2024 | ISBN 9780593823088

About the Book

A playful romantic comedy featuring dueling delis, fake dating, a shockingly awesome ex, and just the right amount of amnesia

“[A] delightfully tropey rom-com . . . This is a sweet confection.”—Publishers Weekly

Ellie Greco wishes she weren’t stuck in Milborough. For a few brief, shining years, she escaped her hometown to pursue her dream career—designing beautiful, elaborate costumes for theater—until her father's death five years ago called her home to run the family's decades-old deli. Yes, she loves the place, but she’d always thought she was meant for more exciting things than stocking the right tinned fish. But when Ellie hears that a local landlord is planning to rent to Mangia, the glitzy gourmet food department store, the very existence of Greco’s Deli is suddenly in jeopardy.

She tries to plead her case to Theo Taylor, scion of the property management firm that is about to put her out of business, but their meeting goes from bad (it’s not her fault he’s infuriating) to worse (no one expects the ceiling to literally fall in).

With Theo out cold, Ellie panics and claims to be his fiancée . . . and almost passes out herself when amnesia means Theo seems to actually believe her. Soon, the effects of the head injury wear off, but Theo proposes that their “engagement” stick around. If they manage to convince enough people, they might both get what they want: an end to the Mangia deal. Ellie doesn’t trust him (after all, if Theo Taylor wants it, how can it be good for her?) but seeing no other option, she reluctantly agrees.

And miraculously, the fake engagement seems to be working—even Ted, Theo’s shrewd, cold father seems convinced—that is, until Sam, Theo’s ex-fiancée, reappears on the scene. Not only does she see through their ruse, but she proposes an arrangement of her own, forcing Ellie to decide between a blossoming friendship, her family legacy, and the burgeoning romance she frankly never asked for.
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Praise for Love You, Mean It

“Beautifully written, brilliant, and perfectly salty, Love You, Mean It is a total dream of a rom-com—an instant favorite to savor on every reread. Ellie and Theo’s sizzling chemistry leaps off the page, and Jilly Gagnon’s hilarious subversion of the amnesia trope only adds to the deep tenderness of their slow-burn romance. I adored every moment.”Lana Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Payback’s a Witch

“Delightfully tropey . . . Gagnon expertly combines humor and tenderness. . . . This is a sweet confection.”Publishers Weekly
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Excerpt

Love You, Mean It

One

“Oh, but what about the mortadella? I hadn’t even thought about that. Though I suppose you don’t carry a good mortadella, do you, Ellie? Rose never will buy it here . . .”

Ruth Pinsky looked up from the deli case, eyes pinching with preloaded skepticism about the quality of my mostly-­pork-­fat, the small twist of her head sending the hairspray-­regimented battalions of her hair helmet shivering. I took a small, twisted pleasure in noticing that her roots hadn’t been touched up for at least a month, a half inch of grizzled salt-­and-­pepper mounting a rear attack on the permed, brassy blond front lines.

“I think it’s excellent mortadella, personally. Would you like to try a slice?” I managed, hoping my gritted teeth looked something like a smile.

“That’s probably best. Jimmy’s so particular. And some of what I’ve brought back in the last few weeks really hasn’t been up to par.”

Rictus in place, I bent to haul out the mortadella, sliced a paper-­thin strip onto a piece of wax paper, and handed it across the counter to Ruth. She nibbled at it thoughtfully, as though she hadn’t sampled every f***ing deli meat we carried five times over.

Actually no, that’s not fair. She never tried anything “exotic,” which apparently referred to the turkey and chicken options.

“Hmm . . . no, I don’t think so.” Her mouth pinched with distaste as she finished the entire slice. “Thank you, though.”

“Of course.”

I glanced over my shoulder not at all subtly at the retro wall clock mounted on the black-­and-white-­tiled wall that ran behind the deli counter.

“I don’t mean to rush you, Mrs. Pinsky, but we’re closing soon.”

“Oh, of course. I suppose . . . the spicy salami? I think Jimmy liked that last time.”

“That sounds like an excellent choice,” I said, reaching for the massive log of cured meat. “And we’ll always be here tomorrow if you want something else. Half a pound?”

She nodded, the skin around her eyes still twisted with a mix of disdain and vague worry. All this for half a pound of sandwich meat.

“A little less, actually. Jimmy’s doctor told him to watch his weight.”

And yet, salami.

“I wonder . . .” she murmured. I started up the slicer and pretended not to hear. Ruth Pinsky didn’t know what she wanted on the best of days, and we’d just passed the five-­sample mark, so clearly this was not the best of days. The whirring of the machine almost managed to drown out the rhythmic thud in my ears, impatience raising my blood pressure. Within seconds, I was weighing the salami, wrapping it, handing it to Ruth.

“That’ll be five ninety-­two.”

I waited, tendons in my jaw tightening as she counted out the coins.

“And . . . ninety-­two.” She nodded curtly as she handed over the last penny. “Thanks so much, Ellie. See you soon.”

“Can’t wait, Mrs. Pinsky.”

I managed to make a show of wiping the counter for five whole seconds before running after her to flip the sign to Closed.

Jesus f***, why was life filled with so many Ruth Pinskys?

Ma would have told me to be charitable. Ever since her youngest boy had finished college and set up in Boston, Ruth, a lifelong homemaker and mother to three smothered sons, hadn’t had their every movement to fret over. So instead, she fretted over salami. Three times a week at least. Oh, and occasionally the weather—­god help whoever she managed to buttonhole on days when snow was moving in, They say there might even be a bombogenesis. Have you ever heard anything so terrifying-­sounding? I sent Jimmy to Costco to stock up on canned goods and gas for the generator . . .

I mean, at least find a hobby. Or if you don’t want one, drive to Boston and burden your own offspring with your endless, pointless, judgmental dithering. It’s under an hour if traffic isn’t terrible. Though who really knew, if Ruth’s driving was anything like her meat selection.

Play nice with the regulars, Ellie, they’re what keeps this place afloat. My dad’s warnings may have fallen on pop-­punk-­deafened ears when I’d first started working alongside him in the shop, but now, without him around to sparkle for the customers—­his genuine interest in their home repairs and children, his endlessly repeated jokes, blinding them to my eye rolls and sniffs—­I actually tried to take the advice, if only because I liked how it made Dad feel so close I could almost hear his voice. Well . . . tried as hard as I could. A woman has her limits, after all.

I let myself dissolve into the closing routine, double-­wrapping the meats and cheeses in the deli case, pulling out whatever was too small or had been sitting a few days for the volunteers the soup kitchen sent by every morning before we opened, bagging the half dozen baguettes that hadn’t sold and propping them up in the fraying wicker day-­old basket near the register (the focaccia was coming with me to Mimi and Grandpa’s, with a pint of whipped red pepper ricotta). I’d just finished my check on the stock of tinned fish, artisanal oils, spices, crackers, pestos, and high-­end pastas that crowded the shelves around the customer side of the store, when the bell rang again.

“Fair warning, I got Pinskied right before closing,” I said, not bothering to look up from the trays of sides squeezing into the far corner of the deli case. Maybe the roasted beets with gorgonzola and pine nuts for tonight? After however many decades of living off deli leftovers, the entire Greco clan could use a little more veg in their lives.

“Oh my gosh, Ellie, what if it wasn’t me?” My cousin Bella’s already large brown eyes had grown so wide her lashes grazed her brows, and her rosebud mouth was open in a perfect little o. I couldn’t help but smirk. We’d known each other all our lives—­technically all my life, she was a whopping seven months old by the time I appeared on the scene, an age gap I’d always resented since it put her a year ahead of me in school—­but she was still so easy to tease. Mimi called us Sugar and Spice when we were kids. Guess which one I was.

“Then I’d be calling the authorities. If you were ever more than two minutes late without texting to explain, foul play would have to be involved.” I cocked an eyebrow at Bella. We both knew I was right, she was pathologically punctual. Maybe she’d gotten it from her dad’s side of the family; it definitely wasn’t in the DNA we shared.

It was just one of our many obvious differences, and yet Bella and I had somehow always managed to balance each other out, my overdeveloped fire tamped down at crucial junctures by her breeziness, other times acting as the vital line of defense her gentle nature was incapable of mounting on its own.

“Okay, that aside, Mrs. Pinsky’s a regular. That counts for something.”

“I have dozens of lovely regulars for whom I am endlessly grateful,” I said with an exaggerated bow. “With Ruth . . . what counts is what she pays me.”

“I think it’s sweet that you’re part of her routine. She must ­really care about this place to make the trip that often.”

“Or they blacklisted her at every other grocery store and deli in a twenty-­mile radius.”

“Can they do that?” Bella looked genuinely shocked.

“I think they’d invent it just for her.”

“I suppose she can be a little . . . unaware of herself at times,” Bella conceded, “but she doesn’t mean any harm.”

“And yet none of that gives me back the hours of my life she steals.” I finished scooping the beets into a four-­quart tub, closing the lid with an emphatic snap. Bella was frowning, trying to find an excuse for Ruth Pinsky, no doubt. The usual prick of guilt at seeing her much-­better-­personness in action flickered through me as I flipped off the lights in the deli cases one by one.

“Is that a new top? It hangs really well on you.” I gestured at the emerald-­green boatneck blouse Bella was wearing, delicate seaming through the midsection and a flouncy peplum giving low-­key corset vibes. It was clearly off the rack, but it seemed made for her particular shape, clinging without pulling or sagging anywhere. Honestly . . . I wouldn’t have even bothered tailoring it if she’d brought it to me.

Bella rolled her eyes, repressing a grin.

“I’m sure you could make a better version . . .”

“Take the compliment, Bell.”

About the Author

Jilly Gagnon
Jilly Gagnon is the author of Scenes of the Crime, All Dressed Up and the young adult novel #famous. Her humor writing, personal essays, and op-eds have appeared in Newsweek, Elle, Vanity Fair, Boston magazine, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her family and two black cats. More by Jilly Gagnon
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