It was New Year’s Eve 1999, and my friend Sophia, then a thirty-nine-year-old esthetician, was out with a date and several mutual friends at a trendy nightclub in the hip part of downtown. The club had dim lighting, pulsing music and an ambiance made for partying. But instead of having a good time, Sophia was miserable.
Heart-broken, in fact.
Four Cosmos and her friends’ off-key rendition of “1999” didn’t lift her spirits an inch. She found an excuse to part ways with her date before midnight and went home alone in a cab. She changed into her pajamas and curled up on the sofa with her two tabby cats, tired but unable to sleep.
One thought filled her head: Tonight the man she loved was half a world away, marrying somebody else.
Sophia had met Dev six years earlier in the last place she ever expected to find her next boyfriend: At a bar. When the tall, dark-haired man approached her and asked to buy her a drink, Sophia was impressed with his confidence, outgoing manner and exotic Indian looks. He was attracted to her intelligent conversation, easy smile and golden blonde hair.
Both in their early thirties at the time, neither was looking for a serious relationship. But they couldn’t deny the attraction. By the end of the night they had exchanged phone numbers and shared a demure yet sexy kiss on the cheek.
Demure soon progressed to heat, and before they knew it Sophia and Dev were spending every minute together. They agreed to be exclusive.
What followed was a passionate yet volatile relationship between two strong willed individuals with vastly different life experiences—Sophia came from a small town in America where Chinese food was considered exotic; Dev was the son of diplomats from Delhi, and had grown up in China and Saudi Arabia as well as the U.S.
It’s no secret that opposites attract, but those sparks can be combustible. Sophia and Dev’s views on many topics differed, and they argued frequently, each absolutely determined to sway the other’s point of view. Though they grew tired of the constant friction, two things kept them together every time they tried to break up—good sex and True Love.
Six years passed
The biggest point of contention after eight years together was whether their relationship was headed toward marriage. Sophia had never even met Dev’s parents. She was now in her late thirties and had made peace with the idea that she might never have children. But she wanted the security of a permanent commitment from Dev—or the freedom to part ways and find someone else.
If Sophia was in a tough place over their relationship, Dev was torn in two. He longed to follow his heart by marrying Sophia, but he felt a deep need to fulfill his family’s expectations with an arranged marriage to a woman of his own culture.
At last, Sophia forced the issue and Dev made his choice: He would leave Sophia and travel to India to take a bride. Three months later, Sophia heard through a friend the news she’d been dreading: Dev was engaged to marry a woman he barely knew on December 31, 1999.
Reeling from the shock, Sophia agreed to spend New Year’s Eve with the man she was casually dating, when what she really wanted was to stay home. She’d never expected to wrap up the decade—and the millennium and her thirties—without a life partner.
Changing marriage (and reading) trends
But maybe Sophia shouldn’t have been surprised. There are now more single adults living in the United States than married ones, and the median age of first-time marriage has risen in developed nations around the world.
Trends such as delaying marriage until after establishing a career, and “gray divorce”—the phenomenon of couples separating after decades of marriage to find a new direction in life—mean that mature singles are looking for (and finding) love at unprecedented rates.
Some intrepid romance authors are capitalizing on the trend with sexy, insightful love stories about Heroes and/or heroines in their forties and fifties. Of course there have always been romance stories about older men with younger women. But the new breed of age-is-just-a-number novels are just as likely to feature an older woman with a younger man.
Other popular tropes in the Love Over 40 category are second chance at love, post-divorce romance, widow/widower recovering from grief, friends-to-lovers, and fling-turns-serious. And of course there are all the Hero tropes we know and love, from alpha billionaires and dashing Dominants to sexy cowboys who know how to rope more than a steer…
These novels have all the witty banter, angst-filled love, thrilling plotlines and hot sex we’ve come to associate with steamy contemporary romance, along with characters who have arrived at a point in life where they want to take stock of what they’ve achieved and perhaps reconsider where they’re going next.
Over 40 is a great age for fictional characters, but maybe not such a great age to find yourself unexpectedly looking for love…
Looking for love is exactly what Sophia did
After learning of Dev’s engagement, Sophia was determined not to sit around feeling sorry for herself. She got right back on the dating scene with a blind date arranged through friends (remember when online dating meant reading sleazy personal ads on yahoo.com? Yeah, me neither, lol. Suffice it to say, online dating wasn’t a “thing” back then and Sophia didn’t even consider it.)
As New Year’s Eve approached, she began a half-hearted fling with Matt, a successful accountant who said he was ready to settle down. She was flattered by Matt’s interest—he asked her out several times a week—but something was missing.
He wasn’t Dev.
In Delhi, Dev was feeling much the same way. His pretty young fiancée Anju was turning out to be less than he’d hoped for in a future wife. They had little in common beyond family connections. She didn’t stir his intellect or his desires.
In one awful moment, after an evening of struggling to make polite small talk with Anju while their families watched expectantly, he realized he had made the biggest mistake of his life in letting Sophia go.
In a panic, he called a friend back in the U.S. a week before the wedding to confess his doubts(my husband Mr. Reese, no doubt talking on a brick-sized cell phone circa 1999).
“I can’t really be myself around Anju,” Dev said. “With Sophia, it was always the real me.”
Mr. Reese never minces words. “That’s a damned important quality in the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. If it bothers you now, imagine how you’ll feel after a decade of waking up next to the wrong person.”
Their conversation only cemented what Dev already knew: He had royally screwed up.
True Love is better than fiction
In a scene straight out of a Hollywood romance, Dev broke off his engagement two days before the wedding and booked himself an immediate flight home. He arrived at Dulles International Airport exhausted and depressed, yet determined to win Sophia back.
I wish I could tell you Dev arrived on Sophia’s doorstep before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. I wish I could tell you Sophia melted into his arms, he proposed, and they had passionate sex into the early morning hours. But this is a true story, not a romance novel.
Dev arrived at her house on January 1, but Sophia refused to open the door. It took another four months of Dev’s groveling and persuasion—during which time she continued to see Matt casually—before she would agree to give Dev a second chance. Seeing his opportunity, Dev swept her out of town for a sexy beach vacation in the Yucatan, Mexico.
He proposed to her at sunset on a deserted white sand beach, and Sophia said yes. They married three months later in a traditional Indian ceremony, followed by an American style reception on a yacht on the Potomac River with the white marble monuments of Washington, DC gliding by.
Sophia was forty years old on her wedding day and forty-two and forty-four, respectively, when her two sweet, lovely, dark-eyed children were born. Today, she is a happily married wife and mother in her fifties who is considering returning to her career as an aesthetician now that her children are half grown.
She has this to say about finding love later in life: “After forty you hopefully know a bit about yourself and what you want. When the right person comes along it’s easier to recognize them and also to go into the relationship with your eyes wide open. You realize every marriage takes sacrifice and compromise, and you have a better sense of whether this particular sacrifice and compromise will work for you in the long term.”
I’ll drink a big glass of Clicquot to that!
10 Books About Finding Love After 40
Sexy is ageless! All books listed below are series starters or can be read as standalones
WILD MAN by Kristen Ashley
A fun, flirtatious story as only KA can deliver, Book 2 in the Dream Man series
While filling the display case in her bakery, the bell over the door sounds and forty-something Tessa O’Hara looks up to see the man of her dreams. Within thirty seconds he asks her out for a beer. But after four months of dating, she discovers he’s an undercover DEA agent-and he’s investigating her possible role in her ex-husband’s drug business. For Tess, this means their relationship is over. Brock disagrees. He’s fallen in love with the beautiful woman who’s as sweet as her cupcakes-and he’ll do anything to win her back. Standing between Tess and Brock are their own exes, one of them a drug lord who’s determined to get what he wants. Now as danger threatens, can Brock break the rules he’s lived by and let loose his wild side to protect the woman he loves?
THE DOM WHO LOVED ME by Lexi Blake (FREE BESTSELLER)
Book 1 in the phenomenal, long-running Master’s and Mercenaries series will get your pulse racing in more than one way
Sean Taggart is hunting a deadly terrorist, and his only lead is the lovely Grace Hawthorne. She’s the executive assistant for an employment agency Sean suspects is a front for illegal activities. To get the truth, he is going to have to get very close to Grace, a task he is all too eager to undertake when he discovers her deliciously submissive nature. Soon, Grace Hawthorne is living a double life. By day, she is the widowed mother of two college-aged sons. By night, she submits to Sean’s every dark desire. She’s living out her wildest fantasies of pleasure—intimate acts of trust she’s only read about. As passion engulfs her, a murderer strikes, and Grace learns that Sean has a deeply hidden agenda. Will Sean choose his mission and break her heart or be the Master of her dreams?
WORTH THE WAIT by Joey Hill
A delicately woven love story with all the captivating BDSM scenes one expects from a Joey Hill novel. Book 9 in the Nature of Desire series
Is he worth the heartbreak? At nearly forty, Julie isn’t so sure she’ll ever find a man who is, so she’s vowed that all her big 4-0 decisions will have zip to do with relationships. A successful theater manager, she agrees to travel to North Carolina and help a friend put her erotic performance theater on its feet. Julie has always been curious and drawn to the BDSM world, and now she can safely explore that world in the environment she knows best. Desmond Hayes is the roofing contractor repairing their rundown theater building, but he’s also a rigger, well-known in the BDSM world for his rope artistry. He’s not just a top, though; he’s a Dom whose unexpected quirks mesh too well with Julie’s eccentric personality and awaken her submissive side.
MID LIFE LOVE by Whitney G.
The sexy, funny Book 1 in the Mid Life Love duet starts off as a downer but will ultimately lift your spirits and make you smile
Thirty-nine-year-old Claire Gracen’s life is picture perfect…or it used to be. But one day Claire realizes that she’s been living a lie and her best friend and husband have committed the ultimate betrayal. Broken and depressed, Claire is in need of something new—new city, new job, new friends. When she happens to attract the interest of the sexiest man she’s ever met, a man significantly younger than her, she immediately turns him down—only to later discover that this man is Jonathan Statham, self-made billionaire and CEO of Statham Industries. Her boss.
THIS IS WHO I AM by Cherise Sinclair
Book 7 in the top selling BDSM series Club Shadowlands is a can’t-miss classic
When trying to save a woman from slavers, silver fox Sam screwed up. Royally. Now Linda wants nothing to do with him. Or with BDSM. She won’t even admit she’s a masochist. As a dominant and sadist, he can give her what she needs, and when an opportunity arises, he slips into her life, intending to make amends. Now the horrible time is past, Linda just wants to return to her small conservative town, pick up her quiet life, and be normal. To her dismay, when someone spray-paints her home with obscenities, Sam shows up to rescue her. When he takes her to the Club Shadowlands, she feels as if she’s found a home…until she hears a voice from out of her nightmares.
WICKED ALL THE WAY by Shayla Black
A sexy little novella about a couple in their fifties. Book 6.5 in one of my all-time favorite erotic romantic suspense series, Wicked Lovers
Retired military colonel Caleb Edgington has spent two long years trying to achieve the most important mission objective of his life—but not behind enemy lines. He’s trying to capture a woman with a broken heart. And he’s got the perfect strategy to lure her in… Carlotta never thought she’d fall in love again. Once bitten, she’s now more than twice shy. And Caleb is everything she can’t handle—fierce, relentless, uncompromising… sexual. Can Caleb and the spirit of the season convince her that she’s ready to take a chance on love again?
RODE HARD by Lorelei James
Book 2 in the Rough Riders series with all the alpha male deliciousness you crave from Lorelei James
Struggling stock contractor Gemma Jansen swallows her pride and tracks down circuit rider Cash Big Crow to offer him a job managing her ranch. Cash agrees on one condition: theirs won’t be strictly a working relationship. She’s the boss during the day, but once she’s corralled in the bedroom, Cash calls the shots. Despite concerns about their ten-year age difference, forty-eight-year-old Gemma consents. Cash suspects the sexy widow hides an untapped wild streak. He intends to loosen her tightly held reins of control even if he has to break out his horsewhip to do it. But Cash is in for a surprise. Gemma proves a rough and ready participant in any leather-n-lace game Cash dreams up.
DISSIDENT by Cecilia London
An intelligent erotic drama with a dystopian twist, I included this one even though the heroine is under forty because she’s a widowed, very mature thirty-something. Book 1 in the Bellator Saga
Rising Democratic star Caroline Gerard hasn’t had an easy year. After losing her husband, she is raising two small children alone while navigating the politically tricky halls of Capitol Hill. Falling in love again is the last thing on her mind. In the wake of her grief, a string of very public faux pas has her scrambling to apologize to opposing party members, including newly elected Republican Jack McIntyre. Fortyish bachelor Jack might have a reputation as a playboy, but he has his sights set on the smart, sexy widow who just publicly insulted him. She wants to apologize—he wants a date. Can he break through Caroline’s grief and capture her heart? Or will the changing political winds on Capitol Hill tear them apart?
SWEET DREAMS by Kristen Ashley
Recommended by my friend Jessica at Jessica’s Totally Over the Top Book Obsession—Book 2 in the Colorado Mountain series
Forty-something Lauren Grahame is looking to reinvent herself. After leaving her cheating husband, Lauren moves to Carnal, Colorado, and gets a job as a waitress in a biker bar called Bubba’s. It’s a nothing job in a nowhere joint . . . until Tatum Jackson walks in. Lauren has never seen a man with such good looks, muscles, and attitude. But when he insults her, Lauren doesn’t want anything to do with him. Too bad for Lauren he’s also the bar’s part owner and bartender. When the rough-around-the-edges Tate meets the high-class Lauren, he thinks she won’t fit in at Bubba’s. Yet there’s more to Lauren than meets the eye, and Tate soon sets his mind on claiming her as his own.
AFTERLIFE by Joey Hill
Book 4 in possibly my all-time favorite BDSM series, Knights of the Boardroom
Forty-three-year-old Rachel gave up seeking a Master years ago. After a failed marriage and terrible tragedy, she’s walled her soul against going down that dangerous path again. Then Jon joins her yoga class. He’s thirteen years younger than she, but his Dominant nature threatens her shields from the moment she recognizes it. Not only does he understand what her body wants—he knows what her soul craves. A spiritually driven Master who enjoys connecting with a woman’s soul, John believes Rachel is the submissive his soul has always hungered to have.
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