Defining moments – Shari Low

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By Shari Low

Looking back on your life, was there a defining moment that altered your course for ever? What would your future have looked like if you’d made a different decision at a crucial crossroads?♥

These questions were the starting points for With Or Without You and it all came about on a balmy night in Florida last summer. My husband and I were reminiscing about our early years together back in the nineties. And yes, N’Sync rocked and no, I still can’t believe that bootcut jeans went out of fashion. Sob.

Back then, husband and I got engaged a week after we met. No biggie. We were dishing up a Chinese takeaway and he calmly turned to me and said, “You know we’re getting married, don’t you?”

“Yep,” I replied. “Can you pass the spring rolls?”

That was it. The following year, we took 40 people we loved on a bus to Gretna and tied the knot. We drank champagne and beer, sang all the way there and back, and I changed out of my jeans and into my dress in the registry office toilets. It was glorious. Hilarious. Riotous. And I loved every minute of it.

I was sure that it was forever.

A few years later, we decided it probably wasn’t.

There were a million reasons – crazy careers, lack of time together, different dreams – and no blame on either side, just a dawning realisation that it wasn’t working, so we parted ways.

We were the happiest separated couple ever. We still hung out together, spoke every day, threw parties, even went on holiday together.

A few months later we were wandering around Amsterdam on a weekend break.

“You know we’re getting back together, don’t you?” he said.

“Yep,” I replied. “Now which way is the Van Gogh museum?”

So we did. We went on to have two children and twenty-five years after we met, I couldn’t imagine having found more happiness in any other life.

But back to that balmy night in Florida. “What do you think would have happened if we’d stayed apart?” I asked him.

He had many theories. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was unlikely he’d have met Sandra Bullock on a speed date and lived a life of film star luxury in the Hollywood Hills.

The following morning, I woke up and With Or Without You was there, already formed, in bright technicolor, in my mind.

The story follows the lives of Liv and Nate, who married right out of college and who have decided, six years later, that they’ve slipped into the friends zone. They agree that they will go their separate ways on the final day of 1999. However, as the clock counts down to midnight, Nate changes his mind. This is where the narrative splits, with one storyline following their lives over the next eighteen years if they stay together, and the other charting their futures if they stick to their plan to part.

Which route will bring them happiness? Will they live to regret either decision? And how will each path affect the lives of their closest friends, who remain by their sides over the next two decades?

And most importantly of all, when the last page is turned, which life will give Liv and Nate their happy ever after?

Shari Low has published twenty books under her own name and pseudonyms Millie Conway and Ronni Cooper. She is also one half of the writing duo, Shari King, with TV presenter, Ross King.

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