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Love at First Night

For author, political consultant, SiriusXM radio host (Get it Right With Margaret Hoover) and political commentator—and frequent Sag Harbor visitor—Margaret Hoover, a fateful overnight during a business trip led to lasting love.

AMERICAN LOVE STORY Margaret Hoover and John Avlon’s wintertime vacations spent at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor produced three books and one child.

Someday, I’ll tell my children that I spent the first night I knew their father on his brown leather couch—in my suit. Too unwilling to show vulnerability by requesting a T-shirt from an unfamiliar, if intriguing, future colleague, I slept in my blouse, skirt and hose, after finally summoning the nerve to plead for a pillow. In recounting the story, my now-husband, The Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief John Avlon, claims it never occurred to him to offer me a blanket or pajamas; clearly this bachelor wasn’t accustomed to women spending the night in his living room.

For me, it was love at first sight. In the summer of 2006, I was on a day-trip to NYC from Washington, D.C. (where I’d been living while working at the White House for the Bush administration), interviewing to join Rudy Giuliani’s PAC as a fundraiser, when a man who was exactly my type (everyone has a type; mine’s medium-to-dark skin, dark hair and sparkling eyes) waltzed in with all the flair and command only a Manhattanite can muster. After a whirlwind day, where I remember only the thrill of his presence dotting my itinerary, I ended with a group of future co-workers sipping martinis at the 21 Club. At the time, I was at the end of a relationship that had soured; one of my future colleagues was talking about his family and I commented that marriage isn’t right for everyone. I was caught off guard when John said to me that marriage is right when you meet the perfect person—and then he winked.

When it came time for me to depart for La Guardia, the heavens opened and the skies liquidated, enough to cancel all flights from NYC’s three airports. My recruiter (who’s now godmother to our firstborn) phoned John, asking him to retrieve me and find somewhere for me to stay. We had dinner together, then drinks. The lack of reasonably priced hotels, thanks to the downpour and resulting glut of stranded travelers, shrunk my overnight options. The startup I was interviewing with wouldn’t fork out $600 for a hotel room, and on my government salary, the cost would have amounted to my discretionary spending for two months. Instead, we spent the evening talking about American politics on that brown leather couch. He signed a copy of his book for me, which I then secretly annotated to document my disagreement with his views. I couldn’t abide his political philosophy of “centrism,” even though some part of me wondered if he was onto something. That intellectual conflict continues to this day. But that night, I fell in love with his infectious idealism and earnest patriotism—and his refreshing kindness, despite his meager hospitality to a couch-sleeping guest.

John and I started working together that September and were dating by Christmas. Our first weekend away together was at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor during a biting February. Ever since then, the idyllic hamlet has been our escape, and winter is our season. Our time in snow-blanketed Sag Harbor has produced three books and one child as we’ve cozied up and enjoyed the vast white seascapes. We love all seasons out East, but none is more pristine and untouched than February—it still feels undiscovered by the summer’s city masses, down-to-earth and accessible. We aspire to one day make Sag Harbor our permanent escape from the busy city. As soon as we do, a certain brown leather bachelor couch—with which we’re both too sentimental to part—will have a permanent home in our cozy retreat.