Helen (Kate Capshaw) runs a bookstore in Loblolly By The Sea, a small fishing community in New England where everyone seems to know everyone else's business. A 42-year-old single mother, she is emotionally distant and fearful of getting too close to anyone. George (Tom Selleck) has known Helen since they were schoolmates, and he's been in love with her for ages, but has always settled for just being her friend. Convinced she wasn't interested in him, he married another woman years ago. Helen also has another secret admirer, Johnny (Tom Everett Scott), who isn't at all put off by the fact that Helen is twice his age. Johnny, however, is currently occupied with Jennifer (Julianne Nicholson), a fellow student who also works at the bookstore and is crazy about him. Into this tangled web of unrequited love comes an amorous letter that Helen finds in the store one day. The letter bears no signature and no address; it's at once passionate and oblique, fervent and cryptic.