updated 08/08/2013 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 08/09/2013 AT 6:30 PM ET
Sometimes even the worst things happen for a reason. Desiree Hartsock, star of The Bachelorette, had fallen hard for Brooks Forester, the former male model she believed was The One out of 25 suitors vying for her hand on the ABC reality show.
But when he made it clear he didn’t return her feelings – and a stunned 7.8 million viewers watched her collapse in sobs – “I was blind-sided,” Hartsock, 27, says now.
Luckily the dark cloud soon revealed its silver lining. Hartsock realized the man of her dreams had been in front of her all along: mortgage broker Chris Siegfried, 27.
“Brooks’s leaving gave me clarity,” she says. “I had been falling in love with Chris.” When he proposed barely one week later, Hartsock wept again – this time, tears of joy.
While many viewers cried “rebound,” the giggling couple, so smitten they finish each other’s sentences, are unconcerned about the doubters. “I knew I couldn’t give up,” Hartsock says of her search for love. “I’m so glad I didn’t.”