Strong first novel of doomed love, given an extra boost by the many Emily Dickinson poems quoted throughout. Dolores Meredith, an unmarried 40-year-old realtor in Woodland, a small California town, breaks off a seven-year affair with a married man whom she's never loved. Dolores has learned to avoid pain by withdrawing from situations where it might arise. Her work, in the meantime, offers solace, and she prides herself on her ability to match a house with the right buyer. The Leland House, old, handsome, and in disrepair, is one of her favorites, and she dissuades sure buyers rather than have it fall into the wrong hands. Meanwhile, Austin Barclay, at 41 a very successful (unmarried) lawyer, quits his firm in Manhattan and heads back to Woodland, having decided to teach law rather than practice it. He grew up in Woodland as the son of a chemist, has a gift for carpentry, and the Leland House will, he thinks, give him a perfect summer of restorations before he starts fall classes. He and Dolores quickly find themselves likely partners, but when he eventually asks her to move in with him, she's afraid to commit. What Dickinsonian pains may arise to devour their love? Then, indeed, an unbearable pain does arise. Austin discovers he's HIV-positive, having been infected by a girl he spent a weekend with at a snow lodge 15 months ago. Has he given the virus to Dolores? As it happens, he hasn't, although the pain-fearing Dolores splits anyhow. The balance of the story describes her failure to erase the wonderful Austin from her heart and her discovery that this particular pain is an education in love she must not avoid. Though much better written than The Bridges of Madison County, this strikes a similar outflow of tristesse over doomed love, while rich characterizations and profuse knowledge of gardening and old houses add a solid superstructure. Even so, the whole ends where Ibsen would begin.