When a letter never makes it to its intended recipient, the consequences start to fall like dominos.
As a teenager, Trudy fell in love with Richard, a young Dutchman whose family owned a farm in America. His family, however, disapproved of their relationship. He returned to the Netherlands for school and sent Trudy a letter declaring his love and begging her to reciprocate. That letter fell behind a wall cabinet in a U.S. Post Office and was lost for 35 years. When he didn’t hear from her, Richard sent Trudy a second letter ending their relationship. Both Richard and Trudy went on to marry others and build happy lives, he as a wildly successful international businessman, she as a teacher. The first letter then reappears just as Trudy’s 24-year marriage to Kenneth is on shaky ground, and she finds herself facing a lifetime’s worth of what ifs. Trudy wrestles with the thrill of seeing her teenage love as a grown-up—not to mention suave and wealthy—man, while at the same time anticipating Kenneth’s return from Iraq, mending her marriage, planning her daughter’s engagement party and trying to hold onto her job. Stevens (Inn in Abingdon, 2011) turns Trudy’s story into a modern, middle-aged princess fantasy, as she gets a small taste of what her life could have been like as the wife of an international business tycoon. Unsurprisingly—yet satisfyingly—she realizes who her true love is, but misunderstandings and more lost items complicate her path back to him. Stevens checks off all the romance novel requirements, including idealized characters with idealized looks: “The Queen Anne cheval mirror reflected her curvy figure as she slid her hands from her waist and over her hips. Turning sideways, Trudy could see the results of her exercise routine that kept her weight down and her figure firm.” The plot moves swiftly through the second half of the book, but as a whole, it is weighed down by pages of exposition and stilted dialogue.
Devotees of romance novels will enjoy the plot and perhaps forgive the stiff, naïve narration.