Veteran novelist Burn (Yes, Farewell, 1946; The Midnight Diary, 1953; etc.) turns here to a subject loaded with intrigue: a wartime love affair between a heroic pilot and a beautiful woman 20 years his senior--the woman who would later become Burn's wife. It was only after the 1974 death of Mary Booker that Burn discovered the trove of love letters between her and Richard Hillary (the lovers met in 1941; Burn married Booker in 1947). These letters form the base of this retelling of the yearlong affair between dashing, 22-year-old Hillary, horribly burned after valiant fighting in the Battle of Britain, and Booker--whom Hillary met through his erstwhile lover, Merle Oberon. The letters fairly burst with passion. Richard to Mary: "if only this bloody war were over and we could go away somewhere, where the sun never set, where we saw no one who spoke English, where the flowers were heavy as a drug." Mary to Richard: "I have the same feeling as when you flew over the house at Beaconsfield, except that then it came from me--a thousand strings stretching out to you pulling at my heart." In paying tribute to BoOker, Burn pays tribute to Hillary, and to his courageous insistence in returning to battle despite the horrible burns on his hand and face. The strictures of a different generation provide a constant background of frustration for the lovers, and their end is gloriously tragic, with Hillary dying in a crash in January 1943. Long on letters and short on narrative but, still, great reading for those who revere English war heroes and doomed, eternal love stories.