Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?
Received this book from netgally and the publisher in exchange for an honest review this has in no way affected my opinion
Julianne Westcott is a beautiful, young socialite, and at eighteen has the world at her feet. Pressured on one side by her father to enter his shipping business and on the other by her mother to marry well into a prominent, upper class family, Julianne wants to determine her own path. She enters nursing school.
When she discovers she has an institutionalised, deaf and blind twin brother, Charles, she begins secretly visiting him without her parents’ knowledge. There she meets Kyle McCarthy, a young man who has befriended her brother. Kyle is kind and attentive. Julianne learns that he’s the gardener’s son, and training for the Catholic priesthood The story told in first person from Julianne’s point-of-view, begins in 1961 and told in flashbacks to 1937 when Julianne and Kyle first meet. Any relationship between them is verboten: Kyle is in seminary training for the priesthood; they are from different social classes; Kyle is Catholic in a time when religious denomination mattered.
As I mentioned to one of my friends recently, I’m not taking chances on new authors too much these days, but I’m very glad I did with Camille Di Maio and her début, The Memory of Us. This is such a lovely story. The author writes with real sincerity, and Julianne and Kyle’s relationship comes off as emotional and deep. The depiction of life in Britain during the war and the trials and tribulations that the couple goes through because of class distinctions in this era, reads realistically. The pacing, prose and plot are quality, and certainly higher than expected from a first-time author. My issues with this are all to do with some pivotal decisions Julianne makes (especially at one particular point in the story) that affect not only her life, but Kyle’s and others close to her. I understand the traumatic and life-shattering events she went through, and to some degree I understand her decisions. But they seemed to be at odds with her character, and how she was previously portrayed, and I wasn’t convinced events would so radically change her personality. Later, she makes another decision and allows years to pass before acting, which I considered far too long, and found frustrating.
Many readers will find this quite an emotional read, I think. Even for this stone-hearted reader this little scene made me shed a rare tear This is one of the better World War 2 romance dramas I’ve read. And with overtones of The Thorn Birds this début is well worth reading. This is one I encourage my friends to put on their reading list, as I’m pretty sure many of you will love this as much, if not more than I did. I’ll definitely read Camille Di Maio’s next title. Recommended for readers who enjoy romantic historical fiction with a love story spanning decades and those who enjoy WW2 settings.