E.V. Bancroft’s debut novel is a sweeping epic of the enduring power of love. Maud and Bea have been in love with each other since 1939. They have stayed together through war, family interference and their careers only to be sent to separate nursing homes in the twilight of their lives. Maud is devastated and her only hope is her great niece, Hannah, who Maud raised after the death of her mother and grandmother, along with her “best friend” Bea.
One look at Beatrice Williams and Maud Heaston’s life is changed forever. Bea arrives as Maud’s brothers tutor and the two have an instant connection. Maud isn’t only attracted to Bea, they also share a desire to learn and have careers and not just marry and have children. Maud’s brother Harry is also smitten with Bea but she rejects him letting him know where her heart lies. Harry goes off to war and Maud’s family finds out about her and Bea’s relationship when her sister sees them kissing. Maud is forbidden from seeing Bea so she decides to join the war effort in the Land Army so she could earn her own money and wouldn’t have to marry George, the poor bloke whom her mother pressured her to get engaged to.
Bea and Maud wrote to each other and met up when they could and eventually after the war was over settled in London together. Over the years they continued to love each other although to the outside world they presented themselves as just best friends. When Maud’s sister and niece were killed in a car accident, teenager Hannah came to live with them. She was angry and struggling to accept her sexuality and her and Maud often butted heads. But when Maud and Bea are put in separate nursing homes, their letters are sent to Hannah. Reading of the love between them that she never knew existed, she begins to see her Aunt in a new light. The letters bring her closer to her roommate Suki, who she’s been in love with for some time. Hannah is determined to help reunite Maud with her true love and hopefully get her own happy ending as well.
E.V. Bancroft really went for it with her first novel. Writing an epic that spans over 75 years is no small feat. The way the past and present were interweaved was seamless. We not only get to experience Hannah’s relationship to Maud, Bea and Suki but we get to take the journey with Maud and Bea as they meet and fall in love. The characters are really well developed. I loved the sweetness of Bea and the stubbornness and passion of Maud. I appreciated Hannah’s desire to understand the aunt she had always had issues with and in the process discovers more about herself and her capacity to love. Suki is Hannah’s roommate and in the shared experience of reading Maud and Bea’s letters, finds her courage to follow her heart. I may actually love Maud’s brother, Harry, most of all. Despite his love for Bea, he knew what she shared with Maud was stronger, and gave his blessing to his sister. For a man to do that anytime shows such strength of character but to do so during the 1940’s, is really beautiful.
It is wonderful to read a love story that spans so many years. We are all searching for what Maud and Bea have, a love that not only survives but gets even stronger the more time that passes. The ending was beautiful and brought a tear to my eyes. I highly recommend and will be looking forward to what comes next from E.V. Bancroft.
ARC received from the author for an honest review.