Paula Russell was inseparable friends with John Adams all throughout their childhood and beyond. By high school, she had fallen in love with him, but when John married another woman, it seemed that a relationship between them was not meant to be. Paula moved away, and although she had seen John occasionally over the years when visiting her parents, she had tried to maintain a distance to heal her heartbreak. When John's wife dies suddenly, Paula can't help wondering if they might still have a future together. After seeing Paula several times in the year following his wife's death, John is stunned to discover that he is beginning to think of her as more than just a old friend. Perhaps true love can happen more than once in a lifetime, but when John's older daughter makes it clear that she resents the idea of having a stepmother, they'll have to struggle to bring everyone together to create a new family.
Love's Late Spring is a sweet hearth and home type of inspirational romance. Believe it or not, this little 150-page book covers a full two years in the lives of the protagonists, so it moves along at a pretty brisk clip. I really liked the way that the author used the changing seasons to indicate the passage of time. There definitely isn't much in the way of extraneous details, but on the occasions when the author indulges in a paragraph or two of descriptions, her prose has a very lyrical quality. The dialog is quite a bit more formal than I'm used to, but this may be a product of the book's age. It was originally published in 1970 under the title At Your Age, Miss Russell?. There were a few other things besides the dialog which tended to date the story, such as records being played on the stereo and no cell phones to keep in touch, as well as some mild social attitudes toward minorities and a woman's place, but overall, it wasn't too bad for being a forty year old book. I'll admit though that I'm old enough to still remember the 70's, so for someone younger than me, the datedness might be more noticeable and jarring. The religious content of the book was surprisingly low-key and limited to gentle expressions of the character's faith in simple ways such as regular church attendance, prayer and the celebration of Christmas and Easter as the birth and resurrection of Christ. I found it very refreshing to read an inspirational romance that wasn't preachy or trying to push any sort of agenda.
Much like the lack of descriptive details, there isn't a great deal of character introspection, but I still liked Paula and John quite well. Being a big fan of the friends to lovers theme, I enjoyed that the couple had been inseparable childhood friends. It was rather sad though that Paula had fallen in love with John by the time they were in high school, but he was oblivious and instead fell for and married another woman. Paula had carried a torch for him for sixteen years and although she had dated occasionally, had never really been in a serious relationship. The one element I didn't care for was the love triangle at the beginning of the story. Paula had been dating a guy she worked with for a few months, and he was starting to get serious. As he put it though, she always seemed to be waiting for something, and in the end, a nice guy was left out in the cold. Unfortunately, this is one of my least favorite themes in romance, but for some reason, it seems to be a staple conflict trope in inspirational romances. Once Paula broke up with him, I was able to more fully invest myself in her newly discovered relationship with John, although nothing about the past and her unrequited feelings all those years was ever explored between them.
The secondary characters added a homey family feel to the story, and I liked almost all of them. John has two daughters. The younger one, Denise, is very welcoming of Paula in John's life, but the older teenager, Connie, adds to the conflict by resenting having a new stepmother. She acted pretty bratty and immature about John remarrying and having a baby with Paula for almost the entire book. I understood Connie missing her mother, but her childish behavior made it pretty difficult to sympathize. I liked Paula and John's mothers who were neighbors and long-term friends themselves. They were very supportive of John and Paula's marriage, and it was cute that they both thought it was about time that their son and daughter got together. Susie, the cat, helped to give even more hominess to the story and added a bit of depth to the characters. There was also a whole host of other supporting players who bring cohesiveness to the tale.
Love's Late Spring was one of those fairly predictable stories that can be nice to delve into once in a while when you're looking for something light to read. In fact, I think there was only one sad event that I didn't really see coming, and although I was rather disappointed in the author's choice to write it that way, the fast pace made it over and done with and virtually forgotten in a matter of a couple pages. The book probably could have used a dash of something more to season it and give a bit more depth to the plot and characters, but considering it's age and brief length, I thought it was a pretty enjoyable read. I haven't been able to find any good information on Lydia Heermann, but from what I can tell Love's Late Spring (aka At Your Age, Miss Russell?) seems to be her only published work of fiction which is a pity as I would have been interested in reading more from her.
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