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Reviewed by Judi Goldenberg

Unconventional Life Is Rendered In Subtle Prose. If you overheard someone describing “Twilight” protagonist Lavinia Gibbs, you might mistake the independent-minded woman of good fortune and 1917 graduate of Miss Dillwater’s Academy for the heroine of a historical romance.

She is in fact a complex character at odds with the social customs of her time. The appeal of Mosby’s novel depends far less on its storyline than on its smooth-flowing subtle prose that gently enchants the reader with observant commentary and lyrical turns of phrase.

“It would be misleading to say that the course of Lavinia’s life was diverted by a kiss,” the author begins, “or that a chance remark would change the continent on which she lived, although both things were true.” Because her fiancé’s kiss repulses her, because Paris before World War II is a place an unmarried woman can live as freely as she chooses and because her broken engagement brings scandal on her family, Lavinia relocates to Europe with an independent income and no emotional ties.

Her first liaison is with a man on his way to fight in the Spanish Civil War. At this point, some readers may think the novel will present a series of erotic adventures. Those readers will be disappointed. Mosby’s fiction is about a sentimental, not sexual, education. When Lavinia loses her heart to a wealthy man married to a French aristocrat, she discovers the real meaning of love.

Parts of the novel stand out for their depiction of the conflict between social custom and personal feeling. In one, Lavinia’s correspondence with Gaston reveals their affair is based on a shared love of language as well as mutual attraction.

Fans of Mosby’s The Season of Lillian Dawes may conclude that the author has not lived up to her reputation, but readers who appreciate poetic language and psychologically complex portraits of women in settings reminiscent of Edith Wharton or E.M. Forster will savor this portrait of a not-so-young lady who defies the conventions of her time only to find herself caught up in history.

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