Reviewed by Rebecca Berry

Twenty years after he last saw his friend Laura, Geoffrey Tremont receives a letter in the mail asking him to be the executor of her estate. Consequently, he learns about his old friend’s death and begins his trip down memory lane, as well as forward into an uncertain future. He is a confirmed bachelor in New York City, happy with his life and his uncommitted relationship with his girlfriend. Serving as executor of Laura’s estate forces him to revisit past actions, and introduces him to Laura’s hometown of Shady Grove where he meets Marian, a widow who he falls instantly in love with.

From that point forward in the story, he can think of nothing else. Marian lives in the shadow of the life and death of her deceased husband, Buddy, whose presence she has held on to in every aspect of her life. Will Geoffrey be able to understand her enough and help her to let go of Buddy to lead her forward into a future with him?

The story line of The First Warm Evening of the Year seemed improbable but intriguing and I looked forward to an interesting read. Unfortunately, despite Saul’s pleasant writing style, I found myself disappointed. The characters, outside of our knowledge of their past problems, seem underdeveloped. Some, such as Laura’s brother Simon and Geoffrey’s brother Alex, seem superfluous. Conversations between characters aren’t enjoyable. I always felt as if there was as much being left out as was being said, as though I was a third person who walked up in the middle of a conversation and never quite caught up.

Geoffrey obsesses about Marian every minute after he meets her, and his constant thoughts about love, the meaning of love, etc. becomes tedious and unrealistic. Does anyone really think so much about love, and about themselves? Also tedious are Geoffrey’s intrusions in Marian’s life. Uninvited, he speaks about her to her friends, her current boyfriend, even her in-laws. His intentions are presumably honorable, but his actions seem wrong and in some cases, outright manipulative. Oddly, these people all open up to him about Marian even though they barely know him. Marian, on the other hand, can’t make up her mind and is constantly saying things she doesn’t mean and then promptly admitting it, and she never seems very bothered by the fact that Geoffrey is talking about her with other people without her knowledge.

Ultimately, I just never really bought into the story, the characters, or the conversations in this book. Perhaps I am too much of a pragmatist to appreciate this novel, but it just didn’t ring true with me. A genuine romantic may be more appreciative of Geoffrey’s ruminations and intrusions into Marian’s life in the name of love, and for them perhaps the ends justify the means. But the rest of us are likely to find many aspects of this story a bit preposterous.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Rebecca is a stay at home mom and lives in Plain City, a sleepy little town in central Ohio, with her husband and young son. She enjoys cooking, eating, Zumba, crafting, and of course, reading!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.