Imagine the heartbreak of falling in love, believing your love is returned, and then….nothing. That’s the tragic story that’s told in THE LOST LETTER. Though it’s not an uncommon trope, the telling of this particular tale is done in an emotional and poignant manner.
Three years ago, Colonel Sebastian Conrad was on leave and convinced by a friend to attend a musical event. Though Sebastian is the second son of an earl, his life has revolved around being a soldier, and not with social events. Yet, a beautiful young lady with an angelic voice captures his attention. Sylvia Stafford is a popular young lady, the daughter of a baronet, who is expected to make a good marriage. She surprisingly finds herself very attracted to the somewhat stern, quiet soldier who holds no appeal to the other young ladies. Over the next two weeks, Sebastian and Sylvia meet not-so-accidentally in the park, and spend time together at every event. It’s clear to both that they’re in love. Yet, on the night before he’s shipped off to India, Sebastian lacks the courage to propose, fearing he’ll be refused. They share some tender moments and kisses, and then Sebastian is gone. Neither of them receives any correspondence from the other, and each one believes they were played for a fool.
Time passes, and Sylvia suffers a reversal of fortune. Her father gambles everything away, and commits suicide, leaving Sylvia an outcast from society with no means of support. She seeks employment, and finds a family in trade willing to hire her. I’m happy that this family was very kind to her, and the daughters she teaches are lovely children. Eventually Sylvia settles into her new life, accepting that this will be her future, and convincing herself that her love for Sebastian has died. I admire Sylvia’s willingness to forge her own path, rather than become an unpaid servant for a distant relative.
Meanwhile, things have changed drastically for Sebastian as well. He was severely injured in India, and now has a badly scarred face, as well as being blind in one eye. Upon returning home, he learns that his father and older brother have died, leaving him as the new Earl of Radcliffe, something he never wanted. He retreats to his country estate, wanting only to be left alone, but his younger sister, Julia, won’t oblige. Initially, I found the flighty and overly dramatic Julia somewhat annoying, but I realized that her heart was in the right place, though her methods were questionable. She somehow finds the details of Sebastian’s failed love affair, tracks Sylvia down, and convinces her to come to Pershing Hall as her guest, to “save” Sebastian from doing something drastic.
Though Sylvia doesn’t want to tear her heart open again, she’s kind enough to want to help Sebastian if she possibly can. Sebastian, however, is furious at his sister’s machinations, and believes that the impoverished Sylvia is now coming around because he has a title and a fortune to go with it. This story is not that long, but it packs an emotional punch. I liked both characters very much – Sylvia became strong without becoming hard, and she still retained her dignity and sense of self-worth. Though many of the things Sebastian said were deliberately cruel, he was badly injured and feeling used. His true character became evident as the truth of what happened finally is revealed. It seems that there actually WERE at least a hundred letters written, and both Sylvia and Sebastian were the victims of someone else’s schemes. I love the moment when Sebastian finally has Sylvia’s first letter in his hand, and reads the words that expressed her deep love and longing. THE LOST LETTER is a lovely, touching, and beautifully written story, which I’m sure will be enjoyed by anyone who favors emotion, romance, and a second chance at love.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.