Lost Love’s Return by Alfred Nicols

Lost Love’s Return
By Alfred Nicols
Books Fluent
281 pages

Debut novel is a decades-long romance from the battlefields during WWI to postwar Mississippi

By Susan O’Bryan
Special to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger 

A fascination with history, family and relationships have stoked author Alfred Nicols’ imagination, culminating in an emotion tale of war, love and second changes. “Long Love’s Return” is the debut novel for this federal-judge-turned writer.

“The purpose of the novel was to use the vehicle of fiction to highlight the choices we make in life and the consequences of our choices,” Nicols said in an email interview.

As a judge and lawyer, “I have had almost six decades to observe the results of bad choices,” he said. “All the characters (in this novel) were created from a composite of hundreds of people I’ve observed in life to give me a character with a choice to make in life and to point out the consequences of that character’s choice.”  

Meet Peter Montgomery, a young man from a small Mississippi town, who feels obligated to join the Army during World War I. There are few opportunities other than working at his family’s mercantile and playing baseball. When he’s wounded in battle, he ends up in an English hospital filled with injured soldiers and short on skilled nurses.

It’s there that he comes to know, and love, Elizabeth Baker, a nurse who helps mend his wounds and heal a broken heart. So begins a tender love story full of hope and dreams of the future. Those dreams become a nightmare when Peter is unexpectedly sent back to the United States without saying goodbye to his soul mate.

Nicols weaves his extensive research of rural Mississippi, the Great Depression and even World War II into a tale that’s much more than a romantic tale. Through Peter, we learn “obligation” can turn to misery and how caring for others can be emotionally and mentally painful and physically scarring. We feel for those lost in battle and those were lost and lonely after war ends.

“Writing this novel with my desired accuracy required extensive research into World War I and World War II, and I got caught up in it,” Nicols said about his aim for military accuracy. “I realized it was bad, but had no idea how bad, no appropriate appreciation of the sacrifices these generations had to make for the sake of what we enjoy today.” 

Nicols uses protagonist Peter and cast of characters to illustrate how when a person believes he’s making the right decision, it can be wrong thing. Like a pebble thrown in a pond, the ripples are far-reaching. In this case, it’s a stone that’s nearly too heavy to carry. As decades pass and Peter struggles to do what’s right, Elizabeth is never far from his heart. If only he’d been able to tell her goodbye. If only his pledges of love had been able to reach her across the ocean. If only he could hold her once again. If only … if only.

In some ways, this is a typical love story – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. In other ways, it’s so much more. Nicols’ descriptions of life in the trenches of war will have your heart pounding. You’ll pound your fists along with him as he deals with a loveless marriage, and you’ll cheer for him as he stands up for his son’s decisions and actions. And when the final pages are turned, you’ll have a smile on your face and a yearning for the next chapter in the Montgomery family story.

Susan O’Bryan is a retired Clarion-Ledger newspaper editor and web content coordinator. She is an avid reader who enjoys discovering new writers, plots, and angles for fiction and non-fiction publications.

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