There was a man at the restaurant this evening who looked so much like you that I winked at him and laughed. But it wasn’t you. It wasn’t you this time either.”
After ten years without contact, when Henri gets an envelope with Isidor’s handwriting—his love, his one that got away—he’s sent into a tailspin. With one letter, Henri is bombarded with memories, hope, confusion…and love as strong as the day they parted. From the moment they met, Henri and Isidor were combustible and, when their passion transformed into love, they thought they were inevitable and unbreakable. As Isidor was only in Henri’s town to obtain his master’s degree, they made plans for Henri to go with him when he moved back home to earn his doctorate, but with the death of Henri’s father and his mother’s grief, there was no way he could leave.
They then made promises to make it work, but between the demands of Henri’s dad’s business and Isidor’s studies and research, they decided there was no way forward together. Though Henri has made a good life for himself and no longer thinks about Isidor every day, his regrets occasionally whisper to him still, now even more so once Isidor’s letter shows him that Isidor has never forgotten him nor completely let go either. Will meeting again finally put the ashes of their previous relationship to rest, or will it prove that their love is indeed unbreakable?
Nell Iris is one of the few authors where I’ve loved every short story/novella of hers that I’ve read. She’s exceptional at packing so much emotion into whatever story she’s telling and Love, Isidor is no exception. From the opening lines of Isidor’s letter, Henri and I are swept away into a tidal wave of breathless emotion—all the longing, uncertainty, and aching want and love on full display. Isidor’s letter shakes Henri to the core and opens up doors to possibilities that Henri closed and refused to acknowledge in order to move on. He’s afraid to hope and afraid that trying again will leave them even more broken, erasing the good memories with bitter grief. However, both men’s desperate need to discover if they have a chance to recover what they lost and build the future they always dreamed of is greater than their fear.
Even though the story is told from Henri’s perspective, I still felt like I got to know Isidor as well. When Henri reminisces on the day they met, I felt Isidor’s boldness, arrogance, and intensity; in their conversations, I saw his cool sharpness, but also his gentle regard; and in the letters he wrote, his love, grief, and unending devotion. Iris also weaves in small details that give a strong impression of Isidor and the pair’s relationship. For all the sweeping emotion and passion, the men don’t fall right into one another’s arms. They acknowledge how they’ve changed and that being older my make it easier in some ways, but harder in others to sustain their relationship. However, the breadth and depth of their love and the razor-edged hindsight the years have created make them truly understand that being together is worth fighting for.
Despite the overwhelming ardor and yearning of the story, it does not feel saccharine or overwrought. To me, it rides that fine line between bringing me in and making me believe in the strength of their feelings, and over-the-top sentimentality well. It packs a nice punch to the feels in only 56 pages and may especially speak to those who love second chances; romantic, heartfelt letters; and their sexy, stoic writers.