Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London

Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London

Texas is home to many romance novelists, but not many of them take the kind of leap that Austin’s Julia London has just made.

Julia’s best known for her historical romances, but her new novel, Summer of Two Wishes (Pocket Books, $7.99), is a contemporary. And not just any contemporary, but one dealing with a very serious issue: the effects of the current war in Afghanistan on one returning veteran, as well as on the folks back in his Hill Country hometown.

The story centers around Macy, a young war widow in the small Texas town of Cedar Springs, who suffers through two years of grief and loneliness after her cowboy husband, Finn, is reported killed in Afghanistan. But after she finally recovers enough to marry again — this time to a wealthy land broker, Wyatt — Macy is stunned by the news that Finn has been found alive after all. He comes home to Cedar Springs, and Macy finds herself torn between loyalties to her two husbands. Which one will she choose?

There are plenty of hot, steamy love scenes, of course — but Summer of Two Wishes also tackles difficult issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the stresses of military family life, and even the thorny legalities that ensue when a person declared dead is found in fact to be alive.

Julia London

Julia London

Here is Julia London talking about Summer of Two Wishes:  

Hello, Julia! This is the first book of yours that I’ve read. I was interested in it not only because you’re a Texan, but because you set your story in a part of Texas that we all know and love, the Hill Country.

Another Hill Country lover—that’s great.  Although at this time of year, I wish I was anything but a Texan.  It’s too hot in August for sane people, isn’t it?

You have written a lot of historical romances before now. What made you decide to write a contemporary? And why take on a subject as intense as the emotional fallout from a war that is still ongoing?

It was a need to stretch my creative wings, I think.  I love the historical romance novels I write; it’s like living in a Jane Austen period film.  They are definitely flights of fancy, and they are fun.  But I also had this compelling need to write stories that are grounded more in reality and about people who could be our neighbors. As for the subject matter—what better way to ground the story in reality?  The war is something we’ve all experienced.  In fact, this idea came about because my nephew had served in Iraq with the Marines.  He’s out now and on to a new life, but every year, our local paper prints the faces and names of all the men and women from Central Texas who have been lost to the war.  I couldn’t look at those pictures without thinking of my nephew.  And I thought about all the families who were seeing their loved ones there and who would give anything if they came back. I started thinking, what if one of them did come back?  What would they come home to?  How would life have changed?  The story built from there.

What kind of research was necessary to get the details right about the lives of servicemen and military families?

It was an education for me.  There are several sites and organizations that are dedicated to the families of servicemen and women, but one in particular, the gave me insight into what it must be like to be left behind.  I also spoke with people from the military who had been to Iraq.  Interestingly, I never met anyone who had been to Afghanistan.  I read a lot of news items to form that part of the story. 

By an odd coincidence, Tom Batiuk’s syndicated comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” also just featured a very topical storyline about a serviceman believed dead for years who is found alive through an Iraqi prisoner exchange. He suffers from a loss of memory, but he does remember his wife. However, he comes home to find his wife has remarried.

Really!  That is an odd coincidence. 

One big difference: The wife in the comic strip chooses a different husband than the wife chooses in Summer of Two Wishes. 

I honestly didn’t know which husband my wife was going to end up with until near the end.  I went through the process of deciding with her.  I can’t imagine how painful it would be to make that decision in real life.  And it could honestly have gone either way.  She loved two men, and two men loved her.

The other major difference: In the comic strip, there’s no apparent media fanfare over the “dead” soldier’s miraculous return.  However, I think your portrayal of the media frenzy surrounding Finn seemed far more likely to be what happens in such a case. Did you feel it was important to show what sort of public pressure is placed upon returning veterans, from the media and from their family, friends and fellow citizens?

I think in this particular case, it would certainly be a big part of the story.  I can’t imagine that happening today without a lot of fanfare, and probably a lot more than I portrayed.  And it seemed to me that the intense media spotlight would add so much more stress to the situation, which, as an author, I liked.  I also read a lot about the return home, and I tried to put myself in the shoes of returning soldiers.  For some, the adjustment to civilian life seems so drastic, and I guessed that people run out of patience when a soldier doesn’t adjust as quickly as they would like.  I thought it was important to show how that would affect someone who essentially has been living as a captive in the desert the last few years.

Thanks so much, Julia!

Thank you!  I am very happy to have shared some time with you and your readers.