Synopsis: After the sudden death of husband Luca, Olivia [Liv] finds herself bereft of her companion in life. Spurned by their families for the embarrassment and emotional ramifications of their ill advised union and subsequent elopement, Liv makes the gut wrenching decision to relocate back to where she and Luca first met. The Love of My Life is set to the picturesque beach front town of Watersford, home to Marinella's, the family restaurant and backdrop to Liv and Luca's early life, both together and apart.
With no family or friends to speak of, and only the almost tangible memories of Luca to console herself with, Liv finds solace in the company of the only Marinella who doesn't express disdain at her arrival - Marc, Luca's twin brother. In their desolation and grief, the pair develop a mutual need for one another, both physically and emotionally.
Juggling her grief and guilt whilst enduring the perpetual hostility of her in-laws, Liv begins a job as a research assistant at the local university, working for a taciturn professor on his controversial biography of a Watersford author. The Love of My Life takes us through Liv's past and present, both with and without Luca and her struggle to find her new place in life.
Douglas has taken a straight forward plot, and stock characters (i.e. the death of a spouse, inhospitable in-laws, extra marital affairs) and shaken off the usual literary stereotypes and assumptions one would usually associate with them. For instance, the affair is refrained from being regarded as anything sordid or disrespectful to Luca's memory. Liv expresses guilt and remorse for her actions and her grief is at times all consuming to the point where it isn't a far stretch to feel sympathy at her situation. Isolated and chastised for her decisions, both in the past and present, Liv is almost a social pariah, judged for the indiscretions and mishaps of her youth that have doggedly clung to her reputation as an adult.
As the story progresses, Douglas flicks back and forth through Liv's timeline, alternating between the present, newly widowed state and Liv's younger self. The narrative is at times melodiously written, which I found myself thinking was quite odd for a first person perspective - it seemed out of keeping with the accessible style of Liv's tone. However as the story reminds you towards the end, it is in fact a written log of Liv's life post-Luca. Upon this realisation, I appreciated Douglas's knack of commenting on the smaller facets of a scene to create a world for her character that we're permitted unfettered access to. I never felt it to be a biased narrative, as although Liv discusses what could easily be perceived as a checkered past (through noone's fault but her own), she has no qualms in accepting her blame where due.
I personally would have preferred a bit more development for the supporting characters. Much of what we have is from Liv's perspective and from her younger self we know that naivety is not always lacking. I was intrigued by Nathalie, Liv's sister-in-law and Marc's wife, who is especially thorny to Liv and her return. Although we are given justification and insight into her motivations and attitude, I would have liked more interaction between her and Liv.
Have you read The Love of My Life?