There are two men in Vaughan Favor's youthful life—medical student Rab MacLeod, her childhood sweetheart, and Clay Farnsworth, a handsome but insecure actor and theatrical director. But rivals and war take away first one, then the other, and she quietly rededicates her life to her sprawling birth family. Then, years later, both Rab and Clay return to her—at the same time! Now the choice is hers. . . . Set against a backdrop of the Depression, World War II and its aftermath, this romantic novel delves deeply into the hearts of its characters. Not only does it offer a close look at the tempestuous emotions of Vaughan, Rab and Clay, it also reveals Vaughan's loving mother Bel and devoted father Larry, her cousin Lottie—whose past holds a dark secret—and her five brothers and sisters:
• Izzy—Isabel—the oldest and most self-contained of the family.
• “Juney”—Lawrence Junior—Vaughan's headstrong younger brother who as a child “tends to kick” (other people's shins) when he's upset.
• Flavia, her stunning blonde but egocentric and shallow younger sister.
• Selby, a brilliantly talented pianist seemingly on his way to a bright career.
• Kent, the baby and “golden-crowned kinglet” of the family. And then there's Bobby, the next generation and an aspiring musical composer who helps point the way to a resolution of many things. Vaughan is a novel of the many strengths and frailties that chart the course of the human condition and enrich the lives of us all.

Excerpt . . .

Rab was away at medical school and she saw him only in snatches of vacations. Not like the old days when they had been frequent companions. When he had behaved as though she were a favorite kid sister. Until her sixteenth birthday. She had had her hair cut short and came home to show them, buoyant with the lightness of it, tilting her head to make the ends tickle the back of her neck. She saw a new look in his nearsighted eyes. He came close and pulled off his glasses to look some more. He was so accustomed to holding them between thumb and forefinger that sometimes, if he needed his hand, he used it as though they weren't there; sometimes, as now, he waggled them like a pendulum. After dinner, he followed when she went out into the warm October evening to get some chrysanthemums for his mother. The ones she wanted were yellow and bronze; the colors were washed thin by the moonlight, but her knowledge of the gardens led her to the right ones. He waited behind her, and she felt a tingling across her shoulders as she picked them—chrysanthemums didn't need cutting, the stems snapped readily. She straightened with them in her arms, and turned around. He pulled off his glasses and leaned over the flowers to kiss her on the lips, so softly that she was astonished at what that kiss did to her. She had thought from the movies, from books, that it took a close embrace and a violent kiss to have that effect. He said, “Sweet sixteen, and now kissed. Am I the first, Vaughan? ” She nodded in the moonlight, filled with the pungency of chrysanthemums mixed with the tweedy smell of Rab. She wanted to drop the flowers and use her arms across his broad shoulders, touch the crag of a cheekbone, the short hairs at the back of his neck. But she stood still, smelling the smells and trembling. He had kissed her goodnight a few times in the four years since. Always the same, softly, on the lips. In his last Christmas vacation he had spent most of Saturday helping them get ready for the engagement party. Izzy had charming, difficult ideas; the decor was to be Japanese, and some of the furniture had to be hauled upstairs. Since John Adamson had a partially paralyzed right arm from polio as a boy, the job fell to Rab and Juney and Selby; Juney complaining, Selby worrying about his hands, Rab more silent than usual. John could use his elbow and upper arm, with the nerveless lower arm as a support; he hung paper lanterns. Izzy and Vaughan arranged flowers on low things and set cushions around on the floor. When it was finished, Vaughan filled her lungs with it. It was serene and sensuous; she wanted to collapse onto the cushions and make love. She felt Rab's look on her. Late in the evening, when everyone at the party was in the living room or parlor, she said to herself, if he's not going to do anything about it, I'll have to. She picked up four nearly empty plates of sandwiches and asked him to come to the kitchen to help carry back the filled plates. They went by way of the darkened dining room, and at the swinging door which led to the kitchen, with Martha clattering dishes on the other side of it and a string of light lying beneath it, she stopped and turned. He took the plates out of her hands one by one, and set them on the sideboard, and wrapped his arms around her and gave her a long kiss that left her faint. With one arm around her waist and one around her shoulders. With her hands on his shoulders, one moving to the back of his neck, one onto the shell of his ear, until she swayed with weakness within the strength of his arms. He whispered, “We've got to get the sandwiches.” She could see his mouth in the dim light; there was no smile. The light glinted on his glasses—she had caught him unprepared and he had not taken them off. What were his eyes saying behind those reflected lights? Were they heavy-lidded, as hers were? But through his glasses, he could not see what hers were saying.

by Josephine Barrett