Lily and the Major
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Regular readers of this column may have noticed a bit of romance novel malaise present in my reviews lately. I was in a terrible rut—it seemed like everything I read was simply awful. So I began to think about my favorite romance novels, remembering ones that rocked my world, prompting me to read them over and over again. Lily and the Major by Linda Lael Miller is one of those books.

I first read Lily and the Major when I was in middle school—a veritable Fabio virgin, if you will. I remember thinking that it was one of the most romantic books I’d ever read, and the love scenes shocked me to my 12-year-old soul. I decided to re-visit Lily and see how the book measured up to my new, more mature, expectations. I’m glad I did—because it’s almost as good as I remembered.

The book opens in 1865 Nebraska, as six-year-old Lily Chalmers boards an orphan train with her two older sisters. It appears that their alcoholic mother has taken up with a soldier, and the young man won’t marry her if she has children (yeah, Mrs. Chalmers was hardly Mother of the Year). You can imagine the impact this abandonment had on Lily, causing her to form some uncharitable opinions toward soldiers. Lily is separated from her sisters, adopted by a cruel and indifferent family, and her upbringing causes her to be fiercely independent—the only person you can count on is yourself.

Once Lily is grown, she moves to Washington Territory with plans to stake a claim to some land and homestead a farm. The idea of a woman building and running a farm by herself in 1878 is, of course, unheard-of, but Lily has spent her entire life searching for her sisters in the hopes of being reunited again and living as a family once more.

Major Caleb Halliday of the United States Army has his own share of baggage. During the Civil War, Caleb joins the Union Army, only to have his older brother, Joss, side with the Confederacy. The two meet on the battlefield at Gettysburg, and Joss, who is seriously wounded, asks Caleb to end his life and spare him the hell of a prison camp. But Caleb can’t bring himself to end his brother’s life—an act of mercy for which his brother promptly disowns him. Lily and Caleb meet in the small town of Tylerville and are instantly drawn to each other, but can they overcome their respective issues and acknowledge their love?

When I was young, I felt that this novel was just the most romantic thing ever, with the conviction only a tween is capable of, but now I’m not so sure. Caleb is arrogant and chauvinistic; Lily is often cruel and stubborn, to the point where it often gets her in mortal danger. I didn’t like how she simply could not resist Caleb’s seductions. I felt that, for such a “modern” woman, one so independent for her times, it was not “feminist enough” for Lily to simply fall into Caleb’s bed at the slightest touch. And often it seems that Caleb wants Lily more as a possession than a mate and partner. So the book had its flaws, but they were not insurmountable.

However, there was one aspect of the novel that isn’t flawed: the love scenes. There are at least a dozen of them, each one hotter than the next.

All in all, I enjoyed Lily and the Major just as much as a 30-year-old woman than I did as a 12-year-old girl. I was able to see it from a more mature point of view, and I’m happy to say that the novel withstood the test of time. I would definitely recommend this romance novel to anyone—especially those who are Fabio virgins, like I once was.

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