In this enthralling story of love, loss, and divided loyalties, two students fall in love on the eve of WWI and must face a world at war—from opposing sides.
Cambridge, MA, 1914: Helen Windship Brooks, the precocious daughter of the prestigious Boston family, is struggling to find herself at the renowned Harvard-Radcliffe university when carefree British playboy, Riley Spencer, and his brooding German poet-cousin, Wils Brandl, burst into her sheltered world. As Wils quietly helps the beautiful, spirited Helen navigate Harvard, they fall for each other against a backdrop of tyrannical professors, intellectual debates, and secluded boat rides on the Charles River.
But with foreign tensions mounting and the country teetering on the brink of World War I, German-born Wils finds his future at Harvard—and in America—increasingly in danger. When both cousins are called to fight on opposing sides of the same war, Helen must decide if she is ready to fight her own battle for what she loves most.
Based on the true story behind a mysterious and controversial World War I memorial at this world-famous university, The End of Innocence sweeps readers from the elaborate elegance of Boston's high society to Harvard's hallowed halls to Belgium's war-ravaged battlefields, offering a powerful and poignant vision of love and hope in the midst of a violent, broken world.
This engaging debut from Jordan tells the love story of two college students who pursue their romance as World War I begins. At a party, Wils Brandl meets Helen Brooks, an aspiring writer from a prominent New England family, and immediately gets on her bad side by criticizing one of her poems. Meanwhile, Wils's rakish cousin Riley pursues Helen romantically, despite rumors that he's engaged to a woman in England. This is to Wil's chagrin, as he begins to fall for Helen himself. Both Wils and Helen are tormented by entitled fellow student Arnold Archer, whose politician father hopes to rise to a position in Congress on a wave of anti-German sentiment. Archer stirs up suspicion that Wils is a spy for the Kaiser who is currently waging war in Europe. As the inevitable happens and Wils and Helen fall in love and marry, Wils is summoned back to Europe where he fights on the side of the Germans, while Riley fights for the British. Jordan does a terrific job of contrasting the superficial formalities of the initial chapters depicting New England social life with the grueling realities of life in the trenches. Also on display is her knack for taking what at first seem like throwaway or background details and making them central to the story's last third, set in Boston following the Great Depression.