Forever after, when I should happen to think about Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, I’ll think of blue eyes, beaches and gin and tonics, pleasant summer evenings, and romance. But, I will also remember adultery and sadness, suicide and loss, abandonment and loneliness, and loss of youth. The thread stringing together these stories was life-changing moments when a character was inspired to choose one direction or another; to accept or not accept; to blossom or to fade away. The characters were so real to me and their choices so important that I continued reading whether I liked the story or not. I needed to know what became of these people. That is how well they were drawn. In truth, these stories had a lot of gray. Each character was flawed in some way. Maybe she drank too much, maybe he was unfaithful, maybe she was bitter, maybe he was socially awkward, but most characters felt like a neighbor or a friend. I wanted to forgive them and let them enjoy their gin and tonics on the beach. So I did; not because they deserved it, but because they trusted me with their secrets.