This is going to contain a lot of quote and excerpts, because I highlighted half the damn book with notes like “lovely” and “*sigh*” and “brilliant” and “now THAT’S romantic.”I’m a big fan of Harper’s – her Life Lessons and Breaking Cover are both on my DIK list, and Like the Taste of Summer should be required reading for all short story writers – so my expectations were pretty high. I wasn’t disappointed. I was wowed. Again.The plot....Two young sailors – one a working-class artist from California, the other an upper-middle-class pharmacists from the East Coast – meet onboard the Japan-bound U.S.S. Gageway in April 1942.This was dumb. It was stupid to get involved with someone, to care about anyone in this soul-numbing war. That was like opening yourself up to be flayed. And yet how could you help it? They were all closer than brothers, these men he fought beside. And that one man, well, there was nothing brotherly going on there.*~*~*~*“…Given the choice, don’t you think they would have rather had this, what we have in this room, than died without it?”Characterization, setting, atmosphere, tension and romance....“I was waiting for you.”Daniel’s voice was low and warm and surely didn’t mean what it sounded like. In any case, there were men close by, sleeping in the hangars and out on the decks to escape the closed-in heat of the berthing areas.Jacob said, “I’m glad you’re okay. You are okay, right?”“Yeah. Not a scratch. You?”“I’m well enough. That is, I’m not hurt.”For few minutes they stood there, watching as the new day dawned. The sun rose above the water, trailing ripples of gold that faded into the greys and blues of the waves. The air was warming.Daniel said, “Come on.”It was some kind of choice that Jacob didn’t bother to ask why or where. He just trailed after Daniel silently, down the hatch and deeper into the ship, until they fetched up against a door. Daniel stopped with his hand on it and raised one eyebrow. Jacob allowed himself one breath. Just one moment to think all the things that were going unsaid. Then he reached past Daniel and opened the linen storage locker door wide.The storeroom was airless and hot and the space was tight. But it was enough for what they needed.Damn. Damn, that’s good. See what I mean?Post-war blues....The post-war second half of the story was episodic, revealing in vignettes from approximately every decade how Daniel and Jacob’s relationship evolves over the next 60+ years.The change in flow was unexpected and a little disconcerting, but by that point I was completely invested in the characters, and there was no way I wasn’t going to finish. I stayed with Daniel and Jacob through setting up house together, job stress, coming out to families and more – right on up through the legalization of gay marriage in New York nearly 70 years after they first met.By the end, the hard-won HEA pushed me right back into “Holy crap, this is good.”Speaking of hard-won HEAs....“Ready?”He was going to grump something, but at the last moment he changed his mind. He put a hand on Daniel’s check, and just held it there. And old man’s hands with gnarled knuckles and prominent veins, resting against the soft wrinkled face of another old man. Well, they had live through enough to deserve their old age. Then Daniel turned towards him to lean into his hand, and Daniel’s eyes hadn’t changed at all. “I’ve been ready for sixty-nine years,” Jacob said quietly.Damn. Now THAT’S romantic. I needed that.