Islandia, by Austen Tappan Wright

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Breakfast was not a meal to linger over. There was too much to be seen, and in two hours the anchor would be dropped. Because I needed advice and also liked and trusted him, when M. Perier appeared on deck, I confided my feelings about Dorn to him; and he, like Islata Soma, advised me to write at once and not to worry about our different views. There was something very friendly in his manner, and my cup of gratitude was full when he offered to take me in hand when we went ashore, suggesting that I present my credentials in his company that afternoon and then come home with him for dinner.

This is one of the Retro Hugo finalists for 1943 this year, having been published in 1942; it is as long as the other five combined, and was published years after the author’s death from his assembled notes by his daughter (who probably should get cover creds, but of course doesn’t).

It’s set in the first decade of the last century. Our protagonist has a bromance at Harvard with a scion of the ruling elite of Islandia, a mysterious country on a mysterious continent in the southern hemisphere (more likely the Atlantic than the Pacific, from the hints we are given). After graduation, he pulls some family political strings and gets sent there as the American Consul. And he falls in love, with several of the young women of Islandia, but most of all with the country itself, whose relaxed social and sexual attitudes are a stark contrast with the rather repressed American culture of the Gilded Age. It’s a great work of world-building, with a series of romantic plots overlaid (and some politics, but really not all that much). The pace is fairly gentle, but I did find myself caught up in the story, especially the awkwardness of the narrator’s relationships with the women of both Islandia and the USA. It’s a long read, but worth it. You can get it here (paper only, not electronic).