Cover Rating: 4 Stars ****
Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.
Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.
But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.
As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.
Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.
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Samantha Moore had had a rough childhood with an abusive father, a drug addict as a mother and moving from foster home to foster home. Then she found herself at a Grace House, a home for wayward and orphaned kids, and under the supervision if Father John. Sam had always lived in her books and, being a fan of Jane Austen, she often quoted her characters as a way to hide her true self. When Father John suggested her as a scholarship candidate to the Dover Foundation she refused because she wanted to do things on her own and on her own terms. After failing to do exactly that she contested the grantor of the scholarship to ask for a second chance. It was granted under one condition, that she write letters detailing her progress to his pseudonym–Mr. Knightley.
Sam soon finds herself pouring out her feelings to someone that started out as a stranger but is soon a trusted friend. With Mr. Knightley she can share her deepest, darkest secrets, her fears and her desires, and even a true love. With a new set of “parents”, new friends, a college degree and a new love blossoming in her heart, Sam is finally coming into her own and putting the fears of the past behind her. To her own amazement she is shedding her Jane Austen persona all while bearing her soul to one man and giving her heart to another. Can Sam have the life she has only dreamed of? Could this really be real or is she only a character in one of her beloved novels?
When I first opened this book I have to admit I was skeptical. A book made entirely of letters? My first thought was, “How can this possibly meet my expectations?”. Even though I have read such greats as The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright and The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate I still had reservations. Those books had such great story lines and the letters were a PART of the story, NOT the story itself. So as I delved into this story I did so with a little skepticism. Have you ever done that? Read a book that you had questions about but, once you read it, were so glad you did? That is exactly what happened. A third of the way through I knew I had chosen well, halfway through I was in tears, three quarters of the way through I was literally giddy (did I say giddy? Yes, GIDDY!) at the prospect of how the story was going to turn out every time I picked the book back up to start reading again. I have read tons of books in my life and, although I have seen times I didn’t want to put a book down, I have never felt giddy at re-entering a story. The way Sam bared her soul to Mr. Knightley just tore at my heart. I felt every heartache and disappointment she went through. I felt every loss and rejection and rejoiced with every happy moment Sam experienced. And when she finally found love, which she desperately deserved, I was ecstatic! It takes good writing to bring out those kind of emotions and in the form of letters? Excellent! If you love a story with depth and feeling, a story that makes you feel like you’re a part of it, you’ll love Dear Mr. Knightley. And, I must add, it’s a DEBUT novel! Which obviously means I have many more books to look forward to from Katherine Reay. I was SO pleased with this book and I recommend it HIGHLY!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for my honest review. These opinions are mine and mine alone. I was in no way compensated for this review.
My Rating: 5 Stars *****
Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂
While writing her letters, Sam was writing to a pseudonym (A fictitious name). She had no idea who the recipient was or anything about them and that made it easier to be truthful about herself and dig deeper into her life and past. Do you think you could bare your soul completely to a stranger under these circumstances or would it have to be someone you know very well?
Debut author Katherine Reay is celebrating the release of her delightful novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway, a fun Favorite Austen Moments Pinterest contest, and an Austen-themed Facebook Party.
One winner will receive:
- A Kindle Fire HDX
- Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
- Handmade Austen-themed items (scarf, mug, bracelet, and necklace)
But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the “Dear Mr. Knightley” Austen-themed Facebook Author Chat Party on the 3rd. Join Katherine (and Austen fans) for an evening of book chat, prizes, and an exclusive look at Katherine’s next book.