Friday, November 15, 2013

Review of "Dear Mr. Knightley"

Rating: 5 Stars
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Review: As a Jane Austen fan, the title "Dear Mr. Knightley" immediately caught my attention. I wasn't sure what to expect from Katherine Reay's debut novel, especially since it is written as a series of one-way letters from Samantha Moore to the mysterious "Mr. Knightley." The format is fresh, and completely grabbed my attention. The more I read, the more engrossed I became.  So engrossed that I spent almost an entire day reading, which is rare.  "Dear Mr. Knightley" is not strictly an "Emma" spin-off; it is a modern combination of elements seen in the works of the classic authors mentioned throughout the novel - Dickens, Bronte, Gaskell, and Austen.  The plot has pain, triumph, love, trust, belonging, and self-discovery.  Samantha's Mr. Knightley adds an air of mystery.  Although he is largely silent, it is impossible not to wonder who is behind the pseudonym.

Samantha mentions a few times in her first letters that she has trouble connecting with others.  She carries emotional baggage from a childhood spent in foster homes and living with troubled parents. Reay reveals Samantha's story gradually, building a strong emotional connection as Samantha opens up and shares her life experiences.  Reading Samantha's letters feels more personal than reading a novel told in a traditional first person format.  There is a casual, journal-like quality that makes Samantha's story more engaging and real. There are a few love stories built in the pages, both familial and romantic love, equally sweet and captivating.

Fans of Jane Austen will appreciate the references to the famous authoress and her contemporaries throughout "Dear Mr. Knightley." In fact, we might even gain a new appreciation for Austen's Mr. Knightley, who is often overshadowed by another Mister of Austen's creation. Reay presents her own version of Mr. Knightley, who despite his own mistakes, possesses the strength of character and devotion as his namesake. I believe Ms. Austen would be quite proud.

Kathering Reay makes a stunning debut, sharing her creativity and talent with readers.  She is certainly an author whose next novel I will anticipate.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Summary from Thomas Nelson: 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.

Growing up orphaned and alone, Sam found her best friends in the works of Austen, Dickens, and the Brontë sisters. The problem is that she now relates to others more comfortably as Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre than as herself.
Sometimes we lose ourselves in the things we care about most.
But life for this twenty-three-year-old is about to get stranger than fiction, when an anonymous benefactor (calling himself “Mr. Knightley”) offers to put Sam through the 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 program and peers force her to confront her past, she finds safety in her increasingly personal letters to Mr. Knightley. And when Sam meets eligible, best-selling novelist Alex Powell, those letters unfold a story of love and literature that feels as if it’s pulled from her favorite books. But when secrets come to light, Sam is – once again – made painfully aware of how easily trust can be broken.  
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.

Meet the author: Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in "Focus on the Family" and the "Upper Room." Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. "Dear Mr. Knightley" is her first novel.

Learn more about Katherine at:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review of "Beloved"

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Review: "Beloved" is the third book in Robin Lee Hatcher's "Where the Heart Lives" series. Unlike many romances that focus on new love, Hatcher crafts a story about an estranged married couple who are reunited under unusual circumstances.  Both Diana and Tyson have been shaped by past experiences and hardships that give dimension to their characters.  Each chapter ends with a glimpse into Diana's and Tyson's courtship, marriage, and separation.  Although brief, these insights provide necessary background to the range of emotions that Diana and Tyson experience. 

There aren't many surprises in the plot; it progressed as I anticipated based on the synopsis. Various conflicts both within the characters and among them, provide tension.  Two characters in particular seem determined to sabotage any attachment between Diana and Tyson. I felt that the climax and resolution was relatively predictable.

"Beloved" is a story of relationships, and there are a few relationships besides the one between Diana and Tyson. I particularly liked young Ned, a local orphan who easily finds a way into Diana's heart. The mother-son bond that develops between them is sweet, though not without conflict.  Each of the protagonists undergoes transformation and healing, which leads to a happy ending.  "Beloved" is an enjoyable novel that is well-written and developed.  Hatcher introduces themes of redemption, forgiveness, and love to create a more meaningful romance novel. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Zondervan: A most unwelcome guest surprises Diana at her engagement party---the husband she thought was dead!

Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took o for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him in years, Diana is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when Tyson returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom.

He agrees with one condition---she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.


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