Samantha More has very little. No friends to speak of, no family, no career, no hope. What she does have is a plethora of book lines memorized, a knack for hiding behind them, and a great sense of timing. But it’s not enough to live life through someone else’s great one-liners – especially when those people aren’t even real. But what line do use when an anonymous benefactor offers to pay your way to attend the prestigious journalism school at Northwestern? And what do you tell this “Dear Mr. Knightley” in the letters you write to update him on your progress?
I’m telling you now before you get any further. If the plot line sounds familiar to you, it’s because this is a shockingly similar story. Maybe even a little too familiar.
Young girl in an orphanage is given a grant to attend college.
Young girl must write letters to benefactor to update him on her progress.
Benefactor meets young girl on the sly.
They fall in love.
Conflict! Real life person and benefactor are one and the same! Benefactor tricked her! Will she forgive him?!?
Two words: Daddy. Longlegs.
Okay. But! Once you get passed that, once you read through the first few chapters it stops sounding so Jean Webster-ish and more like Katherine Reay. The story is different than Daddy Longlegs. The character has struggles with her own, and has an interesting past, and is actually struggling to become a better person. She doesn’t just drift into and then out of the story. She earns your fandom, your time.
Dear Mr. Knightley is engaging story as well. I read it in a day and half and wasn’t tempted to put the book down at all. Well, in the first few chapters I was ready to put it down – afraid it was trying too hard to be Daddy Longlegs II. Also, I was tempted to put it down when I happened to glance on the back and saw that it was “Christian” fiction. Umn. I was afraid the story was going to move toward the climactic “Jesus Saves” moment. Thankfully, my fears were mostly unfounded.
Yes. Mostly. There are a few of those misplaced Jesus moments in the book. I really don’t like them. They aren’t necessary and in this case, added absolutely nothing to the story. The Muirs had already proven themselves to be nice people. Loving people embodying Love-with-a-capital-A. So to insist that they drop hints to Samantha at the source of their love, it just doesn’t work. There are a few of these near the end of the book. Authors! Stop teaching! Let art speak!
Interestingly, Reay really shines at this when she deals with the issues of premarital sex and abstinence. Dear Mr. Knightley doesn’t preach here, doesn’t teach. It just shows the awful, mixed up mess a young girl nearly gets herself into. It demonstrates beautifully how odd is her desire to give herself away as a mere “next step” in her college relationship. Kudos here, to Reay.
Okay, the ending was corny. I mean really very corny. I didn’t believe it at all, the part about the Muirs.
The romance ending? Of course I believed that! I totally believed that! It’s chick lit, people! Suspend your disbelief. Engage in cognitive dissonance!
So, yeah, the part about the Muirs and Samantha: unbelievable, and entirely skip-overable. But the rest of the book? A most excellent read.
Romance fans will love it. Adults, teens, and tweens alike. They’ll love the romance, the intensity, the graduate schoolness of it. Real conflicts. Real issues. They won’t choke on the few places of misplaced preaching, and it’s nothing contrary to the faith.
What You Need to Know
- Role Models/Authority Figures – Father John, the priest who runs Grace House, Mr. Muirs and his wife, good professors. Really, a plethora of people who care about a girl who is down and out but who is trying to beat the odds.
- Violence – Samantha is attacked on the metro.
- Language – Clean
- Sexual Content – Frank allusions to contemplating “doing the deed” with her boyfriend Josh, but she doesn’t.
- Consumerism –
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – Nope
- Religion – the Muirs “drop breadcrumbs” to her about religion, and a couple of other cheesy moments. Nothing anti-Catholic. Also? the guy who runs Grace House? Father John. I loved that. sigh. And no, that part isn’t cheesy. It speaks for itself, no?
- Other –
- Neat stuff –