17657649Reviewed by Meg Massey

Samantha Moore has coped with a difficult childhood by quoting her favorite authors, and distancing herself from anyone that could hurt her. So when an anonymous benefactor offers to fund her education at Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism, it all feels too good to be true. But Sam agrees to the arrangement, and the only stipulation – that she must write letters about her time in graduate school to the donor, addressing them to Mr. Knightley.

Sam soon finds herself struggling in school. A popular but brutally honest professor tells her that she is not connecting with her work, and that if can’t learn to, she might as well leave the program. An unlikely source, a fellow foster child, Kyle, may be able to give her the push she needs to face her past and embrace her future. And author Alex Powell begins to inspire feelings that Sam’s never felt before. Will she be able to accept love, or will a secret force Sam to push Alex away forever?

There are not many books that I have a hard time putting down, but Dear Mr. Knightley was one of them. Katherine Reay’s debut novel is stunning to say the least. This epistolary novel feels fresh. In Samantha, Reay creates a complex character that is battling a number of demons and fears that have never left her, but that she has struggled to suppress by retreating into a world of fiction, using the words of her favorite authors to avoid having to speak true words of her own.

Though I loved every part of this novel (and devoured it in less than two days) I believe my favorite moment was when her professor challenged her to connect to her work, essentially urging her to make connections with the people around her. Having avoided relationships all her life in hopes of not being hurt, this is certainly a challenge for Sam. I was particularly moved by Sam’s relationship with Kyle. Their conversations, as relayed in Sam’s letters to Mr. Knightley, are unforgettable, deeply personal and so meaningful to Sam’s development as a writer, and a person.

I was a bit surprised by the ending, which says something, as I’m usually able to predict these sort of novels. But despite my surprise, I enjoyed the way Reay wrapped up this tale, and I hope to see more books from her in the future. If you’re a Jane Austen fan, you’re sure to love this book!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between on her blog.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas Nelson. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.