Samantha Moore had a tragic childhood, but she has found a way to cope. While being passed from one foster home to another, she discovered that she always did well in school, especially in English literature. When real life was too harsh, she disappeared into other lives: Elizabeth Bennet’s, Jane Eyre’s, or Elinor Dashwood’s. For times when she had to act fierce, she personified the Count of Monte Cristo’s Edmond Dantes. Samantha finds it difficult to make friends, partly because she tends to talk in lengthy quotations from the classics rather than using words of her own.
As the novel opens, Father John, the head of the group home where Sam has lived since her teens, has good news for her. Sam has been casting about for direction in her life, and Father John has found an anonymous donor who will give her a grant to graduate school at Northwestern University. The catch is that it is in journalism, not English lit. The only requirement is that she write to the donor regularly to keep him abreast of her progress, and so the novel is composed almost completely of Samantha’s letters to her benefactor, who asks her to call him Mr. Knightley, after the hero of Austen’s Emma.
Sam struggles with grad school, especially with one terrifying professor who gives her the first poor grades she’s ever had. He says that he cannot hear her own voice in her writing, and that she is holding back. Sometimes Sam thinks about quitting, and if she doesn’t please this one instructor, he may take that decision out of her hands. Adding to her stress, Father John has asked her to mentor one of the new teens at Grace House, a surly boy who runs almost as fast as she does. Her one bright spot is that she gets to meet one of her author heroes, Alex Powell, who is much younger than she expected. All of these details of her life are faithfully relayed to Mr. Knightley, and since he never writes back, her letters become more of a journal, and as time goes on she reveals more and more of her emotions and her inner transformation.
I read this sweet novel while I had the flu, and it was just what the doctor ordered: a romance with a bit of substance and a bit of fun. As a reader, you’ll see the end coming a mile away, but you’d be terribly disappointed in a romance with a tragic ending, wouldn’t you? Samantha goes through some true character development in this book, changes that are necessary for her to succeed in life, and the reader will be coaxing her on the whole way. This novel is perfect for everyone—well, maybe every woman—and since it’s by Thomas Nelson publishers, it’s perfectly fine to lend to your teenage daughter, as well. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.