Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Review: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Welcome to the next stop in the Litfuse publicity tour for Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay!

About the book:

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.

As the years go by, do you find yourself becoming more emotionally available to people?  Or do you find life’s difficulties helping you to build a wall to shut others out? In Dear Mr. Knightley, we find journalism student Samantha Moore, who is of that latter persuasion.  She has been through many trials in her 23 years and as a defense mechanism, she keeps others at bay.  Physical contact is kept to a minimum. Interpersonal relationships are kept distant by her hiding her personality behind characters from classic works of fiction, such as Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre. In short, she is a bit of a neurotic, literary mess. Through a process of letter writing to an anonymous benefactor, unexpected new friendships and a considerable amount of soul-searching, Samantha tries to make sense of her past and works to have a better future, both personally and professionally.

Dear Mr. Knightly has some characteristics that I’ve found several times in other recently-published novels. The main character is a bit of an insecure, romantic “Austen Addict”, and references to Austen’s work are sprinkled throughout the narrative and dialogue. As a Janeite I do enjoy these literary cameos, but I hope that those who have never read Austen, Dickens or Dumas will still be able to enjoy the general story overall.  
This title is published by Thomas Nelson, a noted Christian imprint.  While God, Jesus and other spiritual ideas are presented, they are extremely light-handed, and for the most part emerge near the end of the story. The novel might end up in the “Inspirational Fiction” section of the local bookstore, but it could easily stand in general fiction as well.  It doesn’t have the innocent tone of many Christian novels, addressing some fairly difficult, gritty issues surrounding abused children and the foster care system.  Cursing is mentioned, but the most colorful word that I can recall was the repeated use of the exclamation, “crap”.  By today’s standards, that’s pretty tame. 

Romance is one of the main themes of Dear Mr. Knightley, but it doesn’t drip with gooey sentimentality or steamy sex scenes. The characters do feel passionately, but the text is kept very chaste, thankfully.  Other authors feel the need to insert sexual situations to spice up their writing, and I was grateful that Ms. Reay was confident enough in her talent to not go in that direction in her work.

Overall I would judge Dear Mr. Knightley as a pleasant book that addresses important social, interpersonal and spiritual issues while sharing a sweet, romantic tale.  Reay’s writing is smooth and enjoyable, and her love for literature is quite evident.  Unlike other Austenesque writers who quote from classic literature, she branches out to other authors’ works. The Count of Monte Cristo is mentioned frequently, and I was particularly delighted at the appearance of C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Sometimes I felt that her use of these literary cameos became a bit too frequent, but as a lover of these books, I couldn’t help but enjoy encountering them.

So while I would not term Dear Mr. Knightley as the best Austenesque fiction, it was a light, pleasant read. The narrative takes a few twists and turns that I did not expect, and I appreciated Reay’s choice to keep the content clean.  Her main characters were very appealing and multi-dimensional throughout the novel.  And while the book might be categorized as Christian Fiction, it could easily be read by secular audiences as well. Lovers of fiction and classic authors in particular will also have many moments of amusement with the literary cameos.  Katherine Reay has presented a pleasant debut novel, one that is certainly praiseworthy and hopefully just the beginning of this author’s fictional writing career.

Take a look at the other stops on the Litfuse tour!

Lena | A Christian Writer's World
Andi | Radiant Light
Carla | Working Mommy Journal
Joan | Book Reviews from an Avid Reader
Heather | The Sunset Won't
Revka | Our Family Porch
Kathleen | Jersey Girl Book Reviews
Melanie | The Ramblings of Two Readers
Nicole | Gidget Goes Home

Ruth | My Devotional Thoughts
Vida | Sunflower Faith
Carol | Books Music and Life
Celena | The Traveling Sisterhood
Brittanie | A Book Lover
Tressa | Tressa's Wishful Endings

Amanda | The Talbert Report
Amanda | Books by Amanda
Amber | snidbits
Jalynn | A Simple Life,really?!
Beckie | By The Book
Becky | Christian Chick's Thoughts
Beth | for the love of books

Billy | Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
Amanda | The Best Books Ever
Lenora | Crazed Mind
Ramona | Create with Joy
Jessica | Crossroad reviews
Dawn | A Passion for Pages
Victoria | deal sharing aunt
Tiffany | Single Mommy Warrior
Katherine | Story Matters

Diane | That's What I'm Here For....
Evangeline | Audacious Reader
Tina | GivingNSharing
Faith | Found a Christian by His Grace
Joy | Splashes of Joy
Brooke | i blog 4 books
Kari | From the TBR Pile
Jennifer | Adventures in Unsell Land
Corinne | Everyday Gyaan

Jill | I am believing God
Heather | Mrs. Southern Bride
JoyAnne | Deco My Heart
JoJo | JoJo's Corner
Kari | Slow it down
Charity | Giveaway Lady
Kristie | Moments
Jamie | Christian Teen Fiction Devourer
Kim | Window To My World

Lisa | A Casual Reader's Blog
Kathleen | Lane Hill House
Laura | Harvest Lane Cottage
Bethany | The Literary Maidens
Melanie | Christian Bookshelf Reviews

Victoria | Decked Out in Ruffles
Kelli | The Zen of Motherhood
Melissa | Mel's World with Melissa Mashburn
Deborah | Book Reviews by Deb
Maria | Middle Places
Michelle | I hope you dance
Lois | The Minister's Wife Stamps and Saves

Mary | Mary's Cup of Tea
Heidi | Buzz4Mommies
Julie | More Of Him
Debra | 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!
Sara | Sara Ella
Crystal | Serving Joyfully
Jillian | Covers and Ink

Veronica | Veronica's 'Views
Gina | The Hedonistic Minimalist
Nathania | Sophie and Momma
Marjorie | Manifest Blog
Crystal | Tidbits of Experience
Katie | Too Read or Not Too Read

Ashley | Wandering the Pages
Kristin | Whole Lotta Mama
Brianna | abookandalattee
Nicole | bless their hearts mom
Elise | Organizing for Everyone
Wanda | A Book Lover's Retreat
Leila | All Meant To Shine
Elle | Organic Shoes
Dianna | Savings in Seconds

Jen | Happy Little Homemaker
Jamie | Books and Beverages
A | Kerrffic
Laura | Lighthouse Academy
Laura | Crafty Booksheeps
Sharon | Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews
Tiffany | The Crafty Home
Rosie | Writings of Rosie
Amy | the ramblings of miss aimymichelle

Lisa | Seeking with all yur heart
Dana | Little Lovely Books
Margaret | The World As I See It
Megan | When life gets you a book
Abbi | Christian Novels
Alison | NOVA Frugal Family
Laura | The Calico Critic

Erin | ReviewsByErin
Jenny | Book Reviews By Jenny
Kellie | Nothing Less
Lori | Morning Glories and Moonflowers
Monica | For the Love of Books
Nancy | sunny island breezes

Natalia | Elan
Pamela | Daysong Reflections
Pamela | Lavish Bookshelf
Patricia | Live and Dream a little dream
Shea | Novel Reviews
Suzanne | Clicking Her Heels
Tammi | Our Homeschooling Pilgrimage
Taylor | Taylor Reid Reads and Breathes
Krista | Welcome to Married Life

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:

A review copy of Dear Mr. Knightley was provided for critiquing purposes only.

Enter Today | 11/14 - 12/3!
Dear Mr. Knightley Katherine Reay


  1. Laura, Thank you for taking such time with Dear Mr. Knightley. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the story and appreciate your thoughtful review. Have a wonderful day... KBR

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Katherine. Congratulations on your publication!




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