book review: dear mr. knightley


Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.


Dear Mr Knightley is the kind of book that’s perfect to read during a warm summer (or spring) afternoon in the bright sunlight with a cuppa tea (or coffee) in your hand. It’s a warm, comfortable, delicious kind of book. Now, that isn’t to say that it’s fluff, ’cause it’s not. I would say that the book it’s based on – Daddy Long Legs – is fluff book, albeit a classic one, but DMK is more serious and deep (although it certainly has it’s fun, frivolous moments). That’s probably why I love it so much. Plus, there’s a bunch of Austen/Dickens/Bronte references throughout (mostly quoted directly by Samantha, which I shall talk about in a minute), as well as references to Sherlock (eeep!) and Downton Abbey. The letters (which make up about ninety-seven percent of the book), are fun to read, and there isn’t any part of them that sounds contrived (like the authoress had to tell the story through letters, but it wasn’t really working).

The characters. Samantha (Sam), was, of course, the main character, and she was a good one. I felt her heartache when certain things came up out of her past to haunt her, as well as her painful relief when her past was finally out in the open for everyone to see. She’s a strong female character, but not in The Annoying Way. There are, however, a couple of things I didn’t like about her. First of all, she quotes Austen and other classic authors quite a lot, and while some of it is clever, some of it just got on my nerves. For instance…

“That’s it?” I sat back. “You’re worse than Austen. You might as well say that his sentiments had ‘undergone so material a change’ or that ‘his affections and wishes’ were unchanged.”
Hannah flushed red. “Don’t…compare my proposal from my real fiancé to one of your books. This is my life and I’m inviting you into it. Don’t belittle it by quoting fiction.”
“‘I wish you all imaginable happiness,’ Hannah.” I was mad, and I threw that out just to spite her.
“Forget it, Sam. I don’t know who you’re quoting, but I can tell you are. I thought you’d enjoy my story and I wanted to share it with you, but you aren’t even here. I don’t know why I bother.

Yeah. That’s what I mean.

Anyway…other characters. Alex Powell is the hero of the story (without giving too much away), and what a hero he is. Kind, sensitive, caring, but with a tortured backstory that he only reveals late in the book. He’s a famous writer (and a Christian!) but that doesn’t get to his head. In fact, he prefers to stay out of the public spotlight as much as possible. And let me just say that he ripped out my feels in the last chapter. I switched from rooting for Sam to rooting for him, so I’m glad it all worked out. Closely connected with both Alex and Sam is Mr and Mrs Muir. They take Sam under their wing and she is a daughter to them both figuratively and [by the end of the book] literally. They’re great. Two of my favorite characters.

My favorite character in this book, however, is Kyle. He’s the ‘damaged teenager’ in the plot synopsis up above, and it suits him. But only for the first half of the book. He finally becomes friends with Sam, and they work together to write a magazine article which, in many ways, changes both their lives (and, no, I’m not going to tell you why…go read the book). I couldn’t have been happier with how his life went later on in the book. It was exactly what he deserved, and it was perfect. Let’s see…there’s just a couple other characters I want to mention. Ashley: one of Sam’s closest friends and a good moral support whenever Sam needed one. Almost everyone in this book is damaged in one way or another, and Ashley is no exception. But’s she’s still awesome. And, then, Josh: Sam’s first boyfriend. He’s a JERK. Ugh. Seriously, though, I reeeeally don’t like him. He took all the trust Sam gave him and destroyed it.

I was wondering how DMK would end, and kind of worried as well. See, in DLL, it ends with the heroine writing the hero/Daddy Long Legs one last letter all about how he proposed and she accepted. Basically a whole, big, long ‘as you know, Bob’ trope from start to finish. It was the only part of the book that I hadn’t really liked, so I was interested in how it would work out in DMK. For the last chapter, Katherine Reay switched from first person (the letters, you know), to third person and it worked perfectly. It didn’t jolt me out of the story, and I was still able to feel the full emotional impact of the story.

So, overall, if you’re a Jane Austen fan, or you enjoy a good, clean romance/true-to-life story, you need to read this. It’s a beautiful book, both inside and out, and one of the best I’ve ever read. Have fun!


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