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For me, February was a month of fictional literary romance. And you can guess how I felt about that…

give me a good cup of coffee and a book i love and I'll be happy

It was a short month, but a great one for reading. Here’s what I finished this month. No spoilers!

Dear Mr. Knightly

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

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.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

I absolutely adored Dear Mr. Knightley. It’s an Austen-inspired novel that loosely follows plot points and character attributes of several Austen novels (and Bronte sisters too). And, um, I didn’t even realize it was a Christian book until a third of the way through. So, that was nice!

This book reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant, which was one of my favorite books last year.  Apparently I’m captivated by stories of people who have to learn to break down their walls in order to love. Both of the main characters from these two books had to learn social skills, kindness, putting others first, and holding off on judgement. They were both in the foster care system as kids.

Seeing as how I grew up in a fostering family, I’m always curious about how the system is portrayed. Foster care is near and dear to my heart, and impossible to look at objectively. But I can say that the author’s take was very negative. On the other hand, I could also tell that she’d done her homework. For the main character’s sake, a difficult childhood that included abusive foster homes is essential, and I understand that. It played more of a background role in Samantha’s story, which is focused on her adult life. I’ll just move along from my tangent now. 🙂

At it’s heart, I’d say Dear Mr. Knightley is about understanding the risks and choosing love anyway. I blazed through it. It’s a quick and easy read that is romantic and sweet, but also has depth of character. I’m going to read more books by Katherine Reay for sure!

North and South

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Margaret’s safe existence is turned upside down when she has to move to the grim northern town of Milton. Not only does she have her eyes opened by the poverty and hardship she encounters there, but she is thrown into confusion by stern factory owner John Thornton – whose treatment of his workers brings them into fierce opposition.

As men and women, workers and masters come into violent conflict, it seems opposites can never meet. But do John and Margaret’s power struggles hide deeper feelings? And, when it seems Margaret has lost everything, can she find the one thing she never expected?

I feel like I should be inducted into a secret society of North and South fans after reading this. (What would we be called? Northies?) It’s just that singularly wonderful. North and South is a less known Victorian romance that throws the reader into the social climate of the industrialization of England at the same time. It’s a book that reads like the love child of Dickens and Austen.

I loved Margaret’s sense of social justice as well as her spirited thoughts and opinions. Her feelings on moving suddenly to a town she’s less than thrilled about were so perfectly expressed. And the way she grew throughout the book was inspiring.

North and South is splendidly romantic, but very grounded. It completely overtook me. I even dreamed about it. The only two things holding me back from declaring this my new favorite book in the world is:

  1. I was starting to get seriously frustrated during the last few chapters.
  2. I wanted more closure at the end.

So, yes, I may have threatened to throw my phone (where I read on the Kindle app) out the window if things didn’t turn out how I wanted, but don’t worry. I still have my phone and my love for this novel too. Up next, I’ll be watching the BBC adaptation, and I can’t wait. I’m a Northie to the last.

If you want to know how I get my books, I wrote a guide to borrowing e-books online. I’m nerdy that way. I just want you to know that you, too, can read e-books using the free Amazon Kindle app!

That wraps it up for me! What did you read in February? What should I read next?

Linked up with What We’re Reading Wednesday


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