Thursday, August 20, 2020

Rosy Thornton - More Than Love Letters

When Richard Slater receives a letter of complaint from one of his constituents, a Margaret Hayton, he merely responds with his standard letter of empty promises. Clearly, this woman is insane and must be avoided at all costs. But she will not be dismissed so easily, and when Richard finally sets eyes on the twenty-something vision in stone-washed denim, with a cloud of dark ringlets and huge, serious eyes? he risks losing his heart, his head and quite possibly his political career. 

Comment: I remember adding this book to my TBR back in 2016 probably because it would feature what looked like a opposites attract type of relationship which would develop through letter exchange. I like the trope and I like the epistolary tactic of telling a story and this means I was very eager to read the book.
Of course it took some years but this month I decided to start it along my buddy H. 

This story begins with a letter Margaret Hayton sends to her MP in the Ipswich area regarding some issues she's noticed haven't been solved in where she lives. We get, from her letters, she is a self conscious citizen, albeit a little too dedicated to her causes, which are quite a few - we learn this throughout the book.
The MP is Richard Slater, an older man than her, who wants to rise to a more prominent position other than Ipswich and he only sends off patterned replies. One day, however, after some insistence from Margaret and the coincidence of a possible wake up call to his political ambitions, they end up meeting and Richard's world changes, for he expected a senior and ends up with a young woman in her 20s who is beautiful too.
As the two join forces to help a young refugee, they realize they have a lot in common but will it be possible for two different people to really make it work without causing a scandal?

The idea of this book is a great one. Other author have done it, others will likely do it again, but this concept of having a full bodied plot and story developing while the reader only has access to letters or email exchanges and never "sees" the characters interact. This means the story and the letter wording has to be done well for the story to make sense and for the situations described to be believable.

I'd say the biggest possible issue of this sort of narrative is that it might not always be very convincing people would right the way we, readers, need it to be for the story to have a cohesive development. Do we really add that much detail to our messages? If people are aware of a situation, do they describe so many things this way? I'd say there's a thin line between making a story presented like this to work out well or to be too implausible.

This said, I was entertained and delighted most of the time but there were a few moments that it did feel as if the exchanges weren't as realistic because we were given information that didn't feel as if one would really write it in an email exchange (I don't mean the more mundane or cutesy wording or even how friends call each other, but the whole full narrative of a certain situation).

The story is quite simple but there are interesting elements and secondary characters too. Although Richard and Margaret begin their association over a community issue, they soon join forces to help a woman who was welcomed by a group who works with women in need, such as refugees, women in danger, women who are recovering from a health or social situation, etc. The woman they help is from Albania and she would be mistreated by her family were she to return, over religious issues. 
As the situation develops, we get, through emails, how Margaret and Richard help her, often by reading the emails they both send other people. 

We also have emails and messages exchanged by others and this helps us to have an idea of the personality of the characters and how they are interacting with one another. There is one case along the helped women, though, which is quite serious and difficult to go through and it also causes one point of conflict further in the story between Margaret and Richard. I think what we learn is enough for us to make our minds but at the same time, it can be a little hard to feel the emotional impact it would otherwise have, because reading about the effects/consequences of some actions in a letter is not the same as reading the scene happening.

Following this, I would say it's the same thing with the romance. It didn't feel as magical or significant because the scenes and the situations described seemed quite distant from what happened before and I missed a bit more emotion and feelings being expressed on the moment.
Still, this was a sweet story at time, slightly emotional here and there but not by direct scenes.
Everything ends well, there is a HEA it's true, but the whole story could have certainly been a bit more intense.
Grade: 7/10

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