Whew! It took me forever to read this book, The Letter, by Sandra Owens, but not for any lack of wanting to, believe you me! The Letter is exactly the kind of book I would devour in a matter of days, under normal conditions, but like fate keeps the hero and heroine, Michael and Diana, apart for years, so fate kept me apart from The Letter.
So as I was reading The Letter, I kept remembering a blog post I had stumbled across a while ago in which that blogger listed the things that she didn’t want to see in the romance novels she reads. One of them was abuse. Granted, I wouldn’t necessarily want to see abuse depicted in my romance novels either, but with the character of Diana, Sandra Owens does a fantastic job of portraying someone whose life has been rattled by abuse.
It’s refreshing to read a novel in which the heroine isn’t a high-flying power-duchess, taking on the ton with a snap of her fingers. I like those books too, but it was nice to go down a different track for a change. Diana’s life and confidence have been shattered by her now-deceased husband, Leo. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. You learn of his death in the first sentence of the book) The Letter is about the slow rebuilding of a life in the aftermath of abuse.
It’s not a frivolous topic, to be sure. The depths that Leo sunk to in his attempt to destroy Diana’s life are horrific. The result is a heroine who is not naïve, who has seen the worst that life has to offer, and who works—hard—to overcome what has happened to her.
I can definitely see how some people wouldn’t want to face the realities of a story like this. Granted, the violence happens off-stage for the most part, but the topics dealt with are stark. I can see how it would bother people to read about that kind of darkness when the purpose of romantic literature is to make the reader swoon and to reaffirm their faith in the goodness of men. (That’s actually what this book is about, by the way, but I’ll get there in a minute.)
I have every respect for those who don’t want to see the dark side in their novels, but as for me, I love seeing a different sort of heroine now and then. Diana definitely fits the bill. She had had to deal with so much and has been sunk so low that it was terrific watching her climb, inch-by-inch, back to a place of respectability. Granted, I would have liked to have seen her wise up about a few things a lot earlier than she did, but I haven’t gone through the same kind of abuse that she has. Who knows how I might react in the same situation?
The fact is, The Letter is a delightful story of overcoming evil and gaining your self-respect again. Yeah, there is a romance (a good one at that!), but for me the beauty of the story was in watching the character of Diana grow after being kept in the dark for a long time. The potential for drama in a character arc like that is something you don’t see every day in a historical romance. And I love the things you don’t see every day in a historical romance.
I should also disclose that Sandra Owens has become a good friend of mine in the writing world, so I feel a bit awkward about writing anything that comes off as a review. Authors reviewing their author friends is kind of a fuzzy area for me. But I will say that I enjoyed this book and I hope that you will pick it up to read. You won’t be disappointed.