‘Dear Mr. Knightley’: A Love Letter to Literary Lovers


Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: November 2013 (ARC)
Find the Review Elsewhere: Goodreads ǀ WordPress
Add the book: Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; Inspirational Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 dear mr knightley

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay | Book Review

Dear Mr. Knightley tells the picturesque story of a young woman named Samantha who is not only an orphan, but a girl who’s made – nearly – one mistake too many. After attempting to make it on her own, she’s forced to return to the safety of Grace House, the place she grew up in and try earning back the scholarship offered by a mysterious benefactor who is known to her only as “Mr. Knightley.” When the man agrees to reinstate Sam’s scholarship, the only stipulation he asks is that she write him letters detailing her progress. During her year of journaling through letters, Sam learns the meaning of independence, self-worth and maybe… even love.

Jane Austen inspires thousands of contemporary pieces of candied fiction – both literary and cinematic. New author Katherine Reay uses the popularity of Austen-esque inspiration and crafts her story into a magnificently unique novel. One of 2013’s debut authors, already Katherine has established herself as a name to keep an eye on.
In ‘Mr. Knightley,’ readers go on an emotional journey of hope, healing and finding home. I have to be honest, when I was ready to read the book, in my typical reading habitual, I’d paged through the novel and read the author note prior to seriously reading it, and my opinion wasn’t were I wanted it to be. dear mr knightley

BOOK REVIEW | A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay: A Classy Masterpiece 

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This traces back to one thing – the style in which the book is written. Aside from an epilogue, the story is told, not just in the first person but entirely through letters, and it was a context that made me read with trepidation. Nonetheless I went through with reading and oh my, what a treat Dear Mr. Knightly was. These are the best kind of novels.

Maybe that’s what love is—sacrificing yourself to save another, taking the insult or taking the hit.” – Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Ripping up the “rules” for a usual contemporary novel, Reay reinvented the familiarity of the genre. All of the important key elements are there only with a new “twist.” Beyond the inventive uses of prose and characters, there’s also a beautiful realism to the story. Told elegantly through its heroine’s letters (something that I am a sucker for people getting to know each other through letters), the book is also chocked full of fun pop culture references, all of which left me giggling and each one blends seamlessly with the old-fashioned concept  balancing with the witty, sharp literature references – everything from C.S. Lewis to Bronte. (And, this also seems the opportune moment to say how much I lovelovelove the Eloise reference – not sure that could be used to a better advantage.)

Samantha is a character easy to relate to, not necessarily because of her sad past but because she is scared to step outside her comfort zone; she’s afraid that she’s capable of doing something worth anyone’s notice. Those of us who have ever dreamed of doing something that requires criticism or opening ourselves up to others will understand this – we’ve all struggled with being accepted or emotional around someone, and in reading this, Samantha was less “figment” and much more, real. In more instances than one I was both sympathetic, and felt a connection with her. As if she and I shared the same insecurities or worries that life throws our way. dear mr knightley

Above all, those qualities give this debut its crowning glory; it’s not just an expert piece of fiction, it becomes very “real.” What Reay does for her heroine is strip her of all her protective shields so that Sam can find her own “voice”; and stand out to be the person she truly is.

Dear Katherine Reay, thank you for sharing Mr. Knightley with us.  

Sincere thanks to author Katherine Reay for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Hi. I'm Laura. I've been lurking for a while, but this is the first time I've posted here. You've become my got to girl for book reviews and I couldn't wait until you got to this one! I've been wanting to read it for a while, and now your review makes me wonder if I'll be staying up late just so I can hit the "Buy" button as soon as it goes live.

    1. Hello, Laura! I'm so glad you stopped by to introduce yourself – you're most welcome to comment anytime. :)

      Yay! I'm happy you're eager for this novel; it's a charmer, beautiful story and definitely a 2013 keeper plus more. :)

  2. Oooh sounds very interesting. This is the second "rave review" I've heard; Hayden at A Tree, A Book, and A Breeze gave this a rating of 9 out of 10, so I immediately put it on my reading list!

    1. It is, Hannah; really a LOVELY novel. I saw Hayden's review – loved her enthusiasm, too. She did a great job – and everything she said? The book is that and more IMO. :)

  3. Great review, Rissi! I loved this book. I haven't read many epistolary novels before and I thought reading letter after letter could get monotonous after a while, but DMK certainly proved me wrong! I adored all the references to literature, and I was so excited when I read the Eloise reference, too! :)

    1. Same here, Jillian. After being super excited to read this one, I was nervous when I realized it was written entirely in letter form. Needless to say, the book proved me wrong (those are the best kind) and THEN SOME. Wow, so good. :)

      I'll be anxious for your review(?) soon.

      …and that Eloise reference made me grin ridiculously. My family still watches the TV Christmas movie and it's always so cute. :)

    2. Yes, I hope to post my review sometime later this month. I'm part of the Litfuse tour :)

      I haven't seen Eloise in a while, but I need to watch that movie again! It's such a cute Christmas movie.

      And thanks so much for your email on how to italicize words! ;)

    3. Awesome! I'll be keeping an eye out for that review, Jillian. :)

      The movie *is* indeed cute! It never ceases to make me laugh despite it no longer being "geared" towards my age-group.

      …yay! Glad the explanation was helpful! See, italicizing is as easy as 1, 2, 3! ;)

  4. Katherine chiming in here…. First and foremost, Rissi, I can't thank you enough for such a thoughtful review. The time you spent pondering my book and making it shine here humbles me.

    And thank you all for your enthusiasm about DMK as well. I love the story and the characters and hope you all do too, as you meet them soon!

    Thanks! … KBR

    1. Thank you for letting and entrusting me with reading and reviewing your debut, Katherine. I meant every single word in this review and am delighted by DMK. It was one of those easy, joyous reads that tugged at our heartstrings and features a heroine who is easy to relate too.

      Love being a small part of getting word out on Christian fiction – DMK speaks for itself! :)

      Thanks bunches for stopping by.

  5. YAY! Rissi, you liked it! This makes me so happy. I got to read it way back in May since Katherine ever-so-kindly invited me to be one of the endorsers. And I liked it – can't wait to see a completed copy! But yes. Great book and I'm SO happy to see you liked it too! Love it when my friends love the same books. :)

    1. I meant to send a tweet to you yesterday, Charity: I SAW your endorsement and loved seeing your blog's name as an endorser! That was too cool. :)

      Cannot wait until you see it in completed form either; it's definitely one of those novels I'll be re-reading… and I agree – it's fun when we all end up gushing over the same books. Makes for fun convos. :)

  6. I should be getting this one in the mail to review soon…can't wait to read it! It had me hooked from the title, and I've heard only good things about it since. :)

  7. Ooh, his novel sounds really interesting (and the book cover looks so cute)! Am definitely checking this out on GR–awesome that you got a chance to interview the author too :) Great review!

    1. This novel *is* good, Lianne – especially for those of us who adore all things Austen (plus, the cover sure is cute; the whimsical "feel" is just right for the story). Thanks for reading – hope you enjoy if/when you read the book. :)

  8. This sounds so, so good!!!! I've heard of it, but didn't really know anything about it. Eep!! This makes me even more excited about the giveaway! haha

    1. Yay! Glad you think it sounds good, Raquel. Any of us who like Austen are in for a treat. Happy reading. :)

      …and thanks for pointing out that typo! No matter how many times I "proof" things it seems like there is always something that slips through. :)

  9. Yay!! This looks amazing – I've read (and loved!) 'Daddy Long Legs', and of course anything with Jane Austen in it is very worthwhile. : )

    1. I've never read that novel, Sarah, however with all the awesome things being said about these two novels, I suspect I'd enjoy 'Daddy Long Legs.' I know this book was excellent! :)

  10. SO glad you liked this one!! I LOVE-LOVED it! Definitely one of my favorites from this year's reads! Which reminds me…I really need to post my review!

    1. …and I'm thrilled to pieces you loved this one, too, Kellie! Now you have me wanting to stalk your blog (in a non-creepy way!). ;D Cannot wait for that review to show up.

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