A story that connects with you on a deeper level. When you’ve broken into so many little pieces, how do you pick yourself up and move forward?
AUTHOR: Caroline George
RATING: 5 out of 5
AGE RANGE: 14+
Love arrives at the most unexpected time . . .
1821: Elias Roch has ghastly luck with women. He met Josephine De Clare once and penned dozens of letters hoping to find her again.
2021: Josie De Clare has questionable taste in boyfriends. The last one nearly ruined her friendship with her best friend. Now, in the wake of her father's death, Josie finds Elias's letters. Suddenly she's falling in love with a guy who lived two hundred years ago. And star-crossed doesn't even begin to cover it...
Wow. This book is not your usual romance. I don’t want to even call it a “romance” because it is so much more. Miss George pens a story about brokenness and healing, learning to let go and learning to hold on. It’s a story about selfless love and finding yourself. As the words lead you through the foggy English moors and candle-lit corridors; hand-in-hand with Josie and Elias, you find yourself picking up your broken pieces, and finding hope again.
The Plot and Prose:
This book is composed of letters, emails, texts, and a fictional novel written by one of the main characters. I was hesitant of this unconventional style, worried that it would leave out major plot points or make me feel disconnected to the characters. I was very wrong. It brings you straight into the characters’ lives like you were always there and the setting is so lifelike and wonderful it makes you smile.
Miss George makes the jump from modern to the elegance of regency speech fluidly without culture shocking the reader but still showing the great divide of time between the eras. While it is a bit of a slower read (at least compared to my usual fantasy) the book was filled with tension and suspense.
I loved the plot and the number of twists the book took was thrilling. The happiness and healing of the characters teetering on the edge of a precipice. I have read so much now that not many books actually have my heart thumping with the realization I have absolutely no idea how it will end. Dearest Josephine had me flipping pages despite its slower pace to see if Josie and Elias got the happy ending, they deserved.
Josie or “Josephine” was both relatable and not. And I believe those make the best flushed out characters. If a character is written to be relatable to everyone, they will be bland and uninspiring. Josephine is an old soul with an eye for the simply beautiful things even if it causes a little trouble (rolling down a muddy hill? Scandalous!). Josie, the protagonist and Josephine's modern counterpart, has forgotten to love life following the death of her father, her estranged relationship with her mother, and terrible luck in love. As she retreats to an old mansion in the English countryside, she both breaks and builds herself up again.
Elias Roch, the illegitimate and only child of Lord Welby, has grown up being treated as less than human. He has had to earn, through utter behavioral perfection, what should have been his rightful place in society. Kindhearted, though at times a bit melancholy, Elias wants someone to see his true self and love him, not the perfected mask he wears. He wants someone who he can love in turn and share his heart with. When he begins to search for a girl who captured his heart completely, the audience wonders if will ever find the girl… or even himself again.
One character that deserves to be mentioned is Oliver. While Elias takes center stage next to Josie, Oliver deserves more than an honorable mention. Oliver is the selfless and goofy neighbor boy who befriends Josie (who may or may not have nearly taken out the poor gent with an antique sword) and helps her step outside her comfort zone. As he grows closer to Josie, he realizes that what might just make her happy, will hurt him in return.
(Pictures found on Pinterest. Collage by me)
There is very little content in this book but does handle some mature themes. As stated, Elias is the bastard son of a lord and a maidservant. Not much detail is given to the matter of his birth, but it is clear. There are many scandals among the noble society of England. Again, while nothing is graphic or terribly detailed it is still there. A few kisses between couples. The content level is about the same as a Jane Austen. On the side of modern things, it is bit cleaner but still a bit messy. Josie is under quite a bit of emotional pain and heartache early in the story from a rough break up and a mother who wants to spend more time with a new date than her daughter.
Not many books have made me laugh and cry in the short span of their pages. Dearest Josephine is an exception. This book threw me into a whirlwind of emotion; grief, sadness, joy, hope, longing, suspense even, and on the list goes. I can’t say I’ve read a book quite like it as it reflects themes of so many other stories and yet is perfectly distinct. One thing that made me think was the question, “when is it time to let go and move on?”
The ending was surprising, bittersweet and unexpected. At first the ending hurt and even left me a little upset… but the more I thought about it, the ending completed the story in a way that my desired ending never could have. In a sense a lot like life. God doesn’t always give you what you desire but rather what will make you whole.
“So many people waste time waiting for good things to happen to them. But sometimes we need to make good things happen. And when we finally start doing that, we often see there were good things in our lives all along.”
- Caroline George, Dearest Josephine