2020: Chocolate and Earl Grey tea can’t fix Josie De Clare’s horrible year. She mourned the death of her father and suffered a teen-life crisis, which delayed her university plans. But when her father’s will reveals a family-owned property in Northern England, Josie leaves London to find clarity at the secluded manor house. While exploring the estate, she discovers two-hundred-year-old love letters written by an elusive novelist, all addressed to someone named Josephine. And then she discovers a novel in which it seems like she’s the heroine…
1820: Novelist Elias Roch loves a woman he can never be with. Born the bastard son to a nobleman and cast out from society, Elias seeks refuge in his mind with the quirky heroine who draws him into a fantasy world of scandal, betrayal, and unconditional love. Convinced she’s his soulmate, Elias writes letters to her, all of which divulge the tragedy and trials of his personal life.
As fiction blurs into reality, Josie and Elias must decide: How does one live if love can’t wait? Separated by two hundred years, they fight against time to find each other in a story of her, him, and the novel written by the man who loves her.
This book threw me into a pool of feels and left me to drown. Okay, I’m being dramatic, but I truly did have to let Dearest Josephine sink in for nearly a week before I could form a coherent enough thought to write an actual review. This book is just so many things!
The format is unlike anything I’ve read before. I do own Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, which I believe is in the same format of telling the story through emails, but I haven’t read it yet so I can’t compare it properly, which makes Dearest Josephine a first for me. HOWEVER, Dearest Josephine is so much more than just emails. It’s letters to swoon over, a freaking book written by the man who fell in love with our Josie two hundred years ago (just, ughhhhhhhh *cries*), and the text messages that interrupt Josie’s reading, which was both entertaining and super annoying (but not in a bad way, it just made you want to shut off your phone and maybe pitch it across the room to be left alone with Elias).
I was concerned that this format would leave out something and that, as a reader, I would miss out on a large portion of the story, but honestly, this worked SO WELL. It gives you the feeling that you’re eves-dropping on someone else’s life and trying to piece together mysteries by reading their communication–which, I personally enjoy doing…not to sound weird or anything… For example, I’ve come across old Bibles at garage sales before and they had letters and pictures inside them, and I adore trying to weave together a story of the previous owner based on those items. So, Dearest Josephine fueled my love for mystery and storytelling by instead of telling me a story, giving me one to try to tell myself, and as a reader, that was just so special and I can’t describe how much I enjoyed it (even my husband got in on the speculations as I loudly exclaimed each new plot twist and read him snippets throughout the book).
I can’t talk about the story or characters without spoiling anything (sorry, I’ve tried and it’s just not gonna happen), so I will instead talk about how I see this book to be both a swoon-worthy romance that anyone who loves romance must read, but also how Dearest Josephine is a love-letter to readers from the author. There were SO many places that I felt like the author was straight-up identifying with what it’s like to be a reader. What it’s like to fall in love with fictional characters (I now have Elias, Oliver, and Arthur on my list of fictional boyfriends, thanks Dearest Josephine). What it’s like to have a manuscript change the way you think. How a story can alter your reality. And, how connections made through literature forge unbreakable bonds. There is just so much depth in this book that would fill hours of conversation at a book club, I am simply in awe. Dearest Josephine is beautiful.
To bring this obsessive rant to a close, I shall simply state that if you are a lover of romance, exquisite writing, mystery, and unpredictable plot-lines, then Dearest Josephine should be in your hands without further hesitation. I give it 5 out of 5 stars!
Content disclaimers: Language: Mild (the word b*st*rd used in historical context). Sexual: Mild mentions of kissing, mention of affairs. Other: Family betrayal, grief & death, mild spooks.