Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“But the weird thing is, while he didn’t know my identity and vice versa, he probably knew the real me better than anyone at that time.”
Some of my favorite books in literature have been what we call epistolary novels. An epistolary novel or story is one that is created through letters between the hero and heroine of a story. There something interesting to me about people writing letters back-and-forth to each other, using their emotions and inner thoughts to drive the story forward. Letters are personal artifacts of a person’s inner self. Most of the time, they come closest to the true essence of a person because their anonymity gives you the ability to pour your soul on the page. It’s why books like The Coquette engaged me during my literature studies. Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s newest book, Dirty Letters, illustrates this power of the written word to bear one’s soul and heart.
Dirty Letters tells the story of Griffin and Luca. Griffin and Luca become pen pals as children. Their pen-pal relationship continues well into their teens/young adulthood (18) when tragedy strikes in Luca’s life and ends their relationship. Struggling through life with agoraphobia, Luca comes upon a letter one day, many years later, from Griffin. This letter becomes the impetus for their reconciliation as pen pals. Through this reconciliation, Luca and Griffin fall deeper into like, and one day, Luca is challenged to seek out the mystery of Griffin. She travels to California, where Griffin lives, to discover that he isn’t who she believes him to be. Will the love they began to grow in their letters find purchase in real life, or will Griffin’s secret life complicate their future?
One thing you ought to know about me with respect to Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward is I ADORE their heroes. Don’t get me wrong. Their heroines are well-crafted and interesting, but there is something special about the craftsmanship of their heroes. And Griffin is no different. Griffin has a secret (I won’t tell you that because I don’t want to spoil anything), and it complicates his relationship with Luca. But here’s the thing, here’s what’s usually dreamy about Keeland and Ward’s heroes, they adore their heroine. Like from day one. They fall fast for them, and there is something sexy and attractive about it. Rarely do their heads turn for anyone else once the heroine enters their life, and this is Griffin’s truth. It is also what generally causes the emotional crescendo of their romances, which is pronounced in this story. Griffin wants everything with Luca the minute she lands in California, and he is willing to move heaven and earth to make her his, even given her condition. It’s that type of hero that makes you believe that someone can love you like that. Even when the strife seeks to wreck their relationship, it’s your heart for Griffin that tears at your soul. That happens because Keeland and Ward create the heck out of their heroes. I challenge you to dislike Griff. You won’t be able to do it.
Additionally, Luca’s character is so complicated that it’s glorious to read. Honestly, besides their relationship strife, her characterization wrought the most emotional impact for me. She is complex and even, at times, difficult to like. In the eyes of Griffin, she’s glorious; she’s strength personified. Yet, to build that strength, she puts her readers through emotional turmoil, namely frustration. But I think that’s Keeland and Ward’s way of teaching us patience and empathy. It’s easy to be frustrated with Luca because we can’t understand her anxieties fully, which acts as an admonishment of sorts from our authors that showing empathy is necessary. Griffin and Doc (Dr. Maxwell) show us how to love Luca, how to love others like her. That’s an important lesson in this romance.
Lastly, Doc, Dr. Maxwell, is a treasure in this book. Oh my goodness. His character placed a smile on my face, and I can’t help but think that he’s the jester of this tale. In medieval tales, the jester exacts the comedy, but his words ring truth through the story. And that is Doc. He speaks wisdom to both Griffin and Luca, challenging them to love each other better while making us laugh with his love for birds and his eccentricity. I was thankful time and time again for him in this story as he balanced Griffin and Luca’s story well.
Finally, the epilogue to this story is one of my favorites of this year, if not ever. Once Griffin and Luca find their HEA, I love how Keeland and Ward present the sweet rewards of their trials. It’s loaded with so many special moments that I hated when it ended because there was a nostalgic melancholy entwined in it. Can I be honest? I hated finishing Dirty Letters because I simply loved Luca and Griffin’s story. This is how I feel when I finish a Keeland and Ward story, though. Their stories capture little pieces of my soul and fill the holes left behind with an understanding of the powerful nature of love to overcome life. The words of Griffin and Luca in this epistolary novel of sorts help us realize the power of words to build love. Ultimately, Dirty Letters is such a moving read for this year.
In love and romance,