From the blurb:
The story of a betrayal that wasn’t. Even so, it still tore two lovers apart for eleven years. On the eve of their wedding, Michael Jeffres, Earl of Daventry, found his betrothed, the woman who meant as much to him as the air he breathed, in bed with his cousin. Diana, the daughter of a marquess, remembers nothing of that night. All she knows is she was forced to marry Michael’s cousin, Leo, and then spent the next eleven years in hell. When the two lovers are brought back together by a letter from Leo a year after his death, Michael and Diana must struggle through all the lies and secrets before they can find a love that far surpasses the one of their youth.
The Letter is a period drama which tells the tragic story of two lovers, Diana and Michael, who are torn apart by the deceit of Michael’s evil and jealous cousin Leo. The night before their wedding, Leo publically fakes an intimate moment with Diana, disgracing her so that she is forced to marry him instead of Michael, leading to eleven years of psychological and physical abuse for Diana at the hands of her callous husband. A year after Leo’s death, Michael receives a letter from Leo explaining his hideous deeds and the fact that he has left Diana destitute. Leo cruelly boasts that at his hands Diana is now afraid of any man’s touch and that her son is in fact Michael’s. These revelations force Michael to go in search of Diana and his long-lost child, and he embarks on a journey to restore her faith in love.
He deserved her formality, but there had been a time when she had whispered his name while speaking words of love. Her hands, red and raw, the nails broken, were clenched tightly. Rage burned deep in his gut, souring his stomach. Between the two of them, he and Leo had destroyed a beautiful woman. He should prostrate himself at her feet and beg forgiveness.
Sandra Owens’ excellent use of description and characterisation really breathes life into the characters and settings in this book. From the reserved yet honourable Michael struggling to cope with the guilt of his actions, to the wicked and scarily evil Leo, Sandra has developed two male characters that, whilst representing the diametrically polar opposites common in period romances, are yet realistic and rounded within their world. Despite the horrors inflicted upon Diana, we are still able to see the strength of will and maternal vigour that will ultimately pull her through. In this way, I particularly enjoyed Diana’s character, as whilst she is in need of rescue by the hero, Michael, it is her inner strength that ultimately leads to the satisfying conclusion.
He had been doing his best to impress her with his witty remarks. She’d looked up at him and smiled. He had stumbled and almost fallen from the wonder of it. Her smile was the sunshine. It would keep him warm on cold winter days. It was a diamond, a thing of beauty… But after her years in his cousin’s hands, did she still smile?
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Often period romances are characterised by an excess of sentiment, with a focus on wealthy beautiful girls living in a world of society balls and luxury; and of course this is why we enjoy the escapism of these books. However, whilst staying true to the principles of the genre, the fact that this book touches on the darker elements of the period – the forced marriage, the crippling poverty, the dominance of men and the dependence of women on their whims – gives it an edginess that makes it stand out as a real page turner.
Well-written, compelling, moving and memorable, certainly a book I recommend.
The Letter is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.