Title: The Love Letter
Author: Lucinda Riley
Published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary/Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Keeping secrets is a dangerous game…
When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of ninety-five he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, so devastating that it could rock the English establishment to its core.
Joanna Haslam is an ambitious young journalist, assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral. The great and the good of the celebrity world are there. But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind, the contents of which others have been desperate to conceal for over seventy years. As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that there are other forces attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does.
The Love Letter is the latest historical crossed with romance and thriller elements from saga queen Lucinda Riley. Originally published in 1998, as Seeing Double, it received fairly mediocre reception twenty years ago. Conditions of the time and the main storyline crux, which is closely linked to the British monarchy, contributed to this book’s downfall. Now, twenty years later and due to the success of The Seven Sisters series, along with seven other well received saga novels, Lucinda Riley has provided The Love Letter (aka Seeing Double) with another chance.
The Love Letter opens in London, in 1995. The world has just lost one of its finest and most enduring actors, the late Sir James Harrison. Sir James’ death leaves his family with a broken heart and it marks the revelation of a shocking secret that has links to the royal family. Involved in the revelation of this secret is an ambitious young journalist, Joanna Haslam. When Joanna is tasked to cover the funeral of Sir James Harrison, she discovers the existence of a letter, penned by the late actor. This letter and the contents inside has the power to shake those at the very top of the establishment, as well as those close to Sir James. As Joanna becomes more and more determined to set the contents of the letter right, her life suddenly comes under fire. Will the love letter destroy Joanna?
I consider myself a big fan of Lucinda Riley, I tuned to her work when I had read all of Kate Morton’s work and I was looking for a similar style author. After years of closely following Riley’s work, especially The Seven Sisters series, The Love Letter filled my Riley gap while I sit waiting for The Moon Sister, which is the next chapter in The Seven Sisters series.
Reading the opening author’s note was rather enlightening. The Love Letter has had an interesting road to publication and re-publication. Originally published as Seeing Double in 1998, it seems this novel did not receive a great first reaction from readers and publishers alike. Riley uses the climate at the time in Britain and the themes of the book, which are closely tied to the monarchy. I can see this as being an issue, as I did live in the UK at this very point in time. There was no confidence in the monarchy and public opinion was at an all time low, following the tragic death of the Princess Diana. Riley has patiently sat on her novel and has now re-released her book to a very different audience and perhaps a more receptive climate. The popularity of the modern royals, the release of the award winning Crown series and the time that has passed since Princess Diana’s death may help to re-energize The Love Letter.
There are some great themes covered in The Love Letter from espionage, to intrigue, history, drama and romance. There are links to the monarchy, media and MI5, along with ties to the entertainment world. The Love Letter will be sure to capture the hearts and minds of many readers due to the broad themes. I believe it will particularly appeal to fans of the royal family.
Riley has composed a great character set. Joanna was a standout. Riley does an excellent job of outlining Joanna’s journey, which covers her career, friendships, love life and her key involvement in exposing the truth behind the love letter. Joanna is joined by a set cast of well defined individuals, from Zoe, to Simon and Marcus. There is not much I can fault by way of characterisation. Riley also manages to balance good and bad figures throughout the proceedings of her novel.
Setting is always Riley’s strength. In all of her novels the setting has a strong presence. The Love Letter is situated mainly in London in 1995. This is a time and place I know very well and I thought Riley nailed it. A sense of nostalgia washed over me as I read this novel. I really enjoyed the historical moments that were delicately woven through this set piece.
It was interesting to see Lucinda Riley take on quite a different format with The Love Letter. There is much more of an emphasis on action, thrills, adventure, espionage and deceit. It marks a different direction for Lucinda Riley and I enjoyed it very much. Who would have thought that the contents of a letter written seventy years ago would be so explosive! Lucinda Riley lets us know. And the ending? Well, it was tied up neatly, but for me it was just a touch too unbelievable !
The Love Letter is a saga indeed, at almost 600 pages long, it will consume you. It is full of romance, secrets, lies, treachery, betrayals, twists, turns, unexpected revelations and a good old historical mystery. I’m sure this response to The Love Letter won’t surprise you, I will be back for more of Riley’s work and I recommend The Love Letter to all readers.
The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley was published on 31st July 2018 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Love Letter, Lucinda Riley, visit here.
*I wish to thank Pan Macmillan for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
*Book ‘R’ of the a-z author challenge 2018