A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay

on May 19, 2021

CW: descriptions of violence against women and children.

The theme: folk or fairy tale. I went a bit off book.

Why this one: Despite the title, it’s actually a retelling of an old favorite, Daddy-Long-Legs. Spoilers for the original story.

(I actually just listened to a perfect book for this theme: Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier, a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling set in ancient Ireland. But it didn’t occur to me to take notes while listening, so I can’t really write about it other than to say it excellent, albeit somewhat irritating. The heroine wound up on my now-seldom-used “too stupid to live” shelf.)

I started this a little dubiously, because the title seems like it’s trying to cash in on Austen’s popularity — which is apparently something of this author’s brand. It did make some sense thematically, though. The main character, Samantha, has survived a very rough childhood by escaping into books — I related a lot — and has acquired a habit of using fake personas and book quotations because she has such uncertain social skills — again, I related a lot.

The basic plot follows the originally fairly closely. Orphaned girl is given a scholarship to college — in this case, graduate school in Journalism — by an anonymous benefactor, who asks only for letters describing her progress. Lonely girl uses the letters to express herself because she feels so alienated from her peers; meanwhile she falls in love with a man she happens to meet… guess who! I think the author had a goal to “fix” aspects of the original story that bother some readers today — it’s made very clear that the benefactor is not “grooming” Samantha, and he doesn’t interfere with her plans or her other relationships, as the original “Daddy-Long-Legs” did. And Sam gets angry when she discovers the truth about her benefactor, which the original orphan didn’t. (The “grooming” theory still bugs the hell out of me, but I won’t dissect it here.)

It’s very hard for me to review this book, because I started to realize about halfway through that it’s an Inspie. And though that wasn’t so in-your-face that I couldn’t enjoy it, I see from other reviews that there’s a lot of standard Inspie conversion tactics going on. This is making me second-guess my reaction to the book, much as I did when I learned that a book I thought had an excellent depiction of a disabled character was published by a fetish press. (Not comparing Christianity to a fetish — and not that there’s anything wrong with fetishes — but I’m really bothered by hidden agendas.)

Trying to put that aside, the epistolary narrative was engaging and I enjoyed reading it. It’s maybe a bit too good to be true in parts, but mostly stays believable. But if you’re sensitive about any of the issues mentioned here, I suggest giving the GoodReads reviews a good look through before deciding to try it.

7 responses to “TBR Challenge: Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay

  1. WhiskeyintheJar says:

    The fact that the tale name is Daddy long legs makes me want to cringe from the beginning, spiders and grooming eeeek, lol. I’ve read a couple books that I started off not knowing were Inspirational too, until you hit that line that makes you start investigating. Then it starts the questioning and reexamining what you already read for the hidden agendas you talk about. If nothing else, at least this sounds like the author gave Samantha a better spin.

  2. kristiej says:

    Wow, that’s a book I haven’t heard about for a while – Daddy Long Legs. I read it many years ago now and don’t remember much about it except that I really enjoyed it.

  3. azteclady says:

    I have always adored Daddy Long Legs and I *despise* the grooming narrative; beyond that, I’m so much with you on hidden agendas, and it would put the author and press in my “never buy” list immediately when it’s not clear it’s an inspie either in marketing or promo/blurb/branding.

  4. Dorine says:

    I’m glad you read it because I never heard of Daddy Long Legs. How interesting!

    I don’t like my inspirational to be in your face. I like them subtle, like part of daily life that’s natural.

    That’s too bad that this element turned you off. I understand completely. But I hate when that happens so far into the book. So disappointing.

    Great review!

Comments welcome! But FYI, WordPress has extremely good spam filters.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

What We've Been Reading

Reading inspiration from the HabitRPG Legendary Book Club's URC/MRC challenges.

Something More

my extensive reading

Blue Castle Considerations

thoughtations, contemplations, fulminations & other random things from books...

...Burns Through Her Bookshelf

Voracious reader, book lover, intermittant blogger, audiologist. These things are some of me, but not the sum of me.

Cate Marsden.

Love and Zombies. And books. And infrequent updates.

Book Thingo

Reading (mostly) romance books down under


...barely skimming the surface

Olivia Dade

Bawdy romcoms with a big ♥.

Flight into Fantasy

Reviews, book thoughts and opinions of one omnivorous reader.

Her Hands, My Hands

The vagaries of my mind, the products of my hands. Not always safe for work.


64 books. 1 Champion. Get your game on.

Stop the STGRB Bullies

Your hypocrisy is showing

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

Miss Bates Reads Romance

“Miss Bates…had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman..." Emma, Jane Austen

%d bloggers like this: