New York, 1866
When her mistress receives an utterly unromantic letter from a potential suitor, servant Susanna Parkwell is asked to craft an appropriate response. Though hesitant to take part in the deception, Susanna agrees, never dreaming the scorned suitor will write back.
Theodore Blakely abhors being pressured by his family to marry, but he's intrigued by the witty refusal he receives from "Charlotte". After exchanging more letters, Ted believes he's found a soul mate in his thoughtful and understanding correspondent, and asks permission to formally court her.
Though racked with guilt over her lies, Susanna can't resist the opportunity to meet Ted in person. So she poses as Charlotte at a holiday ball, where she vows to tell him the truth. But when the clock strikes midnight, will Susanna have the courage to reveal her identity and risk losing the man she loves?
Susanna is living with her aunt and brother and helping her aunt run her boarding house in Poughkeepsie, New York after her family is shattered and her home burned during the Civil War. She’s gone from wearing ball gowns to wearing house maid clothes and the women who live at the boarding house don’t make things any easier for her. There is one soul that is kind to her and that is Charlotte Hulmstead. When Charlotte receives a letter from a man she doesn’t know stating that their parents expect them to court Charlotte is horrified. She is in love with the local physician and will NOT be marrying anyone but him. The letter itself is gruff and unappealing and Susanna is a bit incensed that anyone can be so matter of fact about a matter such as marriage. Writing like she’s Charlotte Susanna writes a reply to the man, Theodore Blakely, and puts him in his place. Both women assume that he won’t be writing back. But Susanna’s letter intrigued Ted and he keeps writing back. Charlotte ends up getting Susanna to continue the correspondence with the understanding that Susanna will make Blakely go away – even pays her to do it! – but Susanna and Ted end up sharing much more than letters. They end up sharing pieces of their souls and falling in love.
When Susanna and Charlotte receive a letter stating that not only does Ted mean to court Charlotte “properly” but pull her out of Vassar completely both women are beside themselves. Charlotte creates a plan where Susanna can meet Ted at a masked ball and get rid of him once and for all but when Susanna and Ted meet there’s no denying their feelings. Things go downhill from there, however, and when the truth finally comes out none of the parties involved are too happy.
This was a great little novella that I just loved reading. A major part of the story is told in letters back and forth from Ted to Susanna and I loved getting to know the main characters by reading those letters. I have to say that I’m a sucker for epistolary novels and this was a good one.
I felt so bad for Susanna’s circumstances but admired her strength in getting through it. Life had thrown her lemons and while she couldn’t exactly make lemonade she did manage to squeeze a bit of juice out of them.
Ted was an interesting guy. He wasn’t a typical hero in some of the things he’d done in the past and had a hard time being honest with Susanna. I think the fact that he DID come clean to her about some events in his past really sealed their relationship even tighter and I liked him all the more for his honesty.
I have to say I would have loved to have read more about some of the things that were happening in the book:
*Charlotte and her man, James…what happened when her father found out about him?
*Ted’s father expected him to marry Charlotte so that he could inherit some much needed machinery for his steam engines. How did his father end up reacting when he found out that his son was going to marry a southern woman instead AND not inherit the much needed “stuff”?
*sigh* I guess we’ll never know but it was a great little book despite the fact that I wanted more. lol
Rating: 4 out of 5