Jason Norcross and Rachael Gresham became childhood friends when Jason came to live with his cousin, George, as a boy. Jason was penniless and untitled, but Rachael fell in love with him anyway. They eventually became secret lovers and were going to elope to America on New Year's Eve. Their plans were thwarted by Rachael's controlling father and his lies kept them apart for ten years during which time Rachael married George. Now, a decade later, they both learn the complete truth through George's last letter written to them just before his death, and are finally reunited again at the same New Year's Eve ball at which they were supposed to meet all those years ago. Will they be able to recapture the magic and passion they once shared or will the anger and resentment of perceived betrayal get in the way of true happiness?
Considering that The Last Love Letter is a friends-to-lovers, reunion romance, I thought I would really enjoy it, but unfortunately, it didn't quite make the cut for me. I spent a large part of my time reading this novella trying to figure out exactly what wasn't working for me. When I got to the end and read the author's bio, which indicated she used to be a reporter, it finally hit me that the story had seemed more like a news report than a fiction tale in which I could immerse myself and feel the emotions of the characters in a palpable way. In fact, I felt very little connection to the hero and heroine at all. The author also had a tendency toward having the characters ask themselves a few too many rhetorical questions which could get a little annoying.
I think my other issue with this novella is the way in which the plot unfolded and the way that Jason and Rachael responded to those events. They had supposedly known each other for most of their lives, and in my opinion, that should have been the basis of not only a deep love but also a deep trust. In spite of that, they were both overly quick to accept the word of Rachael's father when they knew he was a very hard and callous man who despised the idea of his only daughter being with a penniless untitled gentleman. Then Rachael's first husband, Jason's cousin, George, kept the truth from them for years, and when it finally came out they weren't even angry with him about it. I don't believe that George was an inherently bad man for doing so, but knowing what they had meant to each other, I thought it was a pretty selfish thing for him to do once he found out. The author did bring some sympathy to the situation with George's illness and all that he had done for, and meant to, Rachael over the years, but still the idea that they wouldn't even be the least bit miffed by his actions was a little hard to swallow. Last but not least, Jason discovered the truth three years before Rachael did and when they saw each other at that time, he tried to tell her the truth, but she stubbornly wouldn't listen. Of course, this led to the dreaded "big misunderstanding" which I definitely don't care for in any romance. When they finally did reunite once and for all and were both privy to the whole truth of how they'd been manipulated ten years earlier, Rachael still held herself at arms length not trusting Jason at all. She was even insisting to herself that she didn't love him and was ready to break all ties until the final few pages which didn't work well for me at all. Everything put together just made it very hard for me to believe that they could finally have an HEA.
The Last Love Letter was my first read by Victoria Alexander. In spite of my criticisms, I wouldn't call it bad, but it was just OK. Any readers who can get past a hero and heroine who seem to be easily manipulated by others and all the anger of numerous past misunderstandings may like this one more than I did. As written, it just wasn't entirely my cup of tea. I'm sure I'll give Ms. Alexander's work another try at some point, but I doubt I'll be burning rubber to do so. The Last Love Letter is found in the Secrets of a Perfect Night anthology.
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