An Inconvenient Letter (Proper Romance)

Written by Julie Wright
Review by Misty Urban

Young Marietta Stone thinks she is indulging in a safe fantasy by writing to her friend’s brother, Mr. Frederick Finch—until her elder sister Anne accidentally mails the letters. Braving a family feud to get them back, Etta finds her letters in the clutches of a Finch cousin, Mr. Gerard Hartwell. Through a tortuously twisted logic, Etta and Gerard decide to pretend they are courting so that Etta can win the regard of Mr. Finch and Gerard can make a bid for gentle Anne and her dowry, which will restore the burdened estate his father left him.

To her credit, Wright soon departs from a premise that engages her lead characters in deceit and manipulation for terrible reasons. Rather, she builds Gerard and Etta’s bond first through their experiences of playing together as children, then as intelligent young adults who confide in and understand one another. Despite the glaringly despicable behavior of Frederick, everyone’s mother, and the grating Miss Bates, Gerard and Etta manage to grow close until, of course, their original deception comes to light, with the requisite groveling and grand gestures to follow.

The prose is solid, and while the 1828 setting is no more well developed than anything in Austen, the turns of feeling are believable and precise. Etta, for all her youth, is likeable and truly kind, and many characters undergo a redemptive arc. Readers will enjoy how the madcap antics turn into a sweet romance with lessons about knowing, and trusting, one’s own heart.