Written by Michelangelo Altiere
Review by Rebecca Roberts

In 1872, Anne, a small-town milliner, meets a wealthy engineer from Pittsburgh while on an Ohioan riverboat. After sharing a meal together, they feel an immediate bond for one another, and once they have reached their respective homes, they begin writing letters back and forth. It is these one hundred-something handwritten letters, newspaper articles and artifacts, tied together in a hat box, that tell the story of Anne and James. Through Anne’s eyes, readers will learn what it is like being a woman in industrial America, and owning a business. She shares with James the intimacies of her daily life—from designing new hats, to teaching her maid to read and write. And in letters from James, we learn the hardships he encounters in the engineering world, and the changes the country undergoes in transportation and technological advancements. The more letters they write, the more they begin to feel for one another, and a romance soon blooms from this correspondence.

Historical fiction at its best, Dearest is handmade and available in three different three-dimensional editions. It is the first of a number of “experience novels” by London House Publishing. The unique style certainly is an experience; it makes you feel as if you’re snooping into the lives of these two people. As you work your way through the box, the remarkable story of Anne and James unfolds with each letter. The detailed design, organization of letters and articles, and gentle romance intertwined with historical details indicate that this was a carefully researched project, written with passion and love for all things Victorian.