22 August 2014

This Is How I'd Love You by Hazel Woods

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As the Great War rages, an independent young woman struggles to sustain love – and life – through the power of words.

It’s 1917 and America is on the brink of World War I. After Hensley Dench’s father is forced to resign from the New York Times for his anti-war writings, she finds herself expelled from the life she loves and the future she thought she would have. Instead, Hensley is transplanted to New Mexico, where her father has taken a job overseeing a gold mine. Driven by loneliness, Hensley hijacks her father’s correspondence with Charles Reid, a young American medic with whom her father plays chess via post. Hensley secretly begins her own exchange with Charles, but looming tragedy threatens them both, and – when everything turns against them – will their words be enough to beat the odds?

I am a big fan of snail mail and pen-pal correspondence. If a novel relies on writing letters, I am immediately interested. (Sarah Sundin’s With Every Letter, Jessica Brockmole’s Letters from Skye and Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley have been my recent epistolary reading pleasures.) Add in a historical setting and romance and I can’t resist. Hence, Hazel Woods’ debut novel, This Is How I’d Love You.

As Hensley Dench and Charles Reid send letters to each other across the ocean, Woods creates a wonderfully enjoyable, intertwining story. Each character, equally and uniquely determined and resilient, experiences personal hardships, but through it all, the exchanged correspondences provide the much-needed friendship and encouragement – and eventually love. With required complications, Woods masterfully builds suspense to the conclusion, and I had to nervously wonder what sort of resolution the relationship between Hensley and Charles would have and hoped all would be well. I loved it all – especially the perfectly composed letters. The eloquence that permeates each one made me a bit envious, wishing I could write and receive letters like them. Admittedly, I expected and would have liked more of the letters included in the narrative, but I must say, the narrative is satisfyingly complete without any additions. Overall, This Is How I’d Love You is a sweet, transporting story of unexpected and perhaps undeserved love (but isn’t that the best kind?), and as a great read for fans of historical romance, it gets my recommendation.

Thanks to Penguin’s First to Read, I received a copy of This Is How I’d Love You and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

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