Review: The Love Letter, by Lucinda Riley

Wow, this book was quite a rollercoaster. I don’t think any of it quite turned out how I was expecting it to- and for somebody who reads around a book a day, that was quite something! With twists, turns, unexpected deaths, and revelations, this kept me hooked, gasping and sometimes rolling my eyes. Everything in one.

This was the first Lucinda Riley novel I’ve read, but I don’t think it’ll be my last- the breakneck plotting and slow-winding tension saw to that. The story starts with the death of Sir James Harrison, renowned actor and the guardian of a secret letter which has the potential to destroy untold lives… like that of Joanna Haslam, who gets sent an old love letter after Sir James’ funeral, and suddenly becomes embroiled in a very dangerous web of deceit, betrayal and an ages-old mystery.

Though there’s romance in the story, it takes somewhat of a back seat to the mystery unfolding, which was quite refreshing- and quite shocking. From the enigmatic actress Zoe Harrison, to Joanna herself, nobody ended up with who I expected them to, and deepened the suspense.

And the story was already tense enough. The mystery is compelling and doled out in very small portions, so you don’t really know what’s really going on until the very final page. That’s alright, though, because it lets us get to know our central characters more, from the Harrison siblings, Zoe and Marcus, to Joanna and Simon, her best friend who is hiding a secret agenda (whom I also strongly, strongly dislike: after all the things he does in the book, you get to the end and tell me he deserves a happy ending).

For me, though, it was the women that carried the story; Zoe’s struggle to be a single mother whilst also trying to drive her career forwards was compelling, and a really interesting look at the film industry, whilst Joanna is warm, witty and with such determination that you really find yourself getting behind her as she fights to discover the truth behind the secret letters.

She needs all the help she can get, to be honest, because Riley really serves up the twists here: alongside ratcheting tension, there are several shock twists, some of which I thought deserved to happen at the end of the story rather than in  the middle, as it took the momentum out of the writing somewhat. Several times, my jaw dropped- and several more times, something happened that I absolutely did not see coming. This story takes a premise and completely goes to town with it, creating a massively elaborate plot which sometimes strains under the weight of its own detail. By the end, it sags- there’s a wildly implausible ending and some happy endings that seemed a little forced.

On the whole, though, The Love Letter absolutely delivers what it set out to do: create a breakneck, entertaining, mystery-slash-romance that keeps you gripped. Give me a minute to slow my racing heart though…

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