Monday, August 25, 2014

Blog Tour: The Last Letter by Pema Donyo (Guest Post + Review)

Love Saves the World welcomes Pema Donyo and her book, One Last Letter.

For her stop on my blog, Pema has chosen to share some love letters from famous people:

What do a dictator, president, country star, and founding feminist have in common? Love letters!

Oscar Wilde wrote, "I will not bare my soul to their shallow prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope." Yet there are many famous figures throughout history who have had no problem with such "baring their soul" through writing for others to see -- or rather, for their beloved to see. For many, professing passion through writing is much easier than admitting one's feelings out loud.

In my historical Western romance, One Last Letter, a rags-to-riches cowboy -- Jesse -- sends anonymous love letters to the hard-working plantation owner who once rebuffed him -- Evelyn. By way of his writing, Jesse captures the emotions he longs to verbalize to her in person. He isn't the only man who's expressed himself with eloquent words through love letters; read about the famous couples below who also left behind a letter legacy of their own!

Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte
"I am going to bed with my heart full of your adorable image ... Kisses on your mouth, your eyes, your breast, everywhere, everywhere."
- Napoleon Bonaparte to Jos├ęphine de Beauharnais
Napoleon's love for his wife Josephine is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful, considering the many stages of their relationship are well-documented through love letters. In fact, Napoleon left to command an army near Italy only a few days after his wedding, forcing their only communication to be through writing. This early period of letters marks the most passionate stage of his writing; he wrote often and in earnest to write how much he missed her.

Abigail and John Adams
"I have seen near a score of years roll over our heads with an affection heightened and improved by time ... the image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my heart."
- Abigail Adams to John Adams 
Lots of traveling was required for John's political career, and thus an estimated 1,100 letters were exchanged between the two. It was also in one of these many love letters that Abigail is known for reminding him to "remember the ladies." The lively missives are filled with as much news about the children as they are with political debates.

Johnny and June Cash
"The fire and excitement may be gone now that we don't go out there and sing them anymore, but the ring of fire still burns around you and I, keeping our love hotter than a pepper sprout."
-  Johnny Cash to June Cash
Johnny Cash married June Carter in 1968 and they stayed together until her death (35 years later). While their relationship began in scandal (he was already married to someone else), he's credited her multiple times with helping him fight his battle with drug addiction. He added, "She has saved my life more than once. She's always been there with her love ..." Plus, they sang amazing duets together!

Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin
"I wish I may find you at home when I carry this letter to drop it in the box, -- that I may drop a kiss with it into your heart, to be embalmed, till me meet, closer."

- Mary Wollstonecraft to William Godwin
She was a social critic and strong advocate for women's rights; he was a radical reformer and anarchist. The intellectual couple bonded over their mutual hope for political reform and a strong belief in individual freedom. Yet the relationship met a tragic end when she died from complications of childbirth the same year she married him. Still, the love letters between the two remain a testament to their short-lived love story.

What other love letters do you think should be included in this list? Do you think handwritten love letters still hold a place in the digital age?

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About the book:


A romantic hardened by reality ...
Evelyn Lancaster turned her back on her love for ranch hand Jesse Greenwood when she was sixteen to pursue a career and marry into wealth that could save her father’s struggling ranch. Now twenty-three, she works hard to keep the property afloat, but no suitor has stirred her heart the way Jesse did. After her father falls ill, she needs all the help she can get to keep the ranch running.

A cowboy returning to what he left behind ...
After making his fortune, a newly wealthy Jesse has returned home to see his younger sister married. Still smarting from Evelyn’s rejection, he finds the tables have turned, and now only his investment could save the ranch that he vowed to never step foot on again.

When he agrees to help her salvage her family legacy, they must overcome their pride and painful past to work together. As long-held emotions rekindle, Jesse pretends indifference, only to admit his true feelings in an unsigned letter left on Evelyn’s porch.

Evelyn finds the missive and writes back, beginning a furtive correspondence. She dares to hope her mystery admirer is Jesse, but then another man comes forward to claim the letters as his own. Will one last letter give them the courage to say yes to love on the wild Texas plains?


Evelyn Lancaster wanted to run away as fast as possible.

It was a mistake. It was one colossal, gargantuan mistake. Worse than Athens ordering the death of Socrates. Worse than Persephone being kidnapped by Hades. What did she think she was going to do? Seconds ticked by as she found herself unable to say anything more. Her mouth felt dry. What was she supposed to say?

He’d changed, more than she would have ever imagined possible. The boyish frame was filled out, and extra years working on the ranch had defined the muscles in his arms under his coarse brown shirt. He’d even grown taller -- past six feet, she guessed. His shoulders were broader, and his cheekbones seemed more pronounced than before. His face carried even more of an aristocratic air, but his body seemed undeniably more masculine.

Yet the expression was the same. Jesse Greenwood’s same reticent, admiring expression hadn’t changed as he continued to stare at her like she was hand-blown glass. His brown hair still flopped lightly in front of his eyes, causing him to brush it away.

“Hey, Eve.”

She winced. She hadn’t heard that nickname since she’d left Hamilton, Texas, for the female seminary in Massachusetts. No one there ever called her Eve. During classes she’d been “Miss Evelyn” and “Miss Lancaster.”

She cleared her throat. She’d anticipated the awkwardness but not the simple difficulty in forming words. “I returned home a few hours ago. I thought I should stop by and say hello. Is Preston here? Are any of the other ranch hands here?”

Jesse blinked. He didn’t respond for a few seconds. The adoring expression morphed to one of disbelief. “Eve, did you get my letters?”

She bit her lip. “I did.” Evelyn resisted the urge to embrace him. Doing so would only make it harder to answer his questions with a lie. Instead, she stood rooted to the spot. She wouldn’t move a muscle; there was too much she could regret. “They were nice letters. Thank you. But I burned them.”

His eyes became cool steel, all traces of admiration in his eyes melting away. “Burned them? But you ...” His jaw was set. “Eve, why didn’t you write me back?”

“I was busy.” She tore her eyes away from Jesse’s searing gaze and tried to look behind his shoulder. The sinking feeling in her chest was surely no more than an echo of the past. She needed to leave before all rationality left her. “Just let all the other ranch hands know I stopped by.”

“Stop. Eve, I said stop.” Strong hands grabbed both of her shoulders, and she looked up in alarm toward his furrowed brow and confused expression. His voice was so much deeper than she’d remembered. “That’s all? You couldn’t once respond to me?”

She struggled to push against him, but he held her in place. His tone was rough. It increased in volume, rising with each word that tumbled out of his mouth.

“What about the promise I made to you? When you told me that you wanted to marry --”

“Enough!” Evelyn yanked herself out of his hold and glared. She breathed deeply, as if the extra air would give her the courage she couldn’t truly conjure up. “I remember what you are referring to. I did receive your letters. I thank you for them. But I did not respond to you because whatever we had before I left for school ...” She gulped. The polite tone of indifference faded. “This has to end.”

Buy Links:
Crimson Romance:


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My Review:

What intrigued me about this book is the idea of letters being exchanged between Evelyn and Jesse, the daughter of the ranch owner and a ranch hand. Theirs is a relationship that crosses social boundaries and we see the toll this takes on our hero and heroine. Eve sacrifices her love for Jesse and pushes him away, for the sake of saving the ranch and making a more advantageous match, but, even after 2 years, her heart still pines for her childhood friend and love.

The letters they exchange are a revelation, expressing the confusion and hesitation of two people who have suffered the pain of a broken heart. I enjoyed reading the very honest admissions between the two. But this made me wonder: why couldn't they say it to each other? I felt as though Eve and Jesse were two different people: so reserved and distant during the day, and passionate and expressive by night. I kept waiting for the moment when these two halves of their selves would meld and resolve everything between them. Granted, the author really wanted to test our hero and heroine by prolonging their agony, but I wish their was more in terms of obstacle instead of just the inability to communicate.

I enjoyed the secondary love story between Loretta and Preston, and the author did a good job mirroring the two couples: I thought it was ironic that Jesse wasn't going to allow Loretta to marry Preston because he's a "mere cowboy," and Jesse wishes for Loretta to move up in the world. I thought Preston was a wonderful character and showed a lot of honour in how he dealt with Jesse's disapproval of him.

I don't read a lot of historical romances set in the American West, but the few I've read have been educational for me: it's a glimpse at a life and time and culture that is very distinctive. That said, I hope my fellow readers can clarify this for me: Was it really the case that, when a woman agrees to be courted, it automatically leads to marriage? It seemed to be the case when Eve finally allowed John Cooper to court her. (And Annie seemed to believe the same when Jesse asked her to accompany him to one event.)

Overall, a sweet and straightforward story.

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Pema Donyo is a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where people wear flip-flops instead of Stetsons and ride in cars instead of carriages. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and ... college. Black coffee, period dramas, faded book covers, and peanut butter continue to be the driving forces in her life.



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