Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Letters arrive from the past, and by the time you receive one, anything could have happened.”
This book has to be one of the most vibrant, uplifting and completely heartwarming books I’ve ever read! I’ve been looking forward to getting to this book after reading so many incredible reviews and praise for the author, and upon finishing, I just want to shout about it from the rooftops. It explores so many themes in such detail, from painful loss and heartache, to love, friendship and even the refreshing feeling of new beginnings. I’m so thrilled to be on the blog tour today, make sure you look out for reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!
About the book
An unexpected letter. An unlikely friendship. A chance to start again.
Ever since she first picked up a violin, Hope Sullivan dreamed of going to music college, joining an orchestra and travelling the world with her best friend Janey. But when her parents were killed in a car accident on the way to one of her recitals, she gave it all up to look after her younger sister, Autumn. Ten years later, Janey is living their dream on her own, Autumn is flourishing as a doctor and Hope’s life is smaller and less musical than ever.
Arnold Quince had the happiest of lives – until he lost his beloved wife Marion. Once the life and soul of the village, he withdrew into his grief and pushed all his friends away. Now, five years on, he is sick, lonely and just counting down the years until he can be with Marion again.
When Hope and Arnold are pushed into writing to one another, neither has any idea how much their life is about to change.
The start of this book automatically gave me such a warm feeling and I instantly felt a big old smile spread over my face. Now that’s the feeling you want to get when starting a new book, right?! Before I even knew anything about the book or the characters involved, I already felt the urge to continue reading. We’re firstly presented with a series of delightful letters between two 8-year-old girls, Hope and Janey, who have a mutual interest in playing musical instruments. I had to laugh as I could see a little bit of my younger self in these two girls and I was transported to different times in my childhood – I wasn’t quite sure how the author managed to make me feel this way after so few pages! However, over time, things begin to change in Hope’s life, and it soon became clear just how important these introductory letters were in creating the foundations for this story. The author’s talent was immediately clear to me, and I knew the rest of the book would certainly tug at those heart strings!
I absolutely LOVED how the book is packed full of letters, emails and text messages; such an unusual way to tell a story and if I’m honest, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it! I wasn’t sure whether we’d get the depth I was hoping for with this style, but I really didn’t have anything to worry about. It was perfect, and I managed to really get to know Hope and Janey as people and become just as attached to these characters as I would in a normal style of novel. However, the tone of the book soon plummets completely as the most awful news of a car accident is revealed, and my god it felt like a punch in the stomach just reading the heartbreak and intense loss Hope and her family feels. With her parents tragically lost, Hope must step up to care for her sister, even letting go of her dreams of going to music college. We see how Hope has to give up so many things, even sell her prized possessions to care for herself and Autumn.
“If the last three years have taught me anything, it’s that music is magic. It lives in your soul, always. It will find you eventually.”
All of Hope’s attempts to get back into her musical lifestyle are unsuccessful once again as she plays parent, being there for her sister as she goes off the rails and turns into your typical rebellious teen. I loved how we effortlessly glide through the years of Hope’s life, and because we joined her story when she was so young, it was so easy to feel like I’d known this character for a lifetime. The author continued to seriously impress me with how effortlessly she tells Hope’s story, and the uniqueness of her delivery of each snippet of text, each letter, each email, inspired me so much to get writing again. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that urge! You can sense the pride and joy from the author throughout each sentence and learning so much about Hope’s life was so moving and so engaging. I already felt so invested and I never wanted the book to end!
For a long time, we don’t read any letters from Hope’s viewpoint. Everything is fed to the reader through family and friends, mainly Janey, who continues to be there for her and her sister after years of struggle. However, I felt closer to Hope more than ever because of it, which was such a strange thing to experience! The author already seems to have pulled everything off and tells Hope’s story in a way that just works. She watches as Janey, her sister and her grandparents are having the time of their lives or travelling the world while she can barely scrape the money together to get by each month. The author’s words are so incredibly powerful, and I really felt for Hope; I really wished she’d find a way to fulfill her dreams and live her life to the fullest like she was always meant to. A flawless start to the book, and I couldn’t even predict the direction for Hope!
After living a life committed to her sister and her work, Hope finds herself writing a letter to a lonely man called Arnold. His story was heartbreaking, and I really appreciated how Autumn was doing her best to give her sister a little something back, something that could be good for her, as well as poor Arnold. Little did she know that this would be the start of a beautiful bond. I loved getting to know another perfectly developed character and it was nice getting Hope’s point of view back in her letters. I felt like I was enjoying the author’s writing style more and more as time passed, and I appreciated all the perfectly timed humour to lighten up the mood. I found myself smiling and giggling to myself often, and it was always such a treat to settle down with this book after a long day.
The book seems to be split into two main section by this point; letters between Hope and Arnold, as well as Hope’s correspondence between Janey and her family, which really gives us a great balance of what’s going on in Hope’s life, as well as learning more about Hope’s past and musings. We even learn about Hope’s romantic feelings for someone as she enters the early stages of a relationship – it’s just a shame he turns into an already-married arsehole! The author really captures emotions so very well, with one particular moment really hitting me hard. Arnold tells Hope all about his wife in one of his letters, and hearing about the life they shared and how she passed away was so sad. However, the way he spoke about his late wife was really heartwarming. Hopefully, Hope would understand that there would be someone out there for her, even if it was taking a while to find that special person!
“You were right; knowing I am not alone is the best feeling in the world.”
The book places some focus on ‘making change happen’ and I have to admit that reading Hope’s plans for a café inside the music shop where she works got me thinking about my own life, and everything that is possible. We see her go through the stress of searching for an investor after things take an unexpected turn, but her determination and motivation to find what she needs shines through, (and there is a little help from someone unexpected.) There was always something going on in the book, and it’s such an accurate representation of all the highs and lows of life. The strength in Hope’s character continued to increase after every life experience that is thrown her way, and I felt so proud of her by this point in the book. Again, Arnold’s impact in her life and the help and life lessons he gives her when the pair have never met is such a wonderful thing.
After all the help Hope receives from Arnold, she has the idea to try and push him out of his comfort zone and enters him into a Bake-Off competition. (May I just add that the recipe for a delightful sounding cake is included in the book and I’m quite tempted to try it…) However, this backfires, which causes friction in their relationship, as well as a couple of fiery letters from Arnold. Is there something deeper in that mind of his that has caused him to stay away from others? The idea of the two stopping their communication was hard to come to terms with, especially as they had expressed how much one had helped the other. Things were said in these letters that caused anger and outrage – could it be the reality check Hope needed to think about the life she really wants to live? I couldn’t wait for the ending of the book and to see not only how Hope’s relationships with others developed (and hopefully rekindled) but to see how Hope chooses to live her life after so much support and encouragement.
After Hope and Autumn’s somewhat difficult period, it was refreshing to see how they managed to communicate and iron out their issues, enabling them to move forward from whatever had happened to their sibling relationship over time. It was also so lovely to see Hope and Arnold apologise for their anger in their letters, and it seemed that even though they said some hurtful things, they still took on each other’s advice and pushed themselves to do things out of their comfort zone – and they felt better for it! I think anyone reading this book can relate to these characters on so many levels, and I’m really bad for putting things off or thinking that I’m not good enough to get something done, no matter how much I want it. The lessons Hope learns in this book is something any reader can learn too, and I was so grateful that the author has included such positivity here.
After not receiving a letter from Arnold for some time, Hope fears the worst, as did I! I wouldn’t have been able to hold back the tears if anything happened to Hope’s friend, but after soon finding out why she hadn’t received a letter, she attempts to track down the son she never knew he had. Why had he kept this piece of information from her, after everything they’d already discussed in their letters? It seemed there was a big chunk of Arnold’s life we were yet to discover, and as Joe is introduced, I knew it wouldn’t be long until we got those answers. I loved the introduction of this character so late on, and I felt he was just as delightful as his father. But just why had he not played a part in his father’s life after his mother had passed? As Hope and Joe get to know each other through email, it becomes clear just how important this new character will become in her life…
“The only advice I can offer – inadequate as it may be – is that you will only know what is on the other side of fear if you pass through it. Just know that I believe in you.”
I think the only part of the book I’d have liked to have seen explored further is when Hope and Arnold meet for the first time. The way their relationship builds up over time through their letters made me desperate to experience their first meeting, but it was only touched upon lightly. I guess you can only go so far in a book of this format which I completely understand! Knowing these characters do manage to have a face to face conversation, however, was just lovely, and really did make me smile. What made me smile even more was the role Joe began to play in Hope’s life. I won’t go into detail, but my heart! After everything we’ve learnt about Hope and after how much we’ve experienced alongside her, it made me realise just how much she deserves to be happy. And I couldn’t wait to see how the author ended this book – I knew I’d be in tears!
The tears began to fall (as predicted) because of how everything seems to play out, not only for Hope, but for Arnold, Janey and Autumn too (Autumn gets her own dog, a Golden Retriever, which made me incredibly happy because I am also a Golden Retriever mum!) These characters have quickly become some sort of short-term family members in my eyes, and reading every single letter helped to secure them right into my heart. I don’t think they’ll ever leave! The epilogue in particular was absolute fantastic to read as the author switches to a third person narrative. I couldn’t believe how the author’s style of writing could change so much but be equally as enjoyable, and after reading that last sentence, I swelled up with intense happiness. I still feel a bit emotional writing this review! A faultless book in my eyes, and I’m already dying to see what this author does next!
From the unusual style this book is written in, to the deep and engaging story of Hope, I felt like this book was truly one of the best of its kind. This experience has been a first for me; I loved the story of two people building a solid, feel-good friendship, even though they’d never met, and it was so refreshing to see one girl blossom into a genuinely kind and brilliant person after such intense childhood trauma. Even characters such as Hope’s sister, friend and grandparents were so carefully constructed, and everything fits together perfectly to portray positive change, and to be the best person you can possibly be, no matter the cards you’re dealt in life. An amazing achievement from this author and a definite 5 star read!
Thanks so so much to the author of this book, Juliet Ann Conlin, and Love Books Tours for my copy of the book and place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of Love, Hope on Amazon now, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for updates!