Jo Virden

Highlights from Blog Reviews:

Kathleen from Jersey Girl Book Reviews: 

Rating: Five Stars
My Darling Dorothy is an emotional and compelling tale that will tug at the heartstrings and stir the soul. You can’t help but get drawn in as Dorothy, Jack and Tommie’s story unfolds. The author does a wonderful job of writing an intricate and romantic tale, rich in authentic historical description of the Great Depression and War War II years, and masterfully interweave it with Dorothy, Jack and Tommie’s true-to-life experiences. This is an amazing story that will take the reader on an emotional journey that will resonate with them for a very long time.

Danielle from Urban Book Reviews: 

Rating: Five Stars

Intriguing, highly entertaining, and well-written. There is an emotional toll that kept on tugging on my heart as the scenes flew by me. A fast-paced story that somehow wraps itself around me, causing me to fall deeper into the characters’ lives. Beautifully told. My Darling Dorothy is about love, adventure, loss, and war. This was my first novel that I have read by Jo Virden.  She has created a masterfully woven tale that I won’t ever forget. Memorable. Satisfying. Overall, I highly recommend it to readers everywhere.

Fran from Just Reviews:

A story well told and three people who lived their lives around the atrocities of a war that tore so many apart. Dorothy and Jack: Can you hear the music playing? It’s your song: The Tennessee Waltz : just for you!

Ellie from Simple Wyrdings:

The book is well written and easy to read. I liked learning more about how life was back then. 

Blue Ink Review

Inspired by genuine letters that passed between her mother and two love interests during World War II, Jo Virden’s historical fiction romance, My Darling Dorothy, is an out-of-the-ordinary peek at wartime reality on the home front and abroad.

In 1936 Nebraska, native Dorothy Ayers meets Jack Smith, “a dead ringer for Errol Flynn,”  at a dance. Over the next few years, Jack, nicknamed “Smitty,” travels the country looking for employment in the post-depression economy and sends letters back to Dorothy, who works for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. Dispirited and aimless, he turns to women and whiskey. Realizing she can’t hold out hope for Smitty, Dorothy takes up with Tommie, a farmer, and they get engaged after a whirlwind courtship in 1941 before he leaves for the army.

Although Smitty reappears in Dorothy’s life, she’s wary. Meanwhile, Tommie soon ships off to the Philippines and goes missing during the Bataan Death March, which Virden renders with harrowing detail. Will Dorothy give Smitty another chance?

A framing story features the character Jo discovering a stash of 1930s–‘40s correspondence in her basement a few years after her mother’s death. The stamps, postmarks, and spellings are all authentic, while a distinct font approximates all the handwriting. (Using two different fonts might have helped distinguish Tommie’s letters from Smitty’s.)

The novel vividly recreates its various settings, including Dorothy’s small-town life and Smitty’s military service in Africa and Europe. Italicized passages presenting dreams and fantasies can be a little confusing, but alongside the letters they help change up the pace and reveal more about these well-realized characters. Over the decade covered by the main action, Virden skillfully and carefully zeroes in on incidents that reveal the chance and irony of war, as when Smitty’s malaria saves him from a landmine.

Overall, the author has penned a compelling story—one that will hold particular appeal for fans of similar epistolary tales,  such as Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

4 out of 4 stars

Review by Annelore Trujillo

My Darling Dorothy by Jo Virden begins in modern times as Dorothy’s kids are going through her belongings. Dorothy is a hoarder, and the kids know it. There’s junk covering every inch of the attic, so they never thought they would come across a box of love letters from World War II let alone letters from two different men. Intrigued, Dorothy’s daughter, Jo, begins to read, and the reader is taken back to Dorothy’s past and the horrors of World War II.

This historical fiction novel is packed with romance. My emotions were put on board a roller coaster as I followed Dorothy’s love life. She experiences innocent love, heartbreak, mixed emotions, and longing as she tries to decide what’s best for her life while both of the men in her life are off fighting in the war. There’s Jack or “Smitty”, her first love that left her when the going got tough. Then there’s Tommie, the man that stepped in and loved her after Smitty broke her heart. All she can do now is write letters and wait. 

I enjoyed the format of the book. Each section is dated with a month and year, which is really helpful in understanding the timeline. I also liked that the story follows each of the three main characters on their individual journeys, not just Dorothy. It gives the reader a better understanding of the entire story. As each character reads one of the letters, it is written in the text so the reader can also see it. The letters were my favorite part. The reader also gets a peak into the dreams of each of the characters as they sleep. These two diversions from every day text really made the writing unique. 

I actually read this book because of the time period that it was set in. The World War II era has always been very interesting to me. Most of the books I have read, however, were set in Europe. In school we were always taught about what was happening across the ocean, not what was happening on our own soil. This is one of the few books that I have read that is set mostly in the United States. I got a very different view of what the war was like for Americans and American soldiers. It was a heart-wrenching story, and I’m glad I read it. 

I also have to commend the author for the care that was put into this book. The writing is seamless, the storyline is clean, and the writing is almost flawless. I think I counted maybe two errors in the entire book. It is always relaxing to read a novel that is without numerous grammar errors. Almost error-free, this book was stress-free for me. 

My only complaint about the book was that there was one loose end. I can’t say too much without giving the ending away, but I can say that I was left with questions. I kind of understand why the author might have chosen not to elaborate, but it still would have been nice to know exactly what happened. 

Since my one complaint really isn’t much of a complaint, I give the My Darling Dorothy 4 out of 4 stars. The author’s work was outstanding. The loose end that I mentioned isn’t that big of a deal; it just left me curious. As good as this book was, it definitely doesn’t take away from the overall effect. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone who enjoys historical fiction and clean romance.

My Darling Dorothy 
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Foreword Clarion Five-Star review

Reviewed by Kristine Morris
May 27, 2016

Virden captures the ethos of the time perfectly, contrasting the rigidity of conservative social norms with spirited rebellion on the part of the children.

The bundle of old letters, carefully tied with a blue ribbon, that Jo Virden discovered among some dusty boxes in her mother’s basement held a mystery: Who were the young soldiers whose letters her mother had saved all these years, and what happened to them? Based on authentic correspondence, Virden’s My Darling Dorothy is the powerful evocation of a pivotal time in world history, a tribute to the American soldiers who served in World War II and the women who loved them.

Virden traces the life of young Dorothy Ayers as she assumes the care of her family after her mother’s death. Dorothy’s mother had been the only one to nurture and encourage her dream of leaving Nebraska after high school to see the world. Virden skillfully illuminates both how grief threatened to engulf the spirited girl, and how inner strength helped her to stand firm in her pursuit of a better life.

Virden paints a vivid, poignant picture of daily life on the windblown plains of Nebraska as war raged in Europe, dragging the United States, still reeling from the Great Depression, into the conflict. Food and winter fuel were scarce, and not even backbreaking work could guarantee safety from the next disaster. Children dreamed of a day when they would escape their hardscrabble existence for adventures in far-flung places, even as hopelessness, borne on heavy, gray clouds, seeped into their souls.

When the United States entered World War II, the two young men who captured Dorothy’s heart became soldiers. Their letters to her are in turn funny, frightening, heartbreaking, and filled with love and longing. Virden captures the ethos of the time perfectly, contrasting the rigidity of conservative social norms that mandated the father’s rule over the household with spirited, though often covert, rebellion on the part of the children.

The book also shows how, at a time when women’s role in the workplace was restricted, Dorothy’s ambition was not well received by her father, nor by potential suitors. Also portrayed to perfection are the angst, confusion, bravado, and passion of young love, made all the more intense by the horrors of war and the knowledge that a life could be snuffed out in a second.

The book is beautifully designed, from the attractive front cover to the interior design and layout. The authentic postcards, stamps, and letters used to illustrate the text lend both authenticity and an appropriately nostalgic tone.

The text is essentially flawless in grammar, word usage, punctuation, and syntax, with the exception of the letters, which were purposely left as they had been written, and the dialogue, which is authentic to the voice of each character. The pacing is exactly as needed to keep the story flowing smoothly, and Virden’s insightful skill with character development makes both the major and the minor characters shine.

My Darling Dorothy is a sensitive and captivating tale that illuminates how, beyond the danger, despair, and depravity of war, there still remains a cherished place within each human being where dreams remain “safe and possible and untouched.”