Malachi Keogh can’t seem to keep a job, so now his father is essentially forcing him into a position with the postal service sorting and tracking lost mail (aka The Dead Letter Office). Malachi assumes he won’t like this job any more than any of the last and doesn’t expect to make it through the day. But to his surprise, he finds the place surprisingly appealing. His co-workers are just the right side of weird and quirky, and he really enjoys the mystery of tracking down the owners of the mail that has gone astray. But the best part is his sexy boss, Julian Pollard. Julian may wear nothing but brown and be sort of nerdy, but Malachi is completely drawn to the man, adorable blushes and all.
As Malachi spends time on the job, he learns about a mysterious bundle of letters that have been without a home for decades. No one has been able to track down either the sender or the recipient. Normally, the mail would have been destroyed after all this time, but no one has been able to bring themselves to get rid of the letters, which appear to be romantic correspondence between two men during the war. They are written by one of the partners to the pseudonym “Milton James” as he describes falling for the other man and the early stages of their romance before his partner goes off to war. Both Malachi and Julian feel compelled to solve the mystery of the letters and take on the project together.
As the guys spend more time together, they can’t help but acknowledge their feelings for each other. It is complicated by the fact that Julian is Malachi’s boss, of course, not to mention that Malachi’s father is Julian’s own boss of sorts. But the feelings between the men are too strong to ignore. As they dig further into the love story of the letters, the men begin to build their own romance as well. Now, Julian and Malachi must hope that they find a happy ending for themselves, as well as for their mystery couple.
Dearest Milton James is a sweet and lovely story. It features appealing characters and an incredibly romantic and endearing mystery as they hunt down the writer of the long-lost letters. The story has sort of parallel forbidden love journeys. On one hand, we have Malachi and Julian, who are boss/employee (though to be honest, this doesn’t really prove to be a major hurdle for them). And on the other, we have the story of two men who lived at a time when they could not be open about their relationship and sexuality. We can see how moved Julian and Malachi are as they learn more about the couple and their struggles, and how important it is to them to find closure and hopefully a happy ending for the pair. And as a reader, N.R. Walker really drew me in and I found myself fully invested as well. It just is the kind of story that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and happy inside.
I also loved the setting of the Dead Letter Office (though it has a more boring official name, as Julian reminds everyone). The characters are kind of off-beat and quirky, as befitting this sort of strange place. All the mail that can’t be delivered due to missing information ends up in their office, and the staff must work to solve the puzzle of to whom it belongs. Sometimes it is as easy as opening the package and finding the invoice, but in other cases, there is a lot more investigative work to track things down. Malachi finds it intriguing and engaging, and as a reader, so did I. I particularly love when the whole gang gets involved with the letters, each using their particular skills to figure who sent them.
The only thing that felt a bit discordant to me is the set up of the story and Malachi’s background. The book opens with Malachi being lectured by his father, who is a postal service bigwig, and being escorted to this new job that his dad got for him. We are told Malachi can’t keep a job, and that his father thinks he needs to grow up, to take responsibility, etc. Malachi himself assumes he won’t make a day in his new position. So the set up here solidly portrays Malachi as a mess who doesn’t have his life together. Yet from what we see on page, he is delightful, if a bit unable to know when to keep his mouth shut. He is pleasant and sunshiney. He works hard, enjoys his job from the first moment, and indulges his sometimes wacky co-workers. It just felt a little strange because the set up of the story very much portrays Malachi one way, but the rest of the book portrays him differently. That said, I really liked Malachi (as well as Julian) and found him a fun and enjoyable POV character.
Overall, this is a really sweet and engaging story. I liked the characters a lot, there is a bit of quirkiness, and two really lovely romances. If you are looking for an easy read with a nice happy ending, definitely check this one out.