Character Spotlight ~ Sarah Sundin’s Mellie Blake & Tom MacGilliver

Meet Mellie & Tom from

Sarah Sundin’s

With Every Letter


The Story

Lt. Mellie Blake is a nurse serving in the 802nd Medical Squadron, Air Evacuation, Transport. As part of a morale building program, she reluctantly enters into an anonymous correspondence with Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer in the 908th Engineer Aviation Battalion in North Africa. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other’s true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face to face for the first time.

Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage to their past? And can they learn to trust God and embrace the gift of love he offers them?

Introducing Mellie & Tom

Brief physical description

Lt. Mellie Blake is one-quarter Filipino, three-quarters white. She has thick wavy black hair, dark brown eyes, and a wide, full mouth. Her exotic looks aren’t so acceptable in America in the early twentieth-century.

Lt. Tom MacGilliver has straight sandy-blond hair, bright blue eyes, a big friendly grin, and a solid build.


Mellie honestly looks like the model on the book cover, including her shy but determined personality. I say the model is how Tom sees her—not so much how she sees herself.

I never have a person in mind when I picture my characters, but sometimes I “find” them after the fact. My husband and I watched Big Fish, and Ewan McGregor in that movie looks so much like Tom—both physically, plus the big open grin. So Tom.

Strengths and weaknesses

Mellie is conscientious, adventurous, and merciful toward the wounded under her care. However, she’s extremely shy and awkward around others due to a lifetime of rejection.

Tom is friendly, considerate, and hardworking. His weakness is his unwillingness to offend. This makes it difficult for him to form genuine friendships and to lead the men under his command.

Quirk (if any)

As a child, Mellie was teased and called “Monkey Mouth.” She feels self-conscious and avoids smiling. If she does smile, she covers her mouth.

Tom’s quirk is the opposite. As the son of an executed murderer, he puts up a friendly, benign front to convince people he’s safe. He smiles almost constantly, even when angry or sad.

Your inspiration for the character

Mellie was inspired by missionary kids who visited my Sunday school class. They seemed to have one foot in Africa and one in America—and didn’t quite belong in either. I found them delightful, but the kids in my class didn’t know what to make of them. Mellie also spans two cultures and doesn’t belong in either.

Tom’s story was inspired by a newspaper article about an executed murderer who left behind a young son. What would become of that boy, growing up in his father’s shadow? And what if a similar boy also bore his father’s name? And what if that murder had been notorious, the kind that spawned “Lizzie Borden”-type rhymes? What would he have to do to succeed in life?

Background to the story

In With Every Letter, Tom and Mellie meet through an anonymous exchange of letters inspired by the classic Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner, which is the basis of You’ve Got Mail. It’s set in World War II in North Africa and Sicily, where Mellie serves as one of the first flight nurses and Tom builds airfields. And what will happen when they meet in person?

Relz Reviewz Extras
Review of Blue Skies Tomorrow
Character spotlight on Ray & Helen
RBC Book Club interview with Sarah ~ Part 1 & Part 2
Character spotlight on Jack & Ruth
Review of A Distant Melody
Character spotlight on Allie & Walt
Visit Sarah’s website and blog
Buy Sarah’s books from Amazon or Koorong

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5 Responses to Character Spotlight ~ Sarah Sundin’s Mellie Blake & Tom MacGilliver

  1. Hi Rel!
    I’m sort of lurker here. I have REALLY enjoyed your Character Spotlight… What a brilliant idea!. (Have read all of them in the archives — thank you for them.)
    And I’ve been eyeing With Every Letter, so thank you Rel and Sarah for this post!

    Please keep on, Rel. I think you’re doing a great job on this website!

    Blessings to you and Sarah!


    • Ganise » Oh my, you have made my day! Your encouragement is lovely, Ganise, and I’m so glad you took the time to comment. I’m pretty impressed that you have read all the spotlights – wow :) There’s a lot now and I’m thrilled you have enjoyed them – they are lots of fun, aren’t they?

      Do grab Sarah’s book – it’s a beauty!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the spotlight!

      And yes, this blog is wonderful! The sneak peaks at new releases, character spotlights, and insightful interviews set Rel at the top :)

  2. Character added to Goodreads (with a link back to you). Will go back and add one to Eliza’s page too.

  3. I just finished this book and loved it! The model on the cover is perfect, I completely agree. Character Spotlight is so fun, can’t wait to see more!

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