Title: The Stolen Marriage
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
From St. Martin’s Press: In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.
The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.
When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?
I won a copy of this arc in a giveaway sponsored by Goodreads and St. Martin’s Press. All opinions are my own.
My Review: THE STOLEN MARRIAGE took me completely and utterly by surprise in a very good way. To be upfront I didn’t know anything about this book and thought I was going into a thriller / suspense story. Instead I was fully engrossed in rich history, intrigue and mystery flanked by elaborate characters and complex topics significant to World War II and southern living.
Tess and Vincent grew up as neighbors in Little Italy, Baltimore, Maryland and always knew they would marry. Engaged and planning their wedding, Vincent was busy carving out his medical career while Tess finished up her nursing studies. A weekend away with her girlfriend lands Tess inebriated, in bed with another man and pregnant. Scared, ashamed and her future with Vincent derailed, Tess sets off to seek financial support from Henry but Henry proposes marriage to provide a family for his unborn child.
Tess never imagined the life she would sign onto upon accepting Henry’s proposal. Moving to a small town in the south where she is seen as trapping Henry, Tess lives under the watchful eyes of Ruth and Lucy, Henry’s mother and sister. She’s not welcomed into their lives nor accepted and she’s in a loveless marriage with a man who isn’t attracted to her.
What lies ahead are deception, secrets, compassion, morality and surprising plot twists. While this isn’t a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat, it is poignant and captivating and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.