The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain – 384 pages
ARC courtesy of Netgalley and 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. 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.
My Review: 4 stars
Diane Chamberlain has, yet again, written a story that completely offers escapism and a captivating plot. She’s an author that knows how to pen completely different storylines from book to book, which shows her broad range and creativity.
The Stolen Marriage is no exception, except I’m not sure I loved the title. Mostly this book portrays the perseverance and skill of a woman who is living a life that she never expected. Tess was a likeable character and the minor characters all some mystery surrounding them, which added to the plot. Topics such as religion, abortion, slavery, marriage, love, affairs and of course polio fill the pages of this book.
The rampant outbreak of polio in North Carolina is unknown to most people. I asked my mom about it, and she knew nothing about this miracle hospital, but she did agree it was such a scary time. No one knew what was causing the spread of the disease and kids were easy targets. Although this disease finally gave Tess a chance to prove herself, it was an awful time in history. All the doctors and nurses, with no immunizations available, risked their lives daily to treat the men, women and children.
The relationships between Tess and her husband versus Tess and her first true love were realistically portrayed. Henry was a tough nut to crack and I had many guesses as to why he had such odd behavior. Tess’s mother in law and sister in law were characters that I wanted to slap silly. Who doesn’t love reading about the nasty ones getting their due?
Enjoyable read a quick vacation read or a good dose of women’s fiction.
Quotes I liked:
Even though I couldn’t have him or touch him or talk to him or even look into his eyes. I needed his presence. I needed him close by.”