Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Stolen Marriage - Historical Fiction Review

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain (Amazon Link)

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  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?

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I've seen Diane Chamberlain's books around for sometime and have always wanted to try them. 

My Impression:  This book was really beautiful.  The writing was gorgeous but not overly lyrical, the setting was brought perfectly to life and the characters were extraordinarily vivid.  It was also incredibly sad.  I've heard quite a lot about polio from my Grandmother who grew up in a small southern town in the 30s and 40s.  Entire families were decimated in a week's time with no warning.  The boy who played in a high school football game one Friday night was dead by the next Friday night.  Swimming pools were closed and people stayed in their houses hoping to protect their children from the merciless disease.  In the age of modern medicine I've always had a hard time imagining that level of helplessness and fear though the imagery was so vividly grim.  However, Chamberlain's book brought it fully to life. 

My heart broke for Tess.  She's so full of life and happiness and determination in the beginning of the timeline and we then we see her so lost and scared and empty.  She's alone in a houseful of people with no support whatsoever except for little scraps of kindness she finds in unexpected places.  But when the polio epidemic hits Tess's new home of Hickory, North Carolina the sun starts to shine again though the sky is far from cloudless. 

While there were tears in my eyes many times through out the reading of this book it was all worth it to see Tess slowly start to find herself again and stand on shaky legs.  I would have liked more hope or a twist of humor to lighten things a little but that is personal preference and not a problem with the book.  If you're looking for vivid historical fiction that brings a time period to life than this is a great choice - just have tissues nearby!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would though I think I have to be in the right mood for her books.  While they aren't especially dark there is a bit more sadness than I'm typically drawn to.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy historical fiction with fully fleshed characters I think you'd enjoy this one.


  1. Glad you enjoyed this one Katherine. I love how Chamberlain takes me to different periods.

  2. I didn't notice the sadness so much but was caught up by the polio and the racial issues and I did love Tess and while the ending might have been "too good" I really liked it.

  3. While it sounds like a very well-written book, it also sounds darker and more heartrending than I am up too right now. But I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  4. My first Chamberlain and I look forward to more. I agree, though, about being in the right mood.

  5. It sounds interesting, but I probably wouldn't want to read it if it's that sad. There's enough sadness in the real world. I don't need anymore. I'm glad you enjoyed it though.

  6. I loved this book, too, and have enjoyed many books by the author. They all focus on issues and specific eras, with themes relevant to those times.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. I haven't read anything by Chamberlain - but having been brought up by my Gran, I know only too well what a scourge polio used to be. This book sounds really good - thank you for a great review.

  8. Glad you loved it. I did too, but I'm a sucker for emotional plots that break my heart.

  9. Everyone is loving this book. I am glad to see you enjoyed it as well. I guess I wil have to get from my local library when it becomes available. Great review!

  10. I really want to read this book, and am glad to hear you enjoyed it. I can't do too much sadness right now, but maybe down the road I can pick this one up to read.

  11. This is an author that I want to read at some point. This does sound sad but for some reason it really appeals to me because of the topic. Great review!