This book was released on May 19th and I reviewed it for REALMS ON OUR BOOKSHELVES
Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon–to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as handsome and sought after as Leo Marsden couldn’t possibly want to spend his life with a woman who rebelled against society by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years later and half a world away, does he track her down to the remotest corner of India?
Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister–and escorted her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them–or their rekindling passion?
Bryony Asquith is in India, running from her failed marriage to Leo Marsden. They were an unlikely couple whose marriage was doomed to fail from the beginning. Although the physical and emotional attraction was strong, their marriage started of on the wrong foot and ended in an annulment. After that Bryony fled England in a futile attempt to get away from her enigmatic ex-husband and her feelings for him. When he shows up in India, claiming her sister sent him because her father is very ill, she is shocked. Even though she doesn’t believe her sister’s story and despite her shaky relationship with her father, she decides to go back to England with Leo. The book describes their journey from India to England and due to Bryony’s fear of being near to Leo and falling for him again and her wish to get to England as soon as possible they end up in the middle of a battle between Indian rebels and British settlers. It is that battle that forces them to face the feelings and unspoken issues between them.
The book was extremely character-driven and because the characters were so well developed and rounded I didn’t miss any action or suspense plot. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any action at all. The sequence with the battle between the Indian rebels and the British army and Bryony and Leo trying to get to safety in the British fort was astonishing. It was described so masterfully I could feel the anxiety and almost hear and feel the bullets fly. But still it were Bryony, Leo and their dramatic love-story that mainly carried the story. And they did it in a magnificent way.
They start out as characters that you know little about as the story starts at a point where a lot has already happened. But slowly and gradually the reader gets their story presented in bits and pieces and I really connected with them both. Leo is handsome and witty but underneath his easy charm is a man who has been hurt by his ex-wife and he doesn’t know how to make it better so he lashes out, trying to hurt her as she has hurt him. Leo has had a fascination where Bryony is concerned that stems from his early childhood. He admires her and his intentions going into the marriage are good but circumstances soon turn the marriage into something forced and unhappy for both of them. Of the main couple to me he was the least complicated character.
Bryony on the other hand was one complex woman and I mean complex in a positive way. She is analytical and has a very scientific look on everything. But underneath that chill exterior is a passionate woman who yearns to be accepted and loved, but not at the expense of her dignity or self-worth. At first glance she is aloof and keeps her distance from people. Her youth was not easy and everyone she starts to care about leaves or disappoints her so she retreats inside herself and focuses on her medical career. That is, until she falls in love with Leo Marsden. The boy she knew from childhood because they grew up on neighboring estates. He is a few years her junior but she is drawn to him like a moth to fire. He is everything she is not and she wants him. Her perseverance and Leo’s fascination for her ends in their marriage and certain events and decisions made before the actual marriage lead to a painful annulment
Since the story’s focus is on Bryony and Leo there aren’t many secondary characters. Leo and Bryony’s relatives, Leo’s brothers and Bryony’s sister and father, are the ones who have a little influence on the story and are important to the characterization of the main characters but that about sums it up.
There are a few settings that I tend to avoid in my romance reading. Among those settings is the British/Indian setting. But with NOT QUITE A HUSBAND Sherry Thomas has made me make an exception once again. Her amazing descriptive talents made me feel like I was truly in India, taking in the scenery she described so vividly and lifelike. And I liked it! Her writing is powerful, filled with beautiful metaphors and descriptions. It’s elaborate without compromising the pace or action and it’s descriptive without taking away from the intensity of the emotions.
This book made me appreciate things I usually am not fond of in the books I read. For example her way of characterization is done with flashbacks. I don’t like too many flashbacks in a book but the way Sherry Thomas uses the flashbacks to allow the reader to get to know the characters, their background and their feelings was truly awe-inspiring. As I mentioned before British India is not one of my favorite backdrops for the romance novels I welcome to my bookshelves but Sherry Thomas made it work for me.
My first taste of Sherry Thomas’ writing has left me mesmerized. I like intense emotional stories and this book gave that to me in a very satisfactory way. Everything was intense, the characters, their interactions, their passion, the animosity between them, their desperate longing for each other. It was a mix of intense storytelling and historical facts and a heartbreaking story of two people grown apart for reasons that derive from miscommunication but at the same time their situation is understandable from both their points of view. Next to the intensity it was also sprinkled with little moments of subtle humor that broke the tension at exactly the right spots in the storyline.
NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is wonderfully written, exposing motivations and developing characters in an excellent way. From the start I knew there was a reason for Bryony’s coldness towards Leo, despite her love for him and slowly Sherry Thomas reveals this reason. Pulling me deeper and deeper into the story, wishing for a happy end between these two people who love each other deeply.
I can’t describe this book other than brutally honest, genuine and original with no embellishments or romanticizing of the harsh truth and emotions.
NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is a perfect example of intense, compelling storytelling and Sherry Thomas is truly a gifted writer who kept me engaged in a story that was mesmerizing from start to finish. I’m ready for her to take me to India again, or anywhere she wishes to take me. I will go willingly and gladly.
He took her breath away in the most literal sense: She was too asphyxiated for her lungs to expand and contract properly. He aroused every last ounce of her covetousness–and there was so much of it in her, hidden in the tenebrous recesses of her heart.
Then he did smile, one of his dazzling smiles that restored sight to the blind and instilled music in the deaf. But even that smile had an undercurrent to it that made her heart do medically worrisome things.