Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Laurel married James when they were very young and madly in love. He was her brother's best friend from the Westerfield Academy, and they met when he visited her home. After an extended honeymoon of bliss, they returned home to London. Before she could be introduced to the rest of his friends, she witnessed him kill an intruder with his bare hands, and the sudden violence frightened her so badly, she fled to live with her brother, wanting never to see her new husband again.
A decade later, James has a malarial attack in Bristol and is robbed by thugs while delirious. Good Samaritans bring him to the local infirmary and leave him in the care of the nurse on duty...Laurel. She recognizes him right away, and realizes that his fever isn't due to his injuries, so she treats him with Jesuit's bark. While hallucinating, he clutches her, reigniting the passion kept tightly banked for ten years. However, the next morning, Laurel lets James believe it was just a dream, and they part ways again, believing it to be forever.
A few weeks later, Laurel realizes she is pregnant, notifies James, and he jumps at the chance to be part of her life once again. For the sake of the baby, they agree to tell people they've reconciled, dividing their time between Bristol, where Laurel runs her brother's clinic and the connected battered women's shelter, and London, where James is a spymaster for the British government. But Laurel's traumatic memories are not easily eradicated, despite all she learns about the extenuating circumstances of that night, and she doesn't know whether she'll ever be able to put it behind her.
I've never witnessed my husband do anything violent, so I have no personal experience with which to compare, yet I groaned in frustration many times while reading because Laurel was so quick to panic and so slow to listen--a common trait among teenagers, and one I really thought she should have grown out of in the intervening years. Also, even once she knew the full story, the mitigating circumstances barely made a dent in the walls she'd built around herself.
Nonetheless, the story was absorbing, the characters felt like real people, and I stayed up way too late reading because I had to know how James was going to catch the kidnapper. I'm very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series, which tells Laurel's brother Daniel's story.
For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, as well as setting (i.e. Napoleonic War era in England). I'd almost characterize it as "Christian Fiction," given the critical importance of Laurel's faith to the story, but there are some sex scenes--albeit not terribly explicit--which you don't typically find in books labeled "Christian Fiction." It's the 6th book in the Lost Lords series, and it's best if they're read in order because the characters from all the other books show up in this one.
View all my reviews