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Sunday, April 24, 2011

REVIEW: Not Quite A Husband by Sherry Thomas

4.5 of 5 Stars

Sherry Thomas’ books have been highly recommended to me by my Goodreads friends new_user and Quinn – Thank you both! I decided to start with Not Quite Husband because I saw that the We Love Lisa Kleypas Group at Goodreads had read it as a Group Read and also… because I thought I’d read the red covered one to "pop my Sherry cherry”. LOL Plus, the cover is pretty sexy! 

I wanted to say thank you to Beanbag for urging me to not get distracted from reading this by Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward, which was calling to me like a siren’s song. I’m so happy I stuck to my path and kept reading this, as I became hooked.

Not Quite A Husband is a “second chance” romance. It begins in 1897 in the Rumbur Valley, North-West Frontier of British India.

Quentin Leonados Marsden (Leo) is a brilliant man – at age 24 he had numerous papers read at the London Mathematical Society, a play read at St. James’ theatre, and a Greenland expedition under his belt. Bryony Asquith is also brilliant - a gentleman’s daughter who pursued a career at a time when it was frowned upon, and a career in the medical field, to boot! Leo and Bryony’s marriage failed about  3 and a half years before, after only a few months. Leo has been dispatched to fetch Bryony home to England by her sister Callista because their father is ill.

I was actually fascinated to find out WHY their marriage had failed. WHAT had happened to them? Ms. Thomas unveils this slowly through weaving flashbacks, revealing their past, and then moving the reader forward in their present relationship, teasing with bits and pieces of the puzzle, as they journey through the breathtaking setting of British India. I love this setting, as I did in Meredith Duran’s, The Duke of Shadows, and appreciated getting to experience different areas in India in Not Quite A Husband.

As the layers of the characters of Leo and Bryony were revealed, my perceptions of them changed, and as I gained insights into "their story", my heart began to truly ache for them.

However, one really needs to push through the first few chapters, as it is difficult to read due to the angst between the two, and initial perceptions of the characters are not flattering. This is a dark and complex romance.

As I learned more and more about Leo and the depth of his love for Bryony, he stole more and more of my heart. He was not flowery with words, but his actions from the past when they knew each other as children, and after their marriage was annulled, spoke volumes. And yet…he hadn’t truly known her before they married or even during their marriage. And neither did Bryony truly know Leo.

I found it quite difficult to relate to Bryony, at the start of this story, because she seemed to be such a cold and closed-off character. When I came to see that she was actually a woman who felt so forcefully that she could shatter, and had to build a fortress of walls around her heart to protect her, I wanted to hug her.

I heard this song today and the lyrics made me think of Bryony, and her relationship with Leo:

Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you're good
And you can't believe it's not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let 'em fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won't disappear

So let it fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now
We're here now, oh

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark 
“Sometimes limbs must be rebroken to set properly; her heart too needed to shatter anew before it could truly heal.” ~ Bryony
I loved going on this journey with Leo and Bryony - from "strangers" who had married quickly and whose marriage had failed before it even began, to two wiser people who came to truly TRUST each other and be OPEN and HONEST to each other, and not just love each other.

One issue I did have with the book was the waxing lyrical language that Bryony used to describe Leo in the flashbacks, which seemed incongruent to her character (and had me rolling my eyes), for example:
"Then he did smile, one of his dazzling smiles that restored sight to the blind and instilled music in the deaf.”

“…a smile beatific enough to bring about peace on Earth.”
It was like she saw him as some sort of God. Then I realised that she had…and when he fell in her eyes, he had a long way to go. But how beautiful it was when they found their way to a TRUE marriage and the last paragraph in the Epilogue had me all misty eyed.

I look forward to reading more books by Sherry Thomas, and let me say, how impressed I am with her writing, especially considering that English was not her first language.  Also, I had not realised that Delicious is connected to this and occurs earlier in time, and involves Leo's brothers, Will and Matthew Marsden.

Some of my favourite quotes:
“She was both surprised and not surprised to feel tears roll down her face,.He kissed her tears. “It doesn’t matter where I am; I’m yours.”’ 
"And that you will remember me not as a failed husband, but one who was still trying, til the very end." 
Not Quite A Husband Book Trailer - It is very cute with some great images of the places Leo and Bryony travelled: 

Sherry Thomas has a map of the trail that Leo and Bryony took in India, as well as some amazing photos of the locations, and shares her inspiration for the story on her website: 


My Leo (Martin Henderson) and My Bryony (Rachel Weisz)


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