by Diane Chamberlain
Genres: Historical Fiction
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From perennial bestseller Diane Chamberlain, a compelling new novel
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?
“One man stole her heart: the other stole her life.“
Diane Chamberlain magically transports me to her settings and introduces vibrant and complex characters. Such was the case with THE STOLEN MARRIAGE. It’s 1944 when folks are dealing with food rations, racial discrimination, and polio outbreaks. Chamberlain touches on all three as our protagonist Tess DeMello makes an error that lands her in Hickory, North Carolina. Poignant, inspiring and fascinating I devoured THE STOLEN MARRIAGE.
Tess, a young nursing student, lives in an Italian community in Baltimore, Maryland and is engaged to a young Doctor. He travels to Chicago to fight a polio outbreak and keeps extending his time there. Depressed and unsure she begrudgingly goes to Washington DC for the weekend with her best friend. Events that occur there have her breaking off her engagement and marrying Henry Kraft, a furniture maker in rural Hickory, North Carolina. She has married into wealth, and Henry is more than generous, but the people of Hickory are far less accepting. Her marriage isn’t a happy one. Henry isn’t intimate with her, works odd hours and hides money from her. The townsfolk make it clear she is an outsider. She finds solace when speaking to a local medium and this thread was particularly interesting and touched on magical realism.
Through stubbornness and Henry’s understanding, Tess gets her nursing license, but he forbids her to work. As his wife, labor was seen as beneath her station, but when a polio epidemic breaks out, and a hospital is set up in Hickory, Tess soon finds herself working. Here, Tess meets up with the young doctor she abandoned and confesses everything to him. It was fascinating learning more about this epidemic, iron lungs, and these makeshift hospitals. It was heartbreaking, and the story shared both joyful and tearful moments. Chamberlain detailed societies fears and misunderstandings of this epidemic that devoured children and folks of every race and social standing.
THE STOLEN MARRIAGE not only dealt with the polio epidemic, but it shared the pressures of society and racism. We delve into Tess’s mistakes and consequences. We explore Southern culture, marriage laws, racism and more. Chamberlain’s research is evident, and her eloquent writing styles paint a detailed picture of the climate and characters in 1944. There is romance threaded throughout the story, and I found it touching and surreal. We also get a bit of suspense, regarding Henry’s odd hours and hidden money.
This is the type of story that pulls you, connects you to the characters and brings the period to life in vivid color. Each of the characters is flawed and realistic. Chamberlain shines a realistic light on situations these characters faced, allowing the reader to become emotionally connected. She combines the best of fiction and history giving readers a story that will stay with them long after the book ends.
A must-read for fans of historical fiction, diversity, and American history. THE STOLEN MARIAGE ranks among my favorite Diane Chamberlain novels.
[bctt tweet=”The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain is a #mustread for fans of historical fiction ” username=”kimbacaffeinate”]
Carole @ Carole's Random Life in Books
I just read another excellent review for this book. I am definitely adding this one to the tbr list!
Woot! I look forward to your thoughts on this one Carole.
Wow its been a while since I read on of Diane’s novels but from you fantastic review it looks like I need to get back to it.
I love that she takes me somewhere different every time.
Angela @ Simply Angela
Now I need to know what’s going on with Henry. loI I’ve read Chamberlain’s contemporary novels and loved them so I need to give her historicals a try.
This author has never disappointed me, Angela.
A Belle's Tales
I’ve had my eye on this one, and I absolutely love the quote you shared. You have me intrigued so I’m definitely adding this to the list.
I am glad you liked it and hope you get a chance to read it Michele.
Lover Of Romance
I do love those characters that just pull you in here!!
Right. I also loved the period and learning more about the social climate and polio epidemic.
Geybie's Book Blog
Oh sounds SO good. Is this leaning more toward mystery or romance? Is there a happy ending? I’m curious. ❤️
Awesome review, Kim.
The ending made me smile, I would say it has some suspense/mystery elements.
You have me intrigued about what would make her marry a man she doesn’t love. However, I am such a wuss when it comes to reading about racial issues. I end up upset and mad so I try to stay away. Very emotional. I do love the time period. Glad you enjoyed it!
Ooo…glad I have you curious. Not so much emotional as shall we say insightful.
I wonder what would make her break of her engagement to the love of her life? This sounds like a wonderful story.
Hmm, spoilers darling!
Jenea's Book Obsession
The book sounds wonderful, and emotional too. Thank you for putting it on my radar.
Happy to share Jeana. A favor, if you please. If you get this reply in your email, would you please let me know.
Your reply came to my email. ::)
Awesome review Kimberly! This book sounds absolutely fascinating! You don’t see too many books from this time period. I totally put it on hold at my library. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Thanks for introducing me to this book!
So excited. Please let me know your thoughts when you are done 🙂
That sounds like it would be a hard one emotionally to read.
I think it is more insightful and enlightening.
I really don’t know much about the polio epidemic, so I should check this out. Putting it on my audiobook library wish list.
You would really enjoy this Heidi.
Haven’t read this author, but your review definitely has me curious.
You must try her Melissa.
This sounds so good. I have read a few reviews for this and they are all saying it is excellent. I like the idea of learning more about nursing in the 40s, I bet it was tough. This relationship status sounds really tough too. Great review!
I would not want to be a woman in the 40s Karen.
Michelle @Because Reading
Love the cover of this book, Great review!
Thank you, Michelle. Please let me know if you get this. I think I have it working. Well, at least my hubby is getting responses to his email. Ooo
Tyler H. Jolley
What a deeply rich and interesting novel. It seems like the author had as much fun reading/researching the story as the you did reading it.
Her books are always well researched. I hope you try one 🙂
I LOVED this book…and have enjoyed all of Chamberlain’s books so far. Immersing myself in this one took me to places I had forgotten about, issues I thought I had left behind.
Thanks for the great review!
I am so glad you loved it as well.
Sarah @ A Weebish Book Blog
Wow, it sounds like life has not been kind to this poor heroine. Sounds like an interesting historical fiction. Wish I was more into straight HF, I’d be all over this one!
Chamberlain is a good crossover author as her books are very readable.
How did I miss this? I’m looking this up and adding it to my TBR. Based on your review I know I’d devour this book too.
Woot. I hope you love it!
I’m certainly curious why she broke off her engagement now. Sounds like a great novel, and it focuses on a period of history I don’t know a ton about!
I hope you read it and discover all the secrets.
I’ve not read Chamberlain but this particular story speaks to me and seems a good place to start. 🙂 Wonderful review, Kimberly. I’m happy you enjoyed this one so well.
Sweet. I hope you love it Brandee
I have yet to try this author. It looks like I really need to change that. I saw this on Netgalley was it?, and almost grabbed it darn it!
Yes, I think you will enjoy her Ali.
that era, the mystery and why is she marrying a snob? oh the questions
So many questions!! Hehe. Glad I have you curious.
Wow Kimberly, this sounds like it was a bit of an emotional read. I’d love to know what happened in Washington to break off the engagement, and to upturn her life. GReat review, as always, my friend!
It was but she is such a great storyteller.