- Title: The Stolen Marriage
- Author: Diane Chamberlain
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Pages: 384
- Published: October 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
- Source: Publisher
Description: One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.
It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.
The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.
When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. 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 the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love―and the life―she was meant to have? (publisher)
My take: The Stolen Marriage is the story of Tess DeMello and how the life she’d dreamed of changed in the course of one night. She was about to get her RN degree and then marry the man she’d loved her whole life. When those plans go awry, she ends up in North Carolina and married to a virtual stranger. His family (as well as the entire town) are dismayed by her appearance and are far from welcoming. Tess relies on her inherent good nature and will do her best in her new life as wife and soon-to-be mother. Diane Chamberlain’s 1940s war era story is well-crafted combining the polio epidemic as well as social/racial issues of the day resulting in a good, multi-layered novel. I was completely immersed, learned a lot about pre-polio vaccine years, and recommend it to fans of the author and historical fiction. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Chamberlain’s novels – The Stolen Marriage was my first.