When I first started this book, I saw its potential: a marriage had fallen apart, ostensibly due to a wife’s coldness, while she herself seemed tortured by genuine love for her husband that she locked away inside herself for fear it was unrequited. Excited to learn the source of this inconsistency, and intrigued by the result of the marriage’s annulment — the wife takes up a series of international posts as a surgeon — I looked forward to unraveling the story. There will be some spoilers in this review.
And then, like the marriage, everything fell to pieces. I learned that the heroine, Bryony Asquith, observed her husband-to-be in flagrante delicto with another woman a week before their wedding. She went through with it, hoping that she could eventually forgive him, but was unable to. This was the source of her inability to be intimate with him. (Seems understandable!) I also learned that Leo, supposed genius that he is — seriously, he’s a very accomplished mathematician — just could not for the life of him why Bryony’s attitude toward him would completely change! Granted, it was an unfortunate coincidence that she happened to catch him, but it never even occurred to him that his infidelity would have presented an actual problem for their marriage. And finally, I learned that the only time that the two were able to be uninhibited in their relations while they were married was when Leo would go to Bryony while she was ASLEEP and “make love” to her. And that despite “enjoying” herself in her semi-conscious state, when she realized this was happening, she asked him to stop and BARRED HER DOOR to keep him out, and still he tried.
All of this is presented very matter-of-factly, and, almost, with sympathy for Leo, and as if these nocturnal rendez-vous are actually romantic in a forbidden passion kind of way. And my jaw, along with the jaw of my friendly shoulder-feminist, who on the daily spits in my ear which unimportant nonsense I must become inexplicably outraged over, just dropped. Because to me? That’s just rape.
As I have never read Sherry Thomas before, I conceded a bit of good will and very nicely asked my shoulder-feminist to keep the commentary to a minimum, so I could just finish out the story and see if the book turned it around. And, even with keeping the outrage to a minimum, the rest of the book was SO. DULL. I did not care about the secondary plot whatsoever, that involved them returning to London from India and getting besieged in a fortress along the way. I was not impressed by the reconciliation, which was won with thoroughly adequate (although, probably incredible for them, considering their previously lackluster) sex. I did not understand why Bryony, who went so far as to annul their marriage because she could not forgive him, was able to suddenly forgive him once she confessed the reason behind her marital reticence and he gives a weak-ass apology. I didn’t get it, but who needs character development when you can have extended descriptions of how Leo traveled between Indian towns?
So, sorry, fans of this apparently-classic book. Once I asked my shoulder-feminist to dial down her feelings, I just found that I had no feelings left. This book just did not move me in any other way and I did not enjoy it. 1.5 stars instead of 1 because I liked Bryony in surgeon-mode.