Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
Byrony Asquith married the young, charming, beautiful, and exceedingly well-liked Leo Marsden, brother to the Earl of Wyden, when she was 28 and already well established as a pioneer as one of the first female doctors. Their marriage quickly went south and when a streak of white appeared in her hair Byrony realized the marriage was doomed and asked for an annulment. Once the procedure was completed Byrony ran away to various remote corners of India where she planned never to see her ex-husband again until he comes to fetch her. Her sister, Calista, informed him that their father is dieing and sent him off to fetch Byrony back to England. As a young boy, literally, Leo was infatuated by the cool, self-possessed, girl/ young-woman whom he occassionally saw. Her proposal to him was the happiest moment of his life and he dreamed of making her lose her famous control, of making her his, of finally making her feel something fall in love with him. He was never quite sure what went wrong in their marriage but even while Byrony was contemplating asking him for an annulment he was still attempting to find ways to make her happy in their marriage. Despite the three years since the annulment he has never quite forgotten her and has in fact been following her around to different countries across the globe in different teaching positions.
He isn't happy to have been sent on this mission, but when a bout of malaria leaves them stranded for a week he takes the opportunity to discover what had gone wrong in the marriage. The two are both heartbroken to realize that neither was truly aware of the other's motives and at the realization that things might have been so different if either of them had bothered to truly talk to the other. Rumors are abounding that a mystic has been stirring an uprising in the countryside and on their journey they begin to run into large groups of people all dressed in white. When Leo wants the group to stop, Byrony insists that they carry on to the fort where it isn't long before the attack occurs. Since the fort is understaffed Byrony takes over as the surgeon and Leo takes up arms and in the heat of the fighting Leo and Byrony take immense comfort from each other and begin to rethink their annulment and the way things played out in their marriage. Byrony is the first to return to London where she is further forced to confront other demons for her past including her feelings for her father and how she has always blamed him for her unhappiness because of the way he left her with nannies when she was young. When Leo returns he finds a new and happier Byrony and both begin to realize that a new start is just what they need.
This book was just overwhelmingly bogged down in just "angsty" slightly melancholic emotions. There is no witty, fun banter until very near the end of the book and even the more loving feelings are tinted with the memories of what had gone wrong in the marriage and thus can't help but seem depressing. There was certainly plenty of angst on the part of both Byrony and Leo, especially during the beautiful scene where she reveals what she discovered about him before their marriage. At first the heavy emotions seemed to really hold back the book, but after awhile I got used to it and came to accept that it was just the way the characters really did live and feel their lives. Their wierdest part of this book involves the sex and the way that so much of it, including the sex that is referenced as having happened while the two were still married, begins while one of them is asleep. Leo started having sex with Byrony while she was asleep because when she was awake she wouldn't respond to him and then when the two reunite their are more scenes where it starts while one of them is asleep. Not exactly something I'm screaming about, but still rather odd to read about.
The author included quite a bit of historical detail in the book, and her note at the back points out that she did meticulous research so even some of the more bizarre stuff is apparently true, and it was definitely interesting to read a little bit of the British/ Indian history as a background to a story. What wasn't so interesting were the vast descriptions of Indian geography with seemingly endless lists of cities and mountain ranges and deserts that I promptly forget. The lists of ethnic/ religious groups was equally un-memorable although, I'm assuming, more important to the story than the geography, although I was able to enjoy the book without obsessing about who belonged to what group from what region. It was interesting to read about a female with a job, especially one so prestigious and unlikely for the time, and how accepting Leo is of his wife. Unfortunately neither of the characters is very well developed; Byrony seems mad at everyone from her past and Leo has apparently been "in love" with Byrony his whole life. Fortunately both undergo great amounts of introspection, confront their pasts and their feelings, and change for the better. I also liked how the book contained flashbacks to their marriage, both the happier and the sadder times and how Byrony is older (by 4 years) than Leo.
Rating: Although I did have problems with the book it was still enjoyable, not exactly fun, and a good read overall.