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Not Quite A Husband by Sherry Thomas

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not Quite A Husband

Sherry Thomas
Historical Romance
Published in 2009

H/h - Leo Marsden/Bryony Asquith-Marsden
Setting: India/London, 1897.

Read in March, 2011.
My rating

                                                                          [spoiler alert]

Oh dear! Where do I start??? Leo, babe, I stayed up half the night thinking of you, so I don't blame Bryony for pining for you til now. Have to say, I'm amazed and spellbound and I've only just read about 7 chapters. Now, to be honest, the 1st few chapters were a bit slow for me. It was mainly because I'm no good at geography and since I don't read with a map in my hand, things did sound confusing at times. Then was the matter of piecing the bits of Bryony and Leo's history together. I was screaming, what the heck happened? Why/how did they get married in the 1st place? Hello, someone answer me plz! Then the story begin to unfold and now I feel I'm really into it.

I really love Bryony. And, I so understand her because in many ways, she sounds like me. At times, it felt like ST is talking about me. So I, in good conscience, cannot judge her. One line that says it all so well:
"She was still more or less the same cool, aloof woman who garnered more respect than affection."

Leo is that sort of guy you love to adore, a genius in math, fun, very handsome, a guy who simply loves to live. That's why Bryony married him IMO. She just wanted some part of that 'living' from him. As I read on about her past, I understood why. It was a tough read, the loneliness and the seemingly affectionless childhood she passed. Marrying Leo seemed the right thing to do, a ray of light in her subdued world. But, what amazed me more was Leo's lifelong devotion towards her. It was mentioned that he has been fascinated with her from a very early age, even knowing she's older. She was the scalpel-wielding girl who lived on the next estate. I thought about many things while I was reading, I can't describe the half of it now but I can say, I connect with Bryony on a level I can't explain. She isn't cold, only misunderstood.

So, when I saw her thinking, Leo, Leo, Leo, Leo ... I felt the yearning, the longing, just as I felt it from Leo himself. The 1st love scene when he was ill with malaria made me gasp, seriously. It was short yet perfect. Some reviews, I read, said they had problems with the love scenes. I, so far, had none. I've already read what happened during their marriage (flashbacks). I felt what Bryony felt actually. You want something with every pore of your very being, yet you're so afraid to take it that it starts to feel oppressive at some point. Leo's lovemaking overwhelmed her but she didn't quite understand how to handle it, began to feel she's being bended at his will. The love scenes during sleep (flashback) made me breathless as well, I read and re-read them. They also were short yet perfect. Just what you need to feel it off the book. So, Bryony did what she shouldn't have, tried barring Leo from her bedroom. Leo, wanting to make her want him, misunderstood her, made love to her with more force and intensity. Bryony finally barred him entirely, things went downhill...

This is from Leo's point of view:
"The Castle. He’d seen this expression far too many times during their marriage. The Castle was Bryony drawing up the gates and retreating deep into the inner keep. And he’d always hated it. Marriage meant that you shared your goddamn castle. You didn’t leave your poor knight of a husband circling the walls trying to find a way in."

Now, after 3 yrs of annulment, I see they haven't gotten over each-other at all. It's still crazy and intense. I already mentioned the 1st love scene. There is a scene where after Leo recovered from malaria, Bryony helps him bath. You just have to read it to see what I mean. Here, the most important thing is, Bryony now wants him differently. She is astounded by this yearning herself. Where I left off, she was still confused about it all. And, I have nothing more to add about Leo, he is quite to the point about his feelings toward her, as his musings tell me.

I've said much about how I adore ST's writing style but this book has surpassed it all. Some of the words are so beautiful, I can honestly say I haven't read words so beautiful in a long time. Many lines in the book, just as much adored Lisa Kleypas, can be quoted. They're so poignant, tug at your heartstrings.

One more thing, though my mother tongue is Bangla, think I can explain what betel leaves has to do with water! In Hindi (in Bangla as well), betel leaves are called 'paan' and water is called 'paani'. So, you can see how wanting paani can be confused with paan, right? :p Chicken biryani is delicious BTW, most specially when my mom cooks it. hahahaha
"Her Leo, so bright, so beautiful.

And in the end, so catastrophically flawed."

God, what a read! I've just read about 5 more chapters and I'm taking a bit of a time to recover. I vaguely remember reading something about 'Leo cheating' in the reviews but most of them didn't spell it out directly so I kinda forgot about it. Now that I've read it, everything seems so much more clear and ... bleak. Why Bryony was so stiff and rejected his lovemaking. She felt disgusted every time he touched her. Oh, poor girl! I had my assumptions about what/how as I've mentioned earlier but ... I'm just in shock! Why Leo, why? I've read your explanation but I'm not convinced. God, that part was so heartbreaking, I cried, I simply couldn't control my tears. I couldn't imagine what Bryony felt when she saw what she saw (flashback) and then when she was explaining it all to Leo, about the shattering of all her hopes and dreams, about how all the light went out of her world. What I felt was a heavy load pressing down on my chest. And to think Leo actually thought she wasn't worth the trouble he went to to make her happy! I CANNOT stand infidelity so I don't know if I'll forgive you Leo but I'm willing to see what you do next.

Now that everything is out in the open, Bryony is having second thoughts, mainly because Leo said that was the only time he did it. It wasn't as she thought at all. Bryony thought this is how he was, having all sorts of liaisons over the town while he was engaged to her, then after marriage, when she barred him from her bed. According to Leo, he'd been celibate even after the annulment, until now. Bryony offered something, don't know in what form, maybe some sort of affair and then she'll stay in London, as he'd asked her to. Leo refused, guess I agree with his sentiments but I'm more for Bryony here. She's angry with his reply and wants to leave his company as soon as possible. Leave him I say! If I were you Bryony, I'd made him cringe that he dared to use the f word the way he did with you. I'm more than angry right now! I'm so glad you called him 'a callow youth' and 'popinjay'.

The tent love scene was so good, I wouldn't have ever thought without even detailing much, a writer can make you ... well, feel things. But, ST proved again that she can. Someone in one of the reviews said, after acting so cold and uptight, Bryony was suddenly acting like a sex crazed hussy. I have something to say about it: JUST SHUT UP!

I don't remember crying with each chapters of a book for a long time, maybe not since I last read a Lisa Kleypas one. This book did just that to me, at least the last few chapters. I did find lots of love and adoration for Leo (I already did but for that one thing) in the end. He did make me cry over and over again, but this time with happiness. He was so good; his musings, reflections, the way he protected Bryony and tried to atone for what he did, I had no doubt in the end that he loves her very much. And, Bryony, I am so happy that she was happy too about everything.

"This was what she’d once imagined marriage to him would be like, this festive normalcy, this sense of warmth and ease and belonging."

Now, wont go into details but I loved a few more things in the ending chapters. Like the way they both communicated, the way they were with each-other as the war went on in the Indian frontier, the way they reacted to each-other after they came back (separately) to Britain, Bryony's last words with her dying father, her love for her dead stepmother Toddy (Callista's mom), the photograph scene and the siblings, both the Marsden brothers and Asquith sisters. ST wrapped the book up so superbly, I only felt sad that it ended. I did wish the book to go on and add a few things, but I had no problems with how it ended.

I wanted a few more chapters in London, to see how Leo and Bryony's life progressed. More conversations and interactions between the families (those are hilarious lots, specially the Marsdens :p). And, why Bryony thought she can't have a baby. They never did, if the epilogue's any indication.

It was a straight 5 star read, I knew what I'd rate it by the 1st few chapters. I stayed up til morning, couldn't go to sleep, I was so wistful and teary-eyed.

PS: Will and Matthew Marsden appear in ST's second book Delicious, where Will was the secondary hero who falls in love with Lizzy Bessler, the hero Stuart Somerset's fiancee. They finally marry as Stuart marries Verity or Vera Drake, the heroine. I loved that ST mentioned the characters of Delicious, it was a great addition to the book IMO. If things go as I hope, we'll see Michael Robbins' (Vera's son) book in the future. I'm not sure about Matthew and Callista (Bryony's half sister) though, since in Delicious, Matthew was said to have 'different' romantic interests. But in this book, I really enjoyed their banters. I, personally, would love to see their own book. Whatever it is, fingers crossed for the upcoming Sherry Thomas installments. :D


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