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Topic: Not Quite A Husband by Sherry Thomas

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Subject: Not Quite A Husband by Sherry Thomas
Date Posted: 5/20/2009 4:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I got busy last night with the usual care & feeding of my nestful of squawking baby birds - which includes the DH too:P - and had to finish up the last couple of chapters this morning.  This book was about a 12 hour read for me and I don't know that I'd have dragged myself away from it unless I was starving myself and had a ton of chores to do:P  IMO, it deserves its own thread rather than getting lost in the shuffle of the What are we reading this week? threads, and I know up front that this is going to be rather long, so bear with me:P  After I finish posting this, I'll trim it down into a book review to post here & I've already submitted the synopsis for the BDC team's approval.

Anyhoo... In my very humble opinion, Sherry Thomas is golden.  Well, not just that, I think she truly has the Midas touch; everything she writes is golden.  Frankly, I have a difficult time picturing her editor sending manuscripts back to her for revision.  I have this mental image of Ebenezer Scrooge (ok, sometimes it's the Grinch who stole Christmas) slashing across these priceless treasures with a grotesquely huge highlighting pen - Ack!  Not surprisingly, this book has become my next keeper.  BUT, not just because it was written by Sherry Thomas - which pretty much guaranteed it a spot on some obscure shelf around here anyway:P  What I love about this story in particular is that there's so much more to it than seems initially apparent.  It's a road story, about a couple whose brief & troubled marriage ended in an annulment about 4 years previous to the opening of the story.  The prologue deals very briefly with the dissolution of the marriage, and the rest of it unfolds throughout the course of the book in a series of very brief and well-placed flashbacks.  In short, it's typical Sherry Thomas.  Leo Marsden (the hero) is in India to fetch his former wife Bryony Asquith home to England at the behest of her sister.  Her estranged father has supposedly suffered a stroke, and Bryony's sister Callista, who maintains regular contact with Leo, has asked him to find her and bring her home so that her father can see her one last time before he passes away.  Bryony is something of a globe-trotting physician, currently running a clinic in the Rumbur Valley, in the Northwest corner of India (actually Pakistan today).  She is suspicious of her sister's request, as Callista is in the habit of regularly spinning tall tales of imminent death and impending doom for the purpose of reuniting Leo and Bryony.  Despite her initial misgivings, Bryony finally consents to go home.

Once their trek across treacherous (and in this case very hostile) mountain terrain is underway, Leo & Bryony become caught up in the events surrounding the Swat Valley Uprising of 1897 - which is part of the territory they have to cross on their journey.  The stage is set for the removal of the extraneous barriers to a second-chance romance for the H&H.  One of the things that struck me about this book as I was reading was that it seemed to be much faster paced than Thomas's previous two works: Private Arrangements and Delicious.  My initial thought was that it lacked some of the emotional depth of her previous stories as well, but when I found myself tearing up with about the same frequency that I experienced with the last two books, I knew that couldn't be it, then I suddenly realized - hey, waidaminnit!  There's no secondary romance in here!  I immediately started flipping back through, just on the off-chance that the DH was blabbering about the location of his elusive socks or something, and maybe I had missed something, but no, it wasn't there:P  At this point, of course I had to cheat and go to Thomas's website & see wth was going on.  It seems that this book did initially have a secondary romance, but that hit the editing floor along with what were apparently five previous drafts of the first half of the book.  I was astounded.  Forcing myself to step away from the computer and not further spoil the illusion I had of this woman sitting at her keyboard and effortlessly spinning straw into gold, I reapproached this book with all of the TLC & attentiveness it clearly deserved.  I'm so glad I did. 

My reason for adding all of this personal aside, rather than just offering my opinion of the book?  Well, obviously other Thomas fans are going to notice this & might find it lacking in some of the depth of her previous books.  I wanted to mention somewhere that I don't think that's the case & why.  I'm one of those few who, after reading PA and Delicious, wondered what those stories would have been like had they not contained the secondary romances.  Well, now I know:P Just as good, IMO, but different in a way that I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to express.  The only way I know how to say it is that what might seem like filler fluff or even a pesky distraction from the love story you're really interested in reading, is actually something more like another layer of something interesting sprinkled on top of an already tasty dish.... and I can't help the food analogies - Delicious did it to me:P  What it boils down to is that I would (and do) highly recommend this book to everyone, and that most especially includes everyone who found PA and Delicious somewhat lacking - perhaps even a little tedious.  It reads more like an action/adventure romance than what you'd expect from Thomas.  The pacing is much faster, but the emotional depth is definitely still there.  There are a lot of misunderstandings and communication issues between this couple, and those have led them down a very difficult and painful road.  They both still love each other very much, and that becomes quickly apparent, but finding the ability to be candid with each other regarding their feelings and past mistakes is something that just doesn't seem possible without the breaking down of a few barriers.  Thomas handles that deftly with external forces & the setting, and it works.  Really well. 

I gave it a an A - on my own personal ratings scale due to a couple of minor quibbles I had.  The last chapter felt a little unneccesary to me.  There's a minor tie in to Delicious, and snippets of a lovemaking marathon thrown in there that I really didn't think added much to wrapping up the story.  Personally, I think she should have skipped that chapter and gone straight to the epilogue, but I also think there are a lot of people who are going to enjoy that chapter and be glad it was there.  I also graded down for getting pulled out of the story long enough to go research Thomas's website, but not by much, and even that may not be entirely fair.  I think such things are something that, with a perfect book, you'd only think to do after you finish it, but I could be in the minority on that one:P  Ultimately, I think there's a lot there to recommend it to a wider audience than her work might otherwise appeal to.  It's a relatively quick read; I think some of you could even do this one in half the time I did and still get as much out of it.  It's got that relatively fast-paced action/adventure romp thing going on, which is a departure from some of the angstiness of PA, and it's also an older heroine/younger hero story, which I know a lot of you enjoy as well.  An aside to that is that they've known each other since childhood, and there's an added element of sweetness due to those circumstances, regarding Leo's feelings toward Bryony, but I'm not going to spoil that for anyone - you'll just have to read it yourselves:P



Last Edited on: 5/20/09 5:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/20/2009 5:56 PM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2007
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WOW, looking forward to reading it.  Thanks Kim

Date Posted: 5/20/2009 7:50 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Ok, I rewrote my post above into a (hopefully) more concise review form.  It's still long though:P  But I think it reads much better and covers everything I needed/wanted to say about the book.  Here's the link: Not Quite a Husband  I'm sure I'll think of something else I want to add later on, but I've written quite enough for one day, I think:P

Date Posted: 5/31/2009 3:37 AM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2006
Posts: 673
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Kim and I did a conversational review on NQAH for my blog

http://coulditbeseton.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/a-conversation-not-quite-a-husband/

Date Posted: 5/31/2009 3:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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That came together really well, I think.  It's different when you're just emailing back & forth and talking about a book, but when you see it posted as a review it's quite cool.  Thanks for the opportunity.  It was big fun:)



Last Edited on: 5/31/09 3:49 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/5/2009 1:22 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
Posts: 753
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Wow. Thanks for the great review. I'm looking forward to reading it. I loved Private Arrangements and that went on my keeper shelf. Delicious I enjoyed but for me, not a keeper.

Date Posted: 6/6/2009 3:11 PM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2007
Posts: 13,134
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I looked at this the other day and gave it a pass.  Now I think I'll have to go back and get it.  :-)

Date Posted: 6/6/2009 6:42 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
Posts: 376
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I'm looking forward to getting it but no one seems to be posting them here! I've been in the same spot on the WL for days! Maybe I'll have to - *gasp* - buy it! LOL

Date Posted: 6/21/2009 3:15 PM ET
Member Since: 6/17/2008
Posts: 626
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Excellent review... this was my first Sherry Thomas book and I, too, finished it in a day which wasn't necessarily a good thing since I ended up staying up most of the night and was exhausted the next day at work!  I went out and got Private Arrangements and am now in the middle of Delicious. 

I think I enjoy the fact that this isn't what I think of as a "traditional" historical romance.... the hero and herione have a past and that makes it so much more interesting to me :)

Date Posted: 6/21/2009 5:49 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
Posts: 6,035
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Add me to the list of those who couldn't put it down.  I stayed up late last night, was up early this morning to read before church and then sacrificed my Sunday afternoon nap to finish it.  I agree that the last chapter was unnecessary, especially the tie to Delicious.  Since I haven't read that one, the brief paragraph was confusing and really added nothing to the story.  The setting was so unique for a romance and really added to my enjoyment of the book by allowing me to truly get away from everything I know.

Thanks for recommending it so highly, Kim!

Date Posted: 6/21/2009 11:57 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2006
Posts: 673
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Kim, forgot to mention that I got a lot of private feedback that people loved our discussion on my blog. Kudos!

Date Posted: 6/22/2009 10:43 AM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2006
Posts: 5,498
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I am also in the ranks of those who devoured this book.  Definitely on my keeper shelf.  I loved it!!!

Date Posted: 6/22/2009 11:07 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
Posts: 1,646
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Thanks for the review, Kim.  Given that I HATED Private Arrangements and found Delicious only tolerable, do you think I'd like NQAH?

Her flashback style of writing and all the jumping around in time really bugs me.  Also, some of her heros have been a little stand-offfish.

I'd like to give her another try, but am scared I will be just as disappointed as with the last two.  Thanks for your advice.

 

Claudia

Date Posted: 6/22/2009 11:27 AM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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Claudia, I haven't read her other two books yet, but I'm like you....I HATE HATE HATE constant time-warping flashbacks.  But they didn't really bother me that much in this book.  They were mostly very short...I think one was a couple pages long, but for the most part, they were less than a page.  And they are all in italics, which helped me out a bunch.  I hate getting halfway through the first paragraph of a new section or chapter and still not being sure what decade you are in!  So the italics were helpful. 

Now here's another thing about this book that I haven't  seen discussed in the reviews, and that seems to be this couple's fondness for sex while one partner is asleep.  I know I haven't read nearly as much romance as you guys, but I can't wrap my mind around that and quite frankly, can't even imagine that it is possible!  LOL!

Date Posted: 6/22/2009 1:50 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I think there's a good chance you would like this one, Claudia.  The flashbacks are used very sparingly, and like Christa said, they aren't very long this time either.  No secondary romance in this one either, which really picks the pacing up over the other two.  Plus it's got an action/adventure external plot, so that makes it much faster paced as well.

Date Posted: 6/22/2009 10:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2007
Posts: 662
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I am in the same boat as Claudia.  I'm not fond of flash backs in a book or cheating hero/heroines in a romance novel, so I didn't bother reading this author's first book (PA)... Her 2nd book, I thought  was just OK, little better then some but again really, nothing to write home about and forgotten as soon as  I closed the book. 

And now this book,  again this has a cheating hero and some flash backs, I doubt I would like this story.  But I am gonna wait and see what other readers (like Claudia)  who didn't like PA and Delicious say before trying it.....   Who knows, this book might hook me.   

"and that seems to be this couple's fondness for sex while one partner is asleep."  -- Christa

LOL  what a intriguing comment....

Date Posted: 6/22/2009 11:17 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I kinda knew the mention of cheating would be offputting for some people, but it should be clarified that this happens before they're married, which I don't necessarily view as "cheating" per se.  I think if there had been a long standing courtship & engagement, and both parties had been open enough with each other to admit to their feelings, and then he had cheated, it would have been egregious, perhaps even unforgivable - depending on the circumstances.  The way this is done though, it's not like that at all.  It's not in your face & offensive, it's understandable - if you can buy into the notion that such a thing ever is understandable.  I think the hero felt objectified & he was having second thoughts, mostly based on the fact that he didn't think the heroine had any feelings for him.  He certainly had no idea that her feelings ran as deeply as they did, and even before he found out that she had known about it all along, he still thought of it as a mistake.  And this, even at a time when he felt that his marriage had been a mistake.  There are things that I'm never comfortable with in a romance novel, and cheating - adultery - is one of them.  This is a part of the problem I had with Private Arrangements.  This incident in NQAH however, doesn't even come close, IMO.  I have to admit that it was a bit painful to read about, even introduced into the story in a relatively gentle (for lack of a better word) manner.  It stings a bit, but it also humanizes the hero in what I think is an acceptable way.  The heroine simply couldn't be the only flawed person in the book, or everyone would have hated her:P

Date Posted: 6/23/2009 12:19 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2007
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Thanks for clarifying things, Kim.   

When the "cheating" occurs in the book,  were the H/H intimate with each other at all before the incident?   

Date Posted: 6/23/2009 9:14 AM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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I don't think it specifically states whether they were intimate before the cheating, but I was definitely left with the impression that they were not.  Of course, maybe one or both of them were asleep at the time and just forgot!  LOL

ETA:  Kim's right about the H needing the cheating as a flaw.  Until you learn about the cheating, you are thinking "What's up with this chick?  Why is she being so cold to this perfect guy?"  But then, it all makes sense and your heart goes out to both of them.



Last Edited on: 6/23/09 9:15 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/23/2009 10:43 AM ET
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Until you learn about the cheating, you are thinking "What's up with this chick?  Why is she being so cold to this perfect guy?"  But then, it all makes sense and your heart goes out to both of them.

Right!  And she approached the marriage as almost a business arrangement, so I'm sure he had no idea she had feelings for him.  It was just so sad that these two people lost several years of their marriage because of it.  But I completely understand BOTH parties pov.

Date Posted: 6/23/2009 11:37 AM ET
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I don't think there was any intimacy between them before he does this.  It's like a week or something (I can't remember specifically) before the wedding that this happens, and it wasn't even something that he plans to do.  I don't want to give away details, but Thomas makes it almost impersonal really.  I think it's probably done in about as inoffensive a manner as it could have been really.  The heroine does propose to the hero in a very businesslike manner, and he has no idea how she feels about him at all.  He, on the other hand, has literally worshipped her since childhood, and when this happens, he's very confused and even feeling a little hurt because he doesn't think that she cares about him.  IMO, what the author gives you with this incident is a reason to hold him equally responsible for the failed marriage.  If it hadn't been there, there would have been no reason to sympathize with the heroine at all and she would have come across as a complete moron - not to mention frigid:P

Date Posted: 6/23/2009 11:48 AM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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not to mention frigid

unless of course she is asleep...in which case she transforms into a willing and cooperative partner.  I'm sorry...I just can let go of the sleeping thing.  It's just too bizarre and made me laugh at inappropriate times while reading. LOL

Date Posted: 6/23/2009 11:54 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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That's funny, but that scene where she jumps on him in the tent while he's asleep is H-O-T.

Date Posted: 6/23/2009 1:21 PM ET
Member Since: 7/8/2008
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After reading Kim's review and Sherri's praises, I put this one on top of my TBR list...just finished it.  Um...I should be at work right now (should have been there 2 hours ago).  I decided I wanted to finish the book first, though. :)  I also stayed up last night until 1:30am reading.  Okay, so I was also watching the woot-off, but I really was using that as a ruse to read this book.  I did not want to put it down.

I am not a fan of cheating storylines, but this one didn't feel that way to me.  I completely agree with Kim's assessment. 

Date Posted: 6/23/2009 1:38 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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that scene where she jumps on him in the tent while he's asleep is H-O-T.

I totally agree...the hottest scene in the book  But it's funny because  the ones where he describes going to her room while she is asleep just struck me as creepy.  Maybe it's a female perspective thing

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