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Review: The Sister Wife

July 11, 2010

Lady Mary Rose Ashley is sailing from England to America with her grandfather and three young cousins to join the newly formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  On the voyage, she meets the ship’s designer, Gabriel, and after he converts to the new religion, they quickly fall in love and get married.  Mary Rose also becomes fast friends with Bronwyn, who serves as her maid on the journey.

Once the ship docks the Latter-day Saints make their way to Nauvoo, Illinois to help develop the new Latter-day Saints community there.  Once there, they do face persecution from outsiders, but for the most part, they’re all happy together until the Prophet decides that Gabriel should take another wife.  Mary Rose is understandably upset by this revelation and must decide between happiness in this life or happiness for eternity.

I’m fascinated with books about polygamy and polygamous sects, for some odd reason, so I was really excited to get the chance to read The Sister Wife by Diane Noble.   This book is the first in the Brides of Gabriel series.   This book gives readers an overview of the beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I appreciated the way the author wrote about the religion with respect.

I think readers of historical romance might enjoy this book, but for me it was a little too saccharine.  Gabriel and Mary Rose had spent mere hours with each other before they realized they had a deep love for each other.  Mary Rose told her grandfather:

“I can’t explain it, but the moment I looked into Gabe’s eyes it was impossible to look away.  We touched each other’s souls with a sense of knowing.  For me, it was as if I’d been waiting all my life to have someone touch my soul – to recognize me – in such a way.”

The transformations in their lives just appeared to come all too easily to me.  Mary Rose went from living a life of privilege to a life in the frontier with such ease – it just seemed to me that it would be far more difficult for most people.   She also became fast friends with her maid on the voyage which seemed unrealistic as well.   It just seemed like they all became one big happy family without any inner turmoil far too quickly for me.   Of course, that happiness was shattered when polygamy came into the picture.

There are things to like in The Sister Wife, though.  I thought the author did a good job writing about the origins of the Church of Latter Day Saints and I appreciated the strength of the female characters in the story.

You can listen to a great interview with the author on Blog Talk Radio.  If you enjoy historical romance, check out the trailer to see if you think this book might be for you:

Review copy provided by Book Club Girl.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

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36 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2010 5:44 am

    The Premise interests me too. I will check it out. Thanks!

  2. July 11, 2010 6:29 am

    I haven’t finished this yet, but it’s not quite for me either. More romance than I was expecting.

  3. July 11, 2010 6:58 am

    I enjoy historical romance but the polygamy theme takes it off the list for me. Just not interested. I liked your review because you pointed out the strengths of the novel as well as the aspects that didn’t work for you. It told me what I needed to know. Thanks!

  4. July 11, 2010 7:00 am

    Have to read it. This one is interesting. I have an interest in polygamy societies too. Loved the video, so strong and dramatic.

  5. July 11, 2010 7:37 am

    It does sound intriguing. Thanks for a great review. I’ll add it my wish list.

    Thoughts in Progress

  6. July 11, 2010 8:00 am

    I can see that some people might appreciate this book, but I’m just not that “into” romance. I guess I was expecting less romance and more historical fiction.

  7. July 11, 2010 8:02 am

    I’m going to follow your lead for this one. I don’t really think it is for me based on your review and some others I’ve seen. Sweetness generally gets alot of eye-rolls from me.

  8. July 11, 2010 9:20 am

    I’ve not read the book, but I agree with you that when things run too smoothly, it feels unbelievable. Things don’t happen so easily and quickly in real life.

    Straight From Hel

  9. July 11, 2010 10:11 am

    It sounds too sweet for me. I like more reality than glossed over romance. Great review

  10. July 11, 2010 10:36 am

    This sounds interesting. I might get annoyed by the lovley doveyness with Gabriel and Mary Rose after just a few hours of meeting.

    Years ago I read a memoir called Shattered Dreams about a woman living in a polygamist sect and it was really a great read. I do think this topic is fascinating.

    Great review!

  11. July 11, 2010 11:59 am

    I am not sure I would like this one. I love historical fiction, but not so much when it’s heavy on the romance. I do find books about polygamy interesting though.

  12. July 11, 2010 2:21 pm

    Sounds interesting, but I think I expected the book to be less romance and more literary when I heard about it. Too bad. I hate when things are just too easy, like how you say they fell in love so quickly, she had no issues going from privilege to frontier, etc.

  13. July 11, 2010 2:31 pm

    Great review and will put this on my TBR list next. The polygamy perspective is creating a wave since it’s something we rarely venture to explore. It’s a secret society so any morsels out is an eye awakening experience.

  14. July 11, 2010 3:35 pm

    I haven’t heard of this one so I appreciate your review. I’d be curious to read it simply to see how the author handles the historical aspects (is the author LDS or no?) but at the same time, even though I read a lot of polygamy books I’ve found that I enjoy books about modern polygamy. As a side note – the name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which I see is named incorrectly.

    • July 11, 2010 4:50 pm

      Thanks, Natasha! I corrected the church’s name in my review – that was my error, not the author’s. In her Blog Talk Radio interview, Diane Noble said that she is Episcopalian.

  15. July 11, 2010 5:15 pm

    As a member of the church, I always wince a bit when someone tries to accurately write about the history of the LDS church, especially, polygamy. And, although the Saints settled Nauvoo in an attempt to escape the persecution they were facing in Missouri and things were somewhat better, trying to imagine this bucolic, romanitc scenario portrayed in your review, just doesn’t jive with me. I think I will pass….

  16. July 11, 2010 6:45 pm

    Even though it is “sweet” in spots it does sound like a story I would read…I’m fascinated by religions in general and the polygamy that existed in the early days of this religion.

  17. stacybuckeye permalink
    July 11, 2010 7:31 pm

    The forming of the religion sound good to me, but for some reason polygamy is not something that I can generate any interest in.

  18. July 11, 2010 8:16 pm

    I think it takes a skilled writer to make a romance novel seem realistic. Same thing with historicals. I’m also curious about polygamy. I’m reading one on the subject for a TLC book tour. Personal interactions are very interesting.

  19. July 11, 2010 10:26 pm

    this subject is getting so much play lately. i haven’t read any books on polygamy yet, though! sorry it was a bit too sweet for you. i’m with you and don’t really enjoy when everything falls neatly into place.

  20. July 11, 2010 10:35 pm

    This sounds like everything that I wanted The 19th Wife to be. Great review–I’m really sold!

  21. July 11, 2010 11:13 pm

    Not a big fan of romance reads but do like the polygamy story line which I also find interesting. I would probably pass on this one.

  22. July 11, 2010 11:23 pm

    I heard the BTR and I was so looking forward to this one. I didn’t realize from the talk that it would be so heavy into the romance. I have it, so no use in me not giving a few chapters a try, but I think I was hoping for more historical fiction like Julie.

  23. July 12, 2010 1:25 am

    Terrific review, Kathy!

    I really don’t understand the whole polygamy thing, or how it can be to anyone’s benefit. Do men really need to “protect” multiple women? Wouldn’t these women be better off with a single spouse, and a job?

  24. July 12, 2010 1:40 am

    I wondered about this book and was going to ask Jen about it when I saw it there. You did a wonderful job of reviewing it though. I can take or leave the polygamy angle. If it’s part of the story, I’ll go with the flow. It would be interesting to learn anything about the background of this practiceI’ll try to work it in. My experience with the LDS is limited to genealogy.

  25. July 12, 2010 8:23 am

    This sounds a little too sugary for me. Thanks for the review.

  26. July 12, 2010 8:49 am

    I have been doing a lot of reading about polygamy lately, and like you, I find it fascinating. I am not really sure if this is the book for me, but if you want to read a really great novel on the subject, I recommend The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall. Thanks for the great review!

  27. July 12, 2010 12:32 pm

    The premise sounds so terrible. Imagine your husband being forced to take on another wife for the sake of the religion. I am curious about how the story ends though…

  28. July 12, 2010 12:39 pm

    I find polygamy fascinating too, but this one sounds a little too sweet for my taste.

  29. July 12, 2010 1:45 pm

    I don’t read much about polygamy but I have to admit that it also interests me. Since there is a religious theme to this it preachy at all? I tend to run screaming from Christian lit because the few I have read tend to feel preachy to me. Wondering if I would like this one.

  30. July 12, 2010 6:03 pm

    I am interested in books about polygamy and polygamous sects too. I recently bought “19th Wife” to read. I liked your review of this book but thought the book sounds almost too happy and pleasant for a book about polygamy. There always seems to be some angst and sadness or tension in polygamous sects or among the women. I think tht the origins of the Church of Latter Day Saints would be quite interesting to read about.

    Thank you for an interesting review and book, Kathy!

  31. MeMe permalink
    July 12, 2010 8:13 pm

    You sure do make this one interesting………

  32. July 14, 2010 10:56 am

    I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like the easy romance aspect of the book but the rest of it sounds very intriguing. I think I’d like it.

  33. Kathleen permalink
    July 14, 2010 4:39 pm

    I am interested in the subject of polygamy but not really keen on historical romance. I think the way you describe the author’s treatment of the romance would probably be a turn off for me.

  34. July 15, 2010 9:02 pm

    I’m interested in books about polygamous sects, too, but I don’t think this one is my cup of tea.

  35. July 21, 2010 11:55 pm

    This one doesn’t sound like it would be my cup of tea either, which is too bad because I’d love to learn more about Mormon history.

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