So it is too early (by one day) to buy Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband. Still, it is early enough that I feel like I can gloat about having read an early copy of this book.
I don’t think anyone here needs to be told about Sherry Thomas. Her debut novel, Private Arrangements, took the internet by storm. Everyone was delighted by the mature characters, the elegant prose, the sly wit. It was recognized as one ofPublisher’s Weekly’s best books of the year, is a Rita finalist in both the “Historical” and the “Best First Book” categories. . . . And then, three months after the release of Private Arrangements, she did it again with Delicious–a book that would suffer from being called “elegant food porn” because the love affair with food was a romance, not pornography.
So when Sherry offered me the chance to read Not Quite a Husband early, I was all over it.
And how heavenly was Not Quite a Husband? First, as always with Sherry, there was the writing–an elegant stretch of awesome that brought to life unfamiliar places. I’ve never been to the Swat valley. Heck, I’ve never even been to the requisite subcontinent. But Sherry Thomas fooled me into believing I was there at every step of the way.
Second, there was the hero. Leo Marsden is one of the most delicious heroes that Sherry has ever penned. He’s sexy, obstinate, and steadfast without crossing the line into creepy-oh-my-god-a-stalker. One of the things that makes Leo so appealling is that he recognizes on some level that his feelings for Bryony–a mix of love, despair, and worship–could become just a little weird if he doesn’t buck up and have a backbone. This determination. In some ways, this is his greatest strength . . . but it’s also, as you will see, his biggest weakness. Like all tragic heroes, it’s Leo’s strength and individuality that ultimately does him in.
But finally, and most importantly, there’s the heroine. Now, I have loved all of Sherry’s heroines. I loved Gigi, for her strength of mind and independence, for her ability to see what she wanted and focus on it with laser-like intensity. I loved Verity, for her skills, and because she would not give up no matter what life threw at her. But Bryony . . . . I love Bryony like I’ve never loved a Sherry Thomas heroine before. In fact, Bryony may be one of my favorite heroines ever. She’s one of the most flawed, complex, and yet despite her prickly exterior, lovable heroines that I’ve ever read. Like Leo, her greatest strength is her biggest weakness. Bryony is smart and focused. She is a doctor, and a damn good one, too, in an era when women were just beginning to become doctors. In many ways, because of her upbringing, Bryony eschews the feminine. She wears severe clothing, doesn’t think about boys, and . . . well, she’s not exactly the kind of doctor you’d call “nurturing.” She’s brilliantly competent. If you’re dying, she’s the one who will bring you kicking and screaming back into the daylight, but it’s a brisk, cool competence, not the warm, soft capability that you so often see ascribed to female doctors.
Like all truly intelligent people, Bryony is aware that this coolness hides a certain amount of brittle awkwardness. When she falls for Leo, she never considers approaching him; she just assumes that she’s going to have to wait out her infatuation on the sidelines. And when Leo reciprocates her feelings, she knows, deep down, that it’s too good to be true–but she’s too weak to walk away. Bryony is one of the most fascinating, complicated heroines that I’ve read in a romance novel. She’s prickly–but only because she’s afraid of her own vulnerability, and so she curls up like a hedgehog, sharp spines pointed outward. I really empathized with Bryony every step of her journey.
As to what happens to these characters, let us just say that Sherry Thomas is going to make Bryony very, very vulnerable indeed–but without once robbing her of her innate dignity. And that’s such an important line to me.
One of the things I love about Sherry Thomas is that I can read her books knowing that I’m going to get a good dose of unsettling. She’s going to make me feel uncomfortable. She’s going to make me feel the real pain that her characters must endure. But, because Sherry writes romances–I know that at the end of the book, she is going to make it all better. And she does. The end of Not Quite a Husband made me feel like I was walking out of a dark movie theater into a bright, hot summer day–just a little dazed, my eyes blinking in the sunlight.
There are so many interesting aspects of this book that I want to talk about, and so tomorrow, on release day, I’m going to suggest that you join me on twitter under the hashtag #nqah to talk about Sherry Thomas’s newest. I’ll post instructions in the morning.
But I’ll do more than that. Sherry has been kind enough to offer up a free copy to one commenter. As tomorrow is (you guessed it) “Buy a Book by Sherry Thomas” day, I figured we should hold the drawing early in the day so that the people who do not win will have all the extra impetus to . . . you know, Buy a Book by Sherry Thomas.
So leave a comment, and tell me your favorite kind of heroine. One lucky commenter wins a copy of Not Quite a Husband!