The Stolen Marriage is the third book I’ve read by Diane Chamberlain. While historical fiction really isn’t my favorite thing to read, I always find myself pulled into Ms. Chamberlain’s storytelling. It is very obvious that she does a lot of research to make the time period as accurate as she can.
This is the story of a young woman named Tess. She is studying to be a nurse and is engaged to her boyfriend, Vincent, who is a doctor. Vincent leaves Baltimore to help out with some polio cases in Chicago and is gone much longer than planned. Tess is getting upset, but is doing her best to be supportive. While Vincent is gone, Tess and her friend, Gina, visit Washington DC. While on that visit, Tess has too much to drink and sleeps with a business man, Henry. She is upset with herself, but was hoping to go back home and pretend it never happened. But Tess finds out she is pregnant.
Tess decides to just leave Vincent without telling him the real reason why. She leaves a letter explaining that she fell in love with another man while he was gone. She finds Henry in Hickory, North Carolina and they get married. Hickory is very different than Baltimore and the dark haired Italian American Tess doesn’t fit in.
Henry and Tess must live with his mom and sister while their house is being built. Neither accept Tess and she’s treated as the slut who got pregnant and tricked Henry into marrying her. Tess is no longer allowed to be Catholic and is expected to stay home and never work.
While living in Hickory, many secrets start revealing themselves. I won’t go into those since I never want to spoil a book for anyone.
No matter how many times I read historical books, I still find myself cringing at terms like “colored town” and how interracial marriage is a crime. The Ladies of the Homefront made me roll my eyes more than once. They focused on how to keep women from becoming too manly. Working and smoking cigarettes while the men were at war was just too much for these proper ladies. I can’t imagine growing up during that time.
The stories about the polio hospital were some of my favorites in the book. I found that the hospital and the outbreak were accurate. Reading the stories about the children really got to me. I was lucky enough to grow up after there were vaccines and it’s hard to picture such horrible outbreaks of disease. It really made me appreciate even more that I was born much later than that.
I found this picture (and many others) on the Hickory Museum of Arts website. I highly recommend checking it out and learning more about this time there.