A dark debut novel about a woman’s escape from a life of abuse and her ensuing struggle.
By all appearances, Celia Dobbs has everything a young Englishwoman in 1912 could want. She’s newly married to Joseph Dobbs, a handsome man with whom she’s besotted, and is the daughter of Peter Merrill, a wealthy man whose ownership of a vast farm ensures that Celia and Joseph will live well. But all is not as it seems: Joseph soon shows his true colors as a violent drunk with gambling debts, and he proves to be a severely abusive husband, flinging expletives and punches as swiftly as he once cast promises of love. His dark side takes on added horror when Celia learns that he’s responsible for the murder of her father. With the help of her aunt Marie, Celia and her newborn son escape from Kent to Spain, and Marie promises that she will see justice served while Celia’s away. Once in Spain, Celia meets a man named Ernesto and begins the next chapter of her life. After Joseph’s trial ends with a guilty verdict and order of execution, Marie decides to give Celia the dignity of being a widow instead of a divorcee, by destroying the divorce papers that would have freed Celia from her marriage. Only after Joseph escapes from prison does Marie begin to realize the extent of the damage she’s caused. Back in Spain, the novel details Celia’s recovery and her children’s developing lives, and they become key players in a tense, fast-paced story. The writing is often captivating, with a consistently engaging tone throughout, although the violent scenes are somewhat graphic and disturbing. Celia’s growth as a character truly sets this novel apart as more than a simple drama: It’s also a commentary on how strong a woman can become when facing adversity.
A suspenseful, compelling historical novel.