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The Marsdens #2

Not Quite a Husband

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Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

341 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Sherry Thomas

100 books6,173 followers
USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas decided years ago that her goal in life is to write every kind of book she enjoys reading. Thus far she has published romance, fantasy, mystery, young adult, and three books inspired by the martial arts epics she grew up devouring. Her books regularly receive starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications, including such outlets as the New York Times and National Public Radio.

A Study in Scarlet Women, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, and The Hollow of Fear, the first three entries in her gender-bending Lady Sherlock historical mystery series, are all NPR best books of the year. The Magnolia Sword, her 2019 release, is the first young adult retelling of the original Ballad of Mulan in the English language.

Sherry emigrated from China at age 13 and English is her second language.

“Sherry Thomas has done the impossible and crafted a fresh, exciting new version of Sherlock Holmes. From the carefully plotted twists to the elegant turns of phrase, A Study in Scarlet Women is a splendid addition to Holmes’s world. This book is everything I hoped it would be, and the next adventure cannot come too soon!” —Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author

“Thomas weaves a lush, intricate fantasy world around a gorgeous romance that kept me riveted until the very last page. What a breathtaking journey!” (Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of the Legend series )

"Sherry Thomas is the most powerfully original historical romance author writing today."—Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

Visit Sherry at her website

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 946 reviews
Profile Image for Tzippy.
265 reviews100 followers
August 5, 2012
This book is very nicely composed, with three-dimensional characters and good plotting and emotionally-compelling writing, and it makes me physically sick and I wish I hadn't read it.

The book has an official description, but here is the plot of the book that I read, in chronological order as opposed to the order presented by the book:

The hero and heroine are betrothed. The heroine has only known the hero for a short amount of time, but she really likes him, they get along great, and he seems like a good guy. The hero, meanwhile, has supposedly idolized the heroine from afar since he was young. And yet, the day before the wedding, the hero sleeps with some other woman. (As one does, when one is engaged to a woman one is supposedly infatuated with!) This is not a misunderstanding, a kiss-and-then-he-comes-to-his-senses, a heat-of-the-moment action, a drunk-out-of-his-mind mistake, a blackmail issue, or anything like that. He purposely goes to this woman's house for exactly one reason: to cheat on his fiancée one day before the wedding. And cheat he does. He has maybe half a second of maybe-I-shouldn't-do-this doubt, but then, sure, what the heck, why not -- goes ahead and does it. (The only reason given for the cheating is that the hero is intimidated by the heroine's competence at her job. Just thought I'd throw that in there.)

The heroine happens to see the cheating (the hero doesn't notice), and, instead of being angry, she is embarrassed and ashamed. She totally thought that this would be one of those marriages where the husband would be faithful! How silly of her! She's in fact so embarrassed and ashamed that she pretty much freezes in response. She doesn't call the wedding off, doesn't confront him, doesn't even let it slip that she knows. She resigns herself to living in one of "those" types of marriages, until the day she realizes that she can't live like this, and she asks the hero to have the marriage annulled.

Meanwhile, the hero also sweeps this under the rug. There is no guilt here on his part. He does stop sleeping around, so from his perspective, he's good, on the up-and-up, a totally stand-up kind of guy. For some strange reason, his wife doesn't seem too fond of him, though, so he starts having various types of sex with her in her sleep. She asks him not to -- she's okay having to fake it with this philandering liar while she's awake, but she doesn't want him near her when she's vulnerable. Understandable? Understandable.

Not to him! "Well, there is just no legitimate reason why she would make this request!" he says to himself. "As if she doesn't trust me! Me! Doesn't she know I'm a totally stand-up kind of guy?" (He doesn't bother rationalizing the cheating to himself at this point -- it's as if his offense is so minor that it doesn't even need rationale. Engaged ain't married!) so he ignores her request -- what rape? It can't be rape if you're a totally stand-up kind of guy! -- and eventually the heroine is forced to bar her door at night for protection.

And then she asks for an annulment, and the hero is shocked. (Shocked!) He's such a victim! How could she possibly want to leave him? After all he's done for her? (You mean cheat and then lie about it every single day for their entire married life? No, he means buying her a microscope. Because presents are so much better than fidelity and honesty!) What a bitch!

Anyway, two years later, he tells her how angry he is at the way she treated him. (Unironically!) And so finally she tells him, Hey, I know you cheated on me.

And all of a sudden, he feels just terrible. "Oh!" he says. "I feel just terrible! Yes, it sure was awful what I did to you! Why didn't you just tell me about it sooner?"

Why didn't she tell you? WHY DIDN'T SHE TELL YOU? Because you already knew about it, you big stupid jackass; you're the one who DID it! Why the hell didn't YOU tell HER?

This is the first time in the book where the hero shows any type of remorse at all. Apparently, it's not cheating if you don't get caught. Or something. Who even knows, with this guy.

Then he says something about how she won't forgive him since she holds people to impossible standards because she hasn't gotten over the death of her late stepmother. And then she chokes the everloving life out of him and smashes his skull to dust with the heel of her shoe. Oh, no, that's the book I wish I had read.

Anyway, something about a war and she forgives him and they live happily ever after, the end.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kiki.
1,217 reviews479 followers
December 12, 2021
What she said:

I cannot elaborate any further.

Guys, you who are on my friend's list and have loved this book, I hope you don't get offended.


Bad news: this book offends me. It repulsed me. If you think the hero deserves to be forgiven, that's your prerogative, but as per my opinion he does NOT deserve ANYTHING. Not forgiveness, not compassion, not even a spare thought. He's just no longer significant. Heroine shouldn't have married him. She SHOULDN'T have forgiven him. She should have stayed divorced!


He was a cheater, a rapist, an abuser and one without slightest remorse. This is NOT a romance book, this is a book about a cheater getting EXACTLY what he wants.

Moral of the story: if you cheat, you might get things a little late, but you still get it!

So no. I'm not touched by his sensitive love for his wife. I'm not touched that he's hurt by her leaving him. I'm NEITHER touched NOR impressed by the fact some people may think the wife is cold hearted and unforgiving. There is NOTHING to forgive. He cheated. No forgiveness should be given, she should have stayed cold hearted. I'm not touched how it has affected him.

This is me at HIS "anger" over the broken marriage:

HE cheated, WITHOUT even a valid reason. WITHOUT a second of consideration of her. WITHOUT an ounce of remorse. AND he NEVER felt ANY remorse UNTIL he was caught on the headlight. I am offended and disgusted by this book. This is is the second book I've read of this author.
The first experience had been less than pleasant, but at least without cheating, but after this book, it's confirmed her characters are going to lack a certain standard of morals that i live by, she is going on strictly an avoid list.

To quote Alex: cheaters do NOT deserve second chances and f**k cheaters!

Also no, you stupid son of a bitch, she won't forgive you because you fucking cheated, which you're NOT supposed to do, which is a VERY possible standard, actually that is the BARE MINIMUM standard! So her potential unforgivingness had NOTHING to do with impossible standard. However it had everything to do with your impossible lack of morals and remorse you fucktard.
Please do excuse my French! At this point, I CANNOT
be bothered with asterisks anymore. Let's call the spades spades!
***rant over***
Profile Image for Al George.
502 reviews309 followers
June 20, 2016
Bless my little heart, I am a changed woman after reading this

And my guts were rent asunder.


So here's what I know: do not listen to these books on audio. One must read Sherry Thomas to really go where she wants you to go. And this journey, my friends, is painfully amazing.

Setting / Time / Genre: 1890 somethings, India and some in England. Trust me, the India travels are amazeballs.

Length: 354 pages of some of the most beautiful writing I have come across in a romance novel. This woman, she knows her way around a simile or seven. Even a few metaphors.

Series: One before this book and it's now on my wish list.

Sexy times: Lordy, lord, she'a scorcher. And she's awkward and she's hot (she being the book =) and she's poetic and she's beautiful.


Plan on reading more by the author: I have already answered that question.

Synopsis: My god. Where to begin. Byrony, the brittle, and Leo, the something. Apparently, these two have grown up near each other and from a young age, Leo has worshipped / been in love with everything that is our dearest, mentally broken Byrony. In Leo, B thinks she has found her light, someone who brings her back to life, for she is brittle, protected, harsh, and more. Of course, asking someone to be that thing that brings light into one's life, is asking them to fail, which Leo does.

After the failing, Leo is sent to bring B back to England to attend upon her father. We journey with them and watch them fold together the fabric of some type of a relationship. We watch them endanger their lives (I am looking at you Ms. B - what the hell!?) and we're part of a siege. And we watch them both knit themselves back together.

Heroine: Byrony. At the start of this book I sincerely disliked B. There was not a single redeeming quality to be had. She was so damned angry and bitter. Have I mentioned bitter? Byrony is the one who pushes Leo away. She never gave herself the chance to live in the light, as it were. But as the book goes on, we learn that her upbringing caused her emotional growth to be stunted. There simple was not enough love to around. And B, she had to protect herself.

Hero: Leo. Crimeny. Leo breaks my hearts as much as B does. He, too, has put her on a pedestal albeit an entirely different pedestal. I cannot even begin to explain how much I adore this terrible, broken character. F&*k - I got no words for you here.

Why it did or didn't work for me: Blew my a$$ away. There. That's what worked. To watch these two people who destroyed each other and themselves in the process, fumble their way back to each other, was gut wrenching and beautiful. That the h/h had to work so hard made the payoff of a happy ending mean so much more to me. I loved every damned thing about this book. And I bow down to Ms. Thomas. It's time for me to go back and re-read The Luckiest Lady in London now that I have grown up a little more.

happy tears

Sherry Thomas convert, see me.
Profile Image for Bubu.
315 reviews324 followers
July 29, 2017
Warning: Spoilers ahead!

I recently re-read Not Quite a Husband, and it occurred to me again, what an utterly brilliant writer Sherry Thomas is, and how much I miss her historicals.

Ms Thomas knows how to push boundaries, and push them hard. Not only does she create questionable characters, she also uses tropes only few authors have the guts to pursue that fall under the unwritten laws of no-no of the romance genre. Furthermore, her clear and very unsentimental prose leaves me squirming, as if she knows where the pressure points are and forces me to look a little harder, a little closer and think again before I pass on judgment.

Her heroine, Byrony Asquith, is a character I thoroughly dislike, throughout the book. It's her unforgiving and unyielding nature that is uncomfortable. There's nothing sweet, sentimental or warm about her. Not before she meets Leo, certainly not during her first marriage to Leo and not at the end either. She is what she is, molded by her experiences, strengthened by her character. And yet, when I take a step back, look at what she felt when she first met - really met - Leo, the hopes she's had and the crushing defeat she experiences thanks to Leo's incredibly hurtful behaviour, I can't help myself but believe that she has every right to be the way she is. I don't think Byrony could have been portrayed any differently and I'm grateful that Ms Thomas doesn't make it easy for the reader. Ultimately - and strangely - Byrony is one of my all time favourite heroines, and I know if it weren't for the extreme situation she finds herself in with Leo in India, these two wouldn't find their way back together. For a person like Byrony, only the most dire of circumstances will make her revisit the painful memories, look at Leo as he was and as he is now and take a leap of faith. Incredibly well done, Ms Thomas!

As for Leo. A lot of readers can't get over his betrayal, that he would cheat on Byrony a week before their wedding. It is definitely the most painful part of the book when he explains what and why it happened, and I had to stop for a moment, unsure whether I wanted to continue with the book or not. At the end of the day, I was in Romancelandia and I wanted to give into my escapist mood, so his explanation of 'cold feet' didn't sit very well with me. But I reread that part, and again, and again, and then I looked back at my 24-year-old self, knowing that I had made some very questionable choices myself. Very sneaky of the author to hold a mirror in front of my face asking 'Have you never made a mistake in your life? And if you have, haven't you been simply weak and you know very well there is no other excuse?' Why don't you push me a little harder, Ms Thomas?

Leo's explanation is not an excuse. He did what he did, and the bitter truth is not lost on him.
Ironic, that in what he’d done out of fear that they might be unhappy together lay the cause of the greater part of their unhappiness.
Not Quite a Husband is full of these breathtakingly painful moments of clarity. For a man like Leo, who has loved Byrony ever since he was a teenager, this moment is full of shame. Powerfully put into words, I felt his shame. No wonder, really. Sherry Thomas' prose makes me feel all the pain, hurt and towards the end, thankfully, hope.

That's why I find Sherry Thomas to be such an outstanding author. If all I ever wanted were perfect fairy tales, I'd stick to the fluffy, funny romance novels. But then, I'd miss out on books like Not Quite a Husband.

By the way, I'm really looking forward to her new series: Lady Sherlock. Somebody's been watching the BBC series, I think!
Profile Image for UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish.
1,166 reviews1,569 followers
April 18, 2011

It’s such a treat to pick up a book by an author I’ve never read before and fall in love with their writing, their characters, and the entire world they create. Such is the case with Sherry Thomas and Not Quite a Husband. It was not just a book, but an adventure that took me to another time, one we don’t often read about – late 19th/ early 20th century in the British Indian Empire, also referred to as the British Raj. This is one of those epic novels that had me questioning exactly what it means to be civilized, and just how far we should go in forcing our version of civilization on others. A similar book which I also enjoyed, Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran, had me thinking along the same lines, and those books that get me contemplating and asking questions are the ones that stay with me long after I’ve finished reading.

Not Quite a Husband is a “second chance” romance, though I found the relationship between the hero, Leo Marsden, and the heroine, Bryony Asquith to be more angsty than sweet. But being the hopeless romantic that I am, I held to the faith that they’d come to their senses and see that they belonged together. Eventually though, the problem for me was that there was such a lack of communication between them that there came a time when I started thinking that maybe they really were better off apart, so while I loved them both, I had a tough time staying connected to, and invested in, their happily ever after. The ending was sweet and definitely romantic, and getting there was quite a journey.

Over all, this was an enjoyable read and a wonderful introduction to an author who I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of.
Profile Image for Wollstonecrafthomegirl.
472 reviews193 followers
July 4, 2020
****Spoilers below****

Not Quite A Husband was one of the romance novels I'd already read when I joined Goodreads and I actually bothered to review it on here to get my account started. I did that because it was one of my favourites, it had stayed with me and I gave it five stars. It was a quick review, typed out in about five minutes. I've frequently returned to excerpts from the book and re-read it a couple of times, but I wanted to re-read for the purposes of reviewing it in a detailed way and to check that it still holds up as a five star read.

It does. This is not an easy book and it has some significant points of controversy. But to me, it is brilliant and I will now attempt to make my case for it.

The plot is a Sherry Thomas special. Former lovers (in this case, former husband and wife – their marriage was annulled) who were wrenched asunder by some events in their past history (which we’ll slowly uncover, naturally) and who are thrown back together to battle their mutual enmity and continuing attraction. No one, absolutely no one does this as well as Thomas. I have come to believe in my travails through romance reading that this is one of the most difficult romance premises to pull off. Transitioning from ‘I hate you’ to ‘I love you’ is difficult enough, but one must also explain how the hate came about and thus establish a backstory as well as everything else.

Thomas does so much more than pull it off, she defines the very premise.

To compound the brilliance of that, she does it with a challenging heroine. One of my absolute favourites because she’s difficult, brilliant, aloof and prickly. Bryony is a doctor, which in late Victorian Britain is no mean feat, especially as she’s a lady and thus subverting a significant number of societal expectations. A sudden dearth of affection at a young age because of the death of her beloved stepmother causes her to retreat inside herself, medicine becomes her absolute focus:

”But for Bryony it was too late. By that time she’d already turned resolutely inward. Humans, herself included, held no interest for her except as living machines, mind-bogglingly intricate, beautiful systems that somehow housed individuals not quite worthy of the miracle of their physical bodies. In due time, she left home without a backward glance, studied with the single-minded focus of those who cared for little else, and practiced with a cool, impersonal dedication. And forgot that she’d once wanted pageantry, companionship, and love.” (30%)

Then she meets our hero, Leo (I say ‘meets’, they’re acquaintances of some duration, but Bryony has never really seen him before). And suddenly, she has cause to want something more than her impersonal career.

That’s because, on the face of it, Leo is perfection itself. Handsome, a brilliant mathematician, he wrote a play as a joke and it was a runaway success, he is ”universally admired.” (1%) Ordinarily, I would roll my eyes at such perfection, but, in reality, Leo isn’t perfect because he fails Bryony. He fails to appreciate the cause of her coldness, both in respect of the innate coldness of her character (which came about because of the death of her stepmother) and in respect of her attitude during their marriage, which is caused by his cheating. Perhaps his struggle in expressing himself and properly appreciating and exploring Bryony’s flaws arises from the fact that he’s been in love with her since he was a small boy, “Just that I have loved you, even when I was nothing and no one to you, when you didn’t know my name and barely knew my face.” (45%)

They fit, Leo and Bryony, but it takes them the length of this remarkable book to see it. They love one another, that’s apparent, and declared relatively early (at about the 50% mark). But the fact that their love is worth fighting for, takes them some time to appreciate. In fact, they have to do some actual fighting to get there.

This is a foreign set romance (until the last 20% or so when we return to London and Cambridge). More than that, it’s a road trip romance. Bryony has run away from her marriage (or, more precisely, the annulment of her marriage) and is in deepest India. Leo turns up out of the blue because she is needed back in England. And so begins a trip that takes them across hundreds of miles through stretches of a country completely unknown to me as a reader. Thomas makes this setting come to life. I was there, alongside our H/h in the difficult conditions and the heat. The descriptions are succinct and beautiful (and, I assume, fairly accurate – I’ve never been to this part of the world):

“Birds sang in rhododendron bushes that would have been wild with flamingo pink blooms in spring. Water wheels creaked productively. Kalasha women in their elaborate shell headdresses and deep-piled bead necklaces prepared dinner around fire pits on the verandas of their tiny houses.”

Whilst this journey is undertaken Bryony and Leo are forced into close quarters. They travel together. Eat together. Drink together. They play chess. There’s no society to distract them, no one else to chat to – it’s an intense examination of them as a pairing. She nurses him through a bout of malaria. One sees the continuing affection between them (even when they’re being awful to one another):

“Casually, he picked up her hat and turned it in his roughened hand. The knuckles of his other hand grazed across the brim. She swallowed. The gesture was intensely intimate, almost as if he were touching her hair. Her skin.
He set the hat down, went to his horse and came back with another hat. “I took the liberty of buying you this. You can get sunburned easily in the lower altitudes if you are not careful.”
… His presumption galled her. He’d known precisely how he’d bend her to his will, long before he ever set foot in Rumbar Valley.
She returned the hat to him: “I cannot accept articles of clothing from a gentleman.” It was a convenient excuse. He was not related to her – or married to her. And therefore had no business buying things for her.
He glanced down at the rejected hat. “That rule, if I’m not mistaken does not apply to a gentleman who has fucked you.”
At the last two words he lifted his eyelashes. Such a current of heat jolted through her that she was unable to slap him as he richly deserved.
“You, sir, are no gentleman,” she said. “And no, thank you. I will not wear that hideous thing.”
He looked at her a minute, his gray eyes the color of morning mist and she could not tell whether his expression was disgust or amusement, or something too dark and raw for easy labelling.”

“Dinner was a mulligatawny soup, chicken cutlet and curried lamb over rice. Bryony ate with her eyes on her food, cutting a trench around herself with her demeanour. But he did not take the hint.” (9%)

“ “Are you suffering from a suppressed appetite?”
“I would have thought that to be a natural result of seeing you,” he said, in perfectly polite viciousness.”

”He felt as if he were up in a dusty, cobwebbed attic, opening creaky, ancient trunks, only to find inside perfectly bright, undiminished jewels. “Did they tell you about anything else from those days?” She was hungry for it. Her tone reminded him of the way he used to ask obliquely about her—And Callista’s sister, is she still cutting people open?” (28%)

And amidst being thrown together, they fall back into a fraught, problematic (more on the problems later) sexual relationship which also serves to illuminate their difficult past:

”All of a sudden her tongue was in his mouth. He reacted with equal abruptness. In the space of a heartbeat he had her under him. She tasted sweet, so sweet, pure and delicious. And her body – how he coveted her, an unholy lust, like burning in hell.
She trembled, his little piece of heaven. So cold, so distant, beloved and despised. He would worship her if she but let him. But she would never let him, would she? She would always remain out of reach, on her icy perch, indifferent to the struggles of mere mortals such as he.
She set her hands on his shoulders. He expected her to push him away, but she didn’t. Instead, she rubbed her palm across his cheek. And he was lost.”
He shoved her shirts aside, free himself from his trousers and sank into her with one push…”

”[Bryony, on the sex described above]… that she’d let him – and that she’d derived such a fierce, if incomplete pleasure from that brief intense joining.
And that she wanted more.”

All this remarkable writing serves to draw the reader into them as a couple. It generates a genuine mystery, a burning curiosity about what happened during their marriage. In short snippets and longer vignettes Thomas peels away the shrouds from their background. She does it in a non-linear structure, which works marvels – you read about their last interaction before their separation during the opening pages and Leo’s acceptance of Bryony’s proposal before you read about their first kiss (and what a first kiss it is).

You see how wonderful they are in the beginning and how it all goes terribly wrong. The whole awful picture is finally revealed. Two people who are meant to be and somehow, in that innately human, fallible way, manage to royally mess everything up. He cheats, and she finds out, and they don’t talk – Bryony goes cold, and Leo wonders why and it all festers. She’s cold in bed and he feels as though he’s forcing her. So he comes to her room at night and makes love to her in her sleep and proves that they are sexually compatible, but she eventually denies him that connection too, barring her door, as well as her heart.

I want to pause here, somewhat artificially, to discuss the sex in this novel. Because that concept: the sleep sex I’ve just described, is very controversial. I’ll call a spade a spade, because I consider myself competent to do so, given what I do for a living: this is rape (in 2017, in any event. Between a man and a wife in 1897, it wouldn’t have been rape). You cannot have sex with someone when they are sleeping, because no consent has been established. Do not do this. Teach your sons and your daughters not to do this. Thomas describes that Bryony’s practice suffers as a result of these nightly visits and that she asks Leo to stop and he does not. The behavior only stops when she locks her door.

I have thought long and hard about this and the impact it should have on my view and rating of this novel. I’ll start by saying: I find these scenes to be very well-written. Thomas can write sex, and these scenes are some of the hottest in the book. It’s made clear that Bryony has orgasms. These scenes are not about Leo mindlessly exercising his legal rights. His desperation to forge a connection with his new wife, his confusion at her behavior are all made clear to the reader - that these are the desperate measures of a desperate man is clear. That’s one of the benefits of being the reader (as opposed to being the prosecutor): you get to know the people involved in the act, you know their motivations, their thoughts, their feelings. The sex scene quoted above, is also pretty close to rape (a less clear cut case, I think). Leo describes his inability to have Bryony, that she’s remote and isolated, and then, based on a mere brush on the cheek, penetrates her. But the reader gets to know Bryony’s reaction too. She enjoys it, she wants more of it. And a few nights later she goes into Leo’s tent and has sex with him in his sleep too. These are flawed characters, muddling their way through a relationship which they assumed would be easy because they loved one another and isn’t. In that context the sleep sex is not a point of controversy for me (nor is the other sex, which skirts, or roundly ignores the concept of consent). The relationship between these two people is challenging and complicated and so is their sex life.

Leo has hope until the very end that he might be able to rescue their relationship. He pulls out all the stops and at the very same moment Bryony asks for the annulment. It’s an absolute wreck. And, you’re left wondering how, on earth, they’re ever going to patch it up (even though this is romance, and you know they will):

”Except she’d never forgiven anyone in her entire life. Her heart was made of glass: It could break, but it could not expand.” (40%)

”For the thousandth time he wished he’d just met her. That they were but two strangers traveling together, that such lovely, filthy thoughts did not break him in two, but were only a pleasant pastime as he slowly fell under the spell of her aloof beauty and her hidden intensity.
… But no, they���d met long ago, in the furthest reaches of his childhood. Their chances had come and gone. All they had ahead of them were a tedious road and a final good-bye.”

The amount of emotional intensity Thomas packs into this novel is an absolute marvel. Her talent for concise but detailed and expressive prose is second to none.

Leo and Bryony’s’ journey takes them into the middle of an uprising. And they find themselves plunged into the fighting. Leo shooting at rebels from the British fort and Bryony in the surgery treating the wounded. It’s a genuinely perilous situation and Thomas manages to convey those fears. This is not some mustachioed, villainous villain, skulking in the shadows with a Cunning Plan and 15% of the book left to execute it. This is late 19th century India and the locals are pissed. If the fort falls, and it probably will: they both die. And so, finally, in slow increments and with some great sex and actual talking to one another and beautiful language and realisations, they get it together:

”Tears stung the back of her eyes. She rose to her tiptoes and kissed him on his chin. “Just come back.” (62%)

”He instinctively turned away from the images his mind generated. But fragments cut through. Her upturned hand on the ground. Her cheek, pale as marble. Her shirt, caked in blood. He could not breathe. For the first time he understood what it meant not just to lose her, but to lose her. And he was not strong enough for it.” (63%)

”What stupid children they had been, to cause each other such pain and then to hold on to their wounds so fiercely.” (69%).

”Sometimes limbs must be rebroken to set properly; her heart too needed to shatter anew before it could truly heal. (86%)

Cheesy as this sounds, this novel does that to you: it shatters your heart and then pieces it back together, bit by agonizing bit. Thomas breaks you down and builds you up, and you are changed. It’s a wonderful romance. It expects a lot from the reader, but it gives a lot back too and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

****My original review, for those who are interested****

I love Sherry Thomas. I recognise that some of her books are better than others but in the world of historical romance there aren't many authors writing better stuff. Not Quite A husband is probably my favourite. I adore Bryony and Leo and the effect they have on one another. The chemistry is hot and the sex is hotter. It gets a bad rep because of the sleep sex stuff and one of the earliest sex scenes in which consent has a limited/no role. My feminist brain battles with those issues, but I've decided Not To Care. I still love it. Most of the book sees Bryony and Leo travelling through India and it's extraordinarily well written. You can feel the heat, the dust, the danger - all of it. It's very, very, very good. I have re-read it and I don't do much re-reading.
Profile Image for Cait.
953 reviews22 followers
January 9, 2015
Well. I had to CREATE a did-not-finish shelf for this one.

I started this book. I was like, huh, these characters sure are casually racist. But I mean, like, if an author--especially an author who's a WOC--wants to be like 'yeah no, these white old-timey British people were probably fully on board ye olde colonialism train, and I'm not gonna downplay the ugly truth of that for the sake of this romance novel,' that's their prerogative, you know? No holds barred. No softening the nastiness of Empire. Tell it like it is. I feel that.

Then there was a scene in which the dude, in the throes of a malaria attack, just starts making out with the lady, and then just! ~Enters Her~! Suddenly! No consent at all, and like, it's not even implied she was like kissing back it's just all very sudden and...whoa. But she's like, 'I liked it tho,' and I was like uuuughhhh but you know what, the sad thing is that when you're reading trash romance you kind of learn to wade through the bad-consent narrowed-eyes wait-was-that-rape shit because that's the way like 90% of the genre is. So I was like well that was gross but I'll move on, because like, this book is actually very well written! I was moved by their tragic longing and misunderstanding and mutually brought about desolation and heartbreak and all that shit! So I was just like oh well, I guess I brought this on myself because don't I remember feeling an uneasy ehhhh about the other Sherry Thomas I read yet started this one anyway? (Also okay so I went and checked and it was Private Arrangements that I read, and I gave it 3 stars and remember that I loved the same like tragic-curdled-love thing that was similar to this one but I don't remember why I dinged it.)

And then! Ho ho ho! Ho! We get to the MASSIVE AMOUNTS of SLEEP RAPE. Leo and Bryony (I even loved their names! I feel personally affronted!) have awkward, cold sex (awkward and cold on Bryony's end and Leo doesn't know why) so Leo stops coming to her for sex and instead--get this--starts raping her in the middle of the night. No, really. She's dead asleep. And he comes and has sex with her because when she's being sleep-raped she's not so frigid (her frigidity, by the way, is because he cheated on her, and she knows, only he doesn't know that she knows, so he's like wah I don't understand I'm such a good guy!). She only realizes when it wakes her up one night. And then she's like 'hey can you not please! we can have sex when I'm awake but not when I'm asleep thanks' and is like WAY POLITER ABOUT IT THAN HE DESERVES, and then he says nothing to this, and then rapes her more spectacularly than ever that night! As retribution!!!!!!! And then THE NEXT DAY she's like 'DON'T, FOR FUCKING REAL' and then he serves her up some extra-strong rape as punishment for that!!!! Literally just fucking kill me. Oh, and he like...doesn't think there's anything wrong with what he's done. Cool. Even though she LIVES IN FEAR and ALMOST KILLS A PATIENT DUE TO EXHAUSTION FROM THE EXTENSIVE NIGHTLY SLEEP-RAPE and BARS HER DOOR AT NIGHT. OUT OF FEAR.

According to other reviews on here, she goes on to sleep-rape him later in the book. Like...I just can't do this, y'all. And it's weird, too, because half of me is actually like 'but the writing is good and I almost want to finish...' but then I'm like what the fuck, no. Three strikes. Be firm.

I don't know, I'm fucking tired. This book makes me want to never have sex with a man again and to bite the head off any who tries. Tbh.

UGH UPDATE BECAUSE I HATE MYSELF: I went back to it. She asks for an annulment. He's like, I'll rape you again (while awake) as punishment for that. Sorry???? ROMANCE???? WHAT????? Oh yeah and also earlier she like gave him a weird bad-consent handjob. Okay. I return because I hate myself.
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,225 reviews261 followers
February 6, 2022
2/2022: Buddy read/reread with Joanna-and I think maybe it was better the second time which is saying something. This book is not for everyone, but for me it's everything I love in a romance and a little bit of witchcraft thrown in.

There are many many lines I remember from this book and it remains a standout.
Original (2019 review)
Note: Maybe don’t read this review if you’ve not read the book? Complicated, lots of quotes. Maybe spoiler. I dunno.

well hell.

A kiss that felt oddly like falling, and oddly like flying.

Despite this being one of the favorites of my book soulmate's: “Give me Bryony and Leo and I cry like a baby,” I waited to read it. I waited almost a full two years after the first historical I enjoyed. Why? Because I was scared.

And I should’ve been. Look, this book is problematic. There is undoubtedly a consent issue . It is painful and disturbing, and yet, I kept reading. Because there was all this groundwork. It hurt like a motherfucker. It shredded me-in both ways-and eventually an understanding dawned. No, no. Not an excuse. But a pathology. Beneath it, a painful etiology of their marital issues and all their fears-and the only way they (yes THEY) found to exorcise them. God, that was a risk. How could I want to keep reading? Why would you WANT to read?

Because it’s complex. Because it was a risk, and because somehow, Thomas made you give a damn for these characters by the time this is all revealed.

And their relationship, to this point is built on failed expectations, lack of communication, pain-so much pain-but also…and clearly, mutual respect and love. And it’s that last part that makes this book something you can believe in.

“You were the moon of my existence; your moods dictated the tides of my heart.”
The tides of her own heart surged at his words, even though his words were nothing but lies.
…”And the times of my heart only rose ever higher to crash against the levee of my self-possession. For I loved you most intemperately,”

Bryony thought he was lying, but never for a moment did the reader see it that way.

And that’s why this achingly beautiful yet painful book works. Over and over. For Leo is rejected over and over, with no understanding or knowledge of why, and he starts to believe her cold and unfeeling-every hint along the way makes it so obvious to him.

He’d gone into their marriage determined that she would never be alone again. In the end, she’d made him as alone in the world as she.

Meanwhile, Bryony is just protecting herself.

In the acknowledgments, Thomas mentions Duran’s Globe Scene (yes, it needs capitalization) from the Duke of Shadows inspiring her—and that she did it without a globe. And my goodness in heaven.

He scorned himself for giving a damn, when she didn’t give a damn about him. But it didn’t matter. He had choices, and each time he chose to accept the one invitation that placed him in the same country as her, so that help, should she need it, didn’t have to be summoned across oceans.

You were the moon of my existence; your moods dictated the tides of my heart.

It might have been hyperbole, but it wasn’t fiction.

They begin to know each other in earnest, yet based on the foundation of love they had from their younger, more clueless years.

There were shadows under his eyes, and the beginning of crow’s feet at the corners. And even though all about them it was green, voluptuous summer, there was a solemness to him, a quiet that made her think of snow-blanketed winter.

He’d never been further from the gilded, angel-kissed youth. And never more beautiful

Tales of relationships with baggage and forgiveness, these second chances aren’t always done to great effect. This one, this one however, shredded me. I never for once doubted Leo & Bryony’s love for one another, their fragility, their mistakes, the harm they caused each other, or their forgiveness.

“Just that I have loved you, even when I was nothing and no one to you when you didn’t know my name and barely knew my face.”

Sigh. I’ve not once read a review of this book. Now I look forward to doing just that. I’m glad I finally found the courage to see how it lived up to expectation. And I'm also relieved that I ditched the library copy on the hunch I'd need to keep these quotes and this book forever.
Profile Image for Didi.
865 reviews290 followers
February 26, 2015
What can I say? I LOVE SHERRY THOMAS! Okay, I love her work and because of that I love her. She has the most beautiful prose I think I've ever read. She writes so evocatively, making you feel things and understand emotions so true and so pure. I loved this book! It was not only a HR, but featured an older woman/younger man, which I normally don't enjoy that much but ST makes it worth reading. It had two people so in love with each other but because they lacked communication, their marriage broke down.

I loved Leo Marsden, he made a stupid mistake before his wedding to Bryony. She found out, unbeknownst to him and let it fester and grow a bitterness that took over her life. Now, normally with what Leo did I wouldn't be so forgiving, but because I knew what he was doing, what he felt, what he ALWAYS felt, I didn't write him off completely. He loved Bryony, always have and despite trying to be the man good enough for her he could never fight her cold demeanor. So an annulment was inevitable, and requested by Bryony which crushed Leo.

3 years later, Leo tracks down Bryony and relays some sad news. But the love and passion from before rises again and Leo and Bryony soon realize nothing has changed about how they feel for each other, but they have to sift through the past and finally communicate to move forward. There's a scene where Bryony tells Leo why she suddenly changed before they married. Leo's reaction was so powerful not because of it's intensity but by how ST wrote it. I felt his anguish and deep regret over doing something so stupid. But Bryony was also at fault. She shut down so completely and just ignored Leo instead of ducking it out. So before they could move forward they had to face the ghosts of the past.

I can't say how much I loved this, loved the emotion, the intensity, the beauty of it all. It was touching, frustrating and perfect all at once. Bryony grows so much and Leo finally captures the woman he'd loved all along. Goes to show that without proper communication things can go very, very wrong. These two could have saved so much pain and hurt for themselves had they spoken to one another, but sometimes time gives us clarity and fate once again intervenes.
The epilogue was exactly what I wanted for Leo and Bryony, they were truly perfect for each other, sigh.
I can't recommend this author enough, she's brilliant and her prose is unparalleled! Loved this, loved This!!
Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,254 reviews516 followers
December 2, 2018

This comes close to visually representing how I felt reading this.

I'll let you soak that in for a sec.

What stupid children they had been, to cause each other such pain and then to hold on to their wounds so fiercely.

The book page count for this claims it is 341 pgs, my friends, I blew through this like it was an author newsletter free story. The first half felt like one huge exposed raw nerve. There are three main characters, Bryony, Leo, and India. The research! The scenery! The setting! I saw some reviews claiming they didn't like how much detail the author went into but I salivated over finally feeling the time and place of a historical story.

The writing and feel of this is a bit different from most in this genre, I can't find the right words to describe it but we get an intense focus on Bryony and Leo with cut-ins to their past experiences that gives you the hows and whys of what they are feeling and how they've reached this place in their relationship. The time duration is actually pretty short of what we get from them together in the present time but with memories from the past relayed, it felt like they were together longer.

While the first half is a raw exposed nerve, the second half is the balm being applied to the wound, done slowly and carefully. The second half slowed down a little bit for me as Bryony's past and why her personality is the way it is never quite jived or fit for me. Young and impressible is going to have to extremely work for you here and carry any good will you'll want to show Bryony. Bryony is a tough one to crack and she is all those characteristics we see in some broody heroes, rigid, harsh, still waters run deep, and etc. Even though her personality was a little cold and I kind of head tilted at the reason given for it, I was still able to stick with the character.

Now, the reason I'm giving this three stars is because of their sexual relationship. Leo has loved Bryony for a loooong time and just thinking about his memories, thoughts, feelings, and actions makes my eyes want to water, But, the majority of their sex scenes (mostly remembered but also a present time one) had me cringing away. I fall more on the side of reading romance for the sexual tension but, for me, sex is an intricate part of a relationship and theirs was off-putting to say the least. I'm going to put in spoiler tags why I cringed ..

So, given how I felt about their sexual relationship, this couple had a cringe worthy feel to them and I couldn't feel the gushy fuzzies that put couples near and dear to my heart. However, like I said, on the other side of the coin, the writing is superb, addicting, and raw but when I will think back on this story, a cringe will probably be my first reaction but in the complexity of my own thoughts and feelings, second will be watery eyes over Leo's feelings and some of his actions.

Profile Image for  Lady Jayne *~*The Beach Bandida*~*.
118 reviews383 followers
April 26, 2011
4.5 Stars - Also reviewed at: Lady Jayne's Reading Den

Sherry Thomas’ books have been highly recommended to me by my Goodreads friends new_user and Quinn – Thank you both! I decided to start with Not Quite Husband because I saw that the We Love Lisa Kleypas Group had read it as a Group Read and also… because I thought I’d read the red covered one to "pop my Sherry cherry”. LOL Plus, the cover is pretty sexy!

I wanted to say thank you to Beanbag for urging me to not get distracted from reading this by Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward, which was calling to me like a siren’s song! ^_^ I’m so happy I stuck to my path and kept reading this, as I became hooked.

Not Quite A Husband is a “second chance” romance. It begins in 1897 in the Rumbur Valley, North-West Frontier of British India, and today is part of Pakistan.

Quentin Leonados Marsden (Leo) is a brilliant man – at age 24 he had numerous papers read at the London Mathematical Society, a play read at St. James’ theatre, and a Greenland expedition under his belt. Bryony Asquith is also brilliant - a gentleman’s daughter who pursued a career at a time when it was frowned upon, and a career in the medical field, to boot! Leo and Bryony’s marriage failed about 3 and a half years before, after only a few months. Leo has been dispatched to fetch Bryony home to England by her sister Callista because their father is ill.

I was actually fascinated to find out WHY their marriage had failed. WHAT had happened to them? Ms. Thomas unveils this slowly through weaving flashbacks, revealing their past, and then moving the reader forward in their present relationship, teasing with bits and pieces of the puzzle, as they journey through the breathtaking setting of British India. I love this setting, as I did in Meredith Duran’s, The Duke of Shadows, and appreciated getting to experience different areas in British India in Not Quite A Husband.

As the layers of the characters of Leo and Bryony were revealed, my perceptions of them changed, and as I gained insights into "their story", my heart began to truly ache for them.

However, one really needs to push through the first few chapters, as it is difficult to read due to the angst between the two, and initial perceptions of the characters are not flattering. This is a dark and complex romance.

As I learned more and more about Leo and the depth of his love for Bryony, he stole more and more of my heart, and I truly fell "in love" with Leo. He was not flowery with words, but his actions from the past when they knew each other as children, and after their marriage was annulled, spoke volumes. And yet…he hadn’t truly known her before they married or even during their marriage. And neither did Bryony truly know Leo.

I found it quite difficult to relate to Bryony, at the start of this story, because she seemed to be such a cold and closed-off character. When I came to see that she was actually a woman who felt so forcefully that she could shatter, and had to build a fortress of walls around her heart to protect her, I wanted to hug her.

I heard this song today and the lyrics made me think of Bryony, and her relationship with Leo:
Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you're good
And you can't believe it's not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let 'em fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won't disappear

So let it fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now
We're here now, oh

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

“Sometimes limbs must be rebroken to set properly; her heart too needed to shatter anew before it could truly heal.” ~ Bryony

I loved going on this journey with Leo and Bryony - from "strangers" who had married quickly and whose marriage had failed before it even began, to two wiser people who came to truly TRUST each other and be OPEN and HONEST to each other, and not just love each other.

One issue I did have with the book was the waxing lyrical language that Bryony used to describe Leo in the flashbacks, which seemed incongruent to her character (and had me rolling my eyes), for example:
"Then he did smile, one of his dazzling smiles that restored sight to the blind and instilled music in the deaf.”

“…a smile beatific enough to bring about peace on Earth.”
It was like she saw him as some sort of God. Then I realised that she had, and when he fell in her eyes, he had a long way to go. How beautiful it was, though, when they found their way to a TRUE marriage and the last paragraph in the Epilogue had me all misty eyed.

I look forward to reading more books by Sherry Thomas, and let me say, how impressed I am with her writing, especially considering that English was not her first language. Also, I had not realised that Delicious is connected to this and occurs earlier in time, and involves Leo's brothers, Will and Matthew Marsden.

Some of my favourite quotes:
“She was both surprised and not surprised to feel tears roll down her face. He kissed her tears. “It doesn’t matter where I am; I’m yours.”’

"And that you will remember me not as a failed husband, but one who was still trying, til the very end."

Not Quite A Husband Book Trailer - It is cute, if a bit kitsch, but it has some great images of the places Leo and Bryony travelled:


Sherry Thomas has a map of trail that Leo and Bryony took in India (which I would have liked included in the book), as well as some amazing photos of the locations, and shares her inspiration for the story on her website:


Chitral Valley, Pakistan:

Swat Valley, The Switzerland of Pakistan:

My Leo (Martin Henderson) and My Bryony (Rachel Weisz)

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: I do not hold the copyright to any of the images used in this review. They are posted to add visuals to the review and for fun. If any of these images are yours and you would like me to remove them, please let me know, and I will do so as soon as possible. If I can identify the copyright, I will do so.

Profile Image for Kinga.
475 reviews2,120 followers
October 31, 2011
It's this time of the year again when I had to read some girly porn.

Sherry Thomas is one of my favourite girly porn writers. She is actually quite clever, and she spends a little more time building her characters than your average romance writer.

"Not Quite a Husband" is all about forgiving and trusting, because even dashing romance heroes make mistakes. It's also about expecting nothing short of perfection from your other half and how it will make you unhappy eventually (an idea that avid romance readers might have a hard time accepting).

Other than that, it's just like any other porn. It has some sort of improbable backstory (the girl versions of plumbers coming to fix the pipes and ending up screwing the lady of the house or teachers having to discipline their students), and tons of ideal sex scenes.

'Not Quite A Husband' was special because of abudance of sleep-fucking scenes. I swear, this only happens in porn movies and romance books. One night, our heroine wakes up climaxing with her ankles up on the hero's shoulders. How? How could you sleep through that?? Some other time our heroine gives the hero a blow job while he is sleeping. He only wakes up to catch her wiping her lips when it is all over. That's just bollocks. They always wake up! Always!
Profile Image for Yona Ceaser.
94 reviews15 followers
August 29, 2021
So I’ve been having flash backs with this book where I remembered certain parts, so I decided to skim read it again (lol I skipped to the good part and was reading the book for about 25 min 😅 before calling it a day….like I said…skim reading ) anyways, I was thinking about a certain aspect in the book where the hero cheats and yes he does, so blatantly and the heroine watches the act unfolds in the reflection of a mirror…however they weren’t married yet they were betrothed (I’m not by any means excusing his actions AT ALL) butttt the heroine could have ended the engagement instead of continuing with the marriage, and what’s worse is that she completely forbade the hero from touching her and she showed her displeasure of him so vigorously but the hero had absolutely no idea why. For the three years she didn’t call him out on him being a cheating bastard, instead she made him suffer with the neglect she gave him, the 3 years of celibacy (although he did fuck her in her sleep which then caused her to barred the door-yeah he r@p*d her) and made him feel so shit. She runs of to India to save lives and the hero goes off to find her.

I want to hate the hero…but I’ve read enough books where a hero bangs a wh*re or his mistress the night before marrying the heroine…which in this case was the situation. so it’s hard for me to dislike this hero having f*cked that woman for that one time which then led him to suffer for the next three years of his life, when other hero’s get off Scot free. The heroine was in the wrong for not enlightening him to his cheating ways or ending the engagement which would make him grovel and this way he’d know what he did was wrong and he could have a legit reason to feel shit about himself, but instead man was confused for three whole years wondering why his wife treated him like shit-on-shoe. He was faithful after the wedding but he wasn’t able to show it because the heroine, even though she married him, still managed to cut him outta her life, putting him through emotional trauma.

Gosh, Ms. Sherry Thomas you make my head hurt 🧠🧠🧠

Overall, the book was very boring, I wasn’t able to follow what was happening because the currently location was set in India, and Ms Sherry knows how to write with intricate detail and such expertise, I mean she doesn’t miss a single point at all. Which made it a very hard read for my small brain. We have her talking about several different Indian tribes and Indian mountains and Indian villages, all of which are described in detail (about 2 pages long per topic ) you’d think I picked up a travel guide on how to navigate the terrains of India or something, you honestly could convince me that there’s more information in this book about Indian than that of Wikipedia 🙂
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for KatLynne.
547 reviews553 followers
August 28, 2013
4.5 Stars

”You were the moon of my existence; your moods dictated the tides of my heart.” ...Sherry Thomas

Not Quite A Husband is a brilliantly crafted, deeply emotional love story. It’s an engaging tale of betrayal, forgiveness, and finding the courage to trust again. And It's one of the BEST HR I've had the pleasure of reading.

The book opens with a prologue told from the heroine’s POV, giving small details of the wretched condition of her short marriage to Leo Marsden; how it came about and the many feelings it evoked. In order to find out what led to their ultimate demise, the reader is taken on one of the most touching, appealing, and rewarding journeys I’ve read.

Bryony Asquith is a very smart young woman and becomes one of the few women surgeons of her time. She’s quiet and only popular in very limited circles as most of Society disapproved of her profession. At first glance she appears cold and unfeeling, but a closer glimpse soon reveals a young lady who bottles up her emotions in order to survive the heartache of rejection and a lifetime of loneliness. Bryony’s many character flaws stem from betrayal on many levels. Watching her grow, mature and change is a highlight of this story.

Quentin Leonidas Marsden, better known as Leo, is four years younger, handsome, charismatic and a mathematical prodigy. Opposite of Bryony, he’s very popular, witty and in much demand.

“From the very beginning they were considered an unlikely pair.” But Leo has always secretly loved Bryony. He doesn’t understand what went wrong with their marriage. Unfortunately, he soon will discover how choices made can alter lives, and in a most devastating way.

There’s beauty in Sherry Thomas’ writing. A proficient wordsmith, she captures the reader’s attention with clever dialogue and her descriptive narrative includes rich, historical details adding even more pleasure.

A big Thank You to my good friend, Jilly, who recommended this:). I loved it and it's now on my keeper shelf!
Profile Image for Joanna Loves Reading.
559 reviews214 followers
February 6, 2022
This was my second time reading, and it was a much different experience this second time around. I have always thought of this book as an emotional ride, and it is that. However, aspects that I had trouble buying into previously really won me over this time. I am sure there is some explanation in the difference of listening (what I did the first time) and reading (what I did this time). But, I think the biggest difference is that it was the second time. I was looking for signs early on that I didn’t know to look for before, and the signs were frequent, though nuanced and layered.

This point is what gets me:

He FOLLOWS her around the globe from a safe distance to be there if she NEEDS him. This is after they had severed ties.

I wanted to note that most of this book takes place in present-day Pakistan. The locales are well described and evocative.

I would like to write more on this but it’s a tough one. I also can say I totally get why this does not work for some.

Thanks Sam for the buddy read! It was a really good one to dissect.
Profile Image for Quinn.
681 reviews60 followers
January 3, 2011
Sherry Thomas is an extraordinarily talented author. Her prose is letter perfect, and her study of a fractured relationship is second to none. She is a master of the slow-reveal, feeding the reader the pieces of the puzzle with a brilliant sense of timing, steadily drawing the reader in, engaging their emotions exquisitely and placing them firmly and personally within the hidden, private depths of a broken marriage.

In Not Quite a Husband, Sherry will lead you to question your notions of right and wrong, and show you that sometimes there is no clear answer or even purpose to assigning blame.

How do you move forward, when, having long believed yourself the victim, you discover that the failure of your marriage could more accurately be placed upon your shoulders? That you can no longer claim the high ground? When your behaviours prove more abhorrent than that one misdeed of his? When you finally, finally realise what you never knew you had and were too blind to see?

She had a sudden vision of herself as a wizened old physician, her hands too arthritic to wield a scalpel, her eyes too rheumy to diagnose anything except measles and chicken pox. The wizened old physician would very much like to drink tea next to her wizened old professor, chuckle over the passionate follies of their distant youth, and then go for a walk along the river Cam, holding his paper-dry liver-spotted hand.

How ironic that when they’d been married, she’d never thought of growing old with him. Yet now, years after the annulment, she should think of it with the yearning of an exile, for the homeland that had long ago evicted her.

What if you made one stupid mistake, and it cost you everything you hold dear, your very future? If there was nothing you could ever do to make it right, no way to repair the damage? If you were forever destined to live your life as a shadow, trapped in the wanting of what you can never have?

Amazing what a man thought of, looking at a fully clothed woman who did nothing more provocative than sipping her tea while gazing thoughtfully into the distance.

For the thousandth time he wished he’d just met her. That they were but two strangers traveling together, that such lovely, filthy thoughts did not break him in two, but were only a pleasant pastime as he slowly fell under the spell of her aloof beauty and her hidden intensity.

There were so many stories he could tell her, so many ways to draw her out of her shell. He would have waited with baited breath for her first smile, for the sound of her first laughter. He would be endlessly curious about her, eager to undress her metaphorically as well as physically.

The first holding of hands. The first kiss. The first time he saw her unclothed. The first time they became one.

The first time they finished each other’s sentences.

But no, they’d met long ago, in the furthest years of his childhood. Their chances had come and gone. All they had ahead of them were a tedious road and a final good-bye.

And what then, when you discover this truth? That the carnage of your life, the years of torture and heartache, the loss of your dreams and future, all of this could all have been saved by the simple act of honesty and communication. Would you then be forced to live with the regret, which must surely be more powerful and devastating than all that has come before?

Neither Bryony Asquith nor Leo Marsden are as they first appear. The author gradually provides the reader with both Leo and Bryony’s perspectives on their disastrous marriage and the years since the annulment, along with details of their respective lives before they met. Thus you come to learn about the characters and understand their behaviour.

Not Quite a Husband is an extremely poignant and moving tale, plumbing the depths of emotions with heartbreaking insight and hindsight. Set against the majestic backdrop of India in rebellion, this book, along with the extraordinary Private Arrangements are must-reads for any lover of complex - and at times dark - historical romance.
Profile Image for Jac K.
1,923 reviews193 followers
January 29, 2022
I found this book awful. The plot-Hero and heroine get married. Immediately after h turns frigid and wants nothing to do with H. We don’t find out why for several chapters. h can’t take it anymore so she ask H to lie about consummating and have marriage annulled. Hero tracks her down 3 years later...blah blah blah

I had several issues for not liking the book. I thought the plot was absolutely boring. I thought the H and h were incredibly boring. They played chess in detail.the sexy time wasn’t sexy at all. We had sleep rape, and titillating description of oral sex and hand jobs. “He grunted with the testes-jolting heat of it” And her detailed description and explanation of her vast medical knowledge of the penis.

I��m very proud that I skimmed to the end and finish this.
Profile Image for Jan.
859 reviews161 followers
September 11, 2022
Another intense and emotional read from Sherry Thomas. It's set in the very late nineteenth century, not a time period many HRs are set in, comparatively speaking.

Bryony and Leo fall in love pretty quickly, and when they decide to marry, they believe everything will be wonderful and they will live happily ever after. But of course, life's not always like that.......

Right from the start of their marriage, things are awry. Bryony suddenly seems cold and frigid, and they are unable to communicate with each other. Neither understands the other. In quite a short time, the marriage is annulled and they go their separate ways.

The story jumps forward in time to several years later when the two of them meet again, but this time in the most exotic of settings. The story has moved from London to a far corner of northern India, a remote and rugged area. Leo, who was already in India (in another area), has come to bring Bryony back to England, as her father is very ill. The two of them set off on a journey through the wild countryside, accompanied by a group of Indians who assist them on their travels. Along the way they get caught up in a local war, and are trapped for some time in the midst of an extraordinary battle. In the face of isolation and the dangers around them, Bryony and Leo find their 'masks' are stripped away, and they finally begin to really communicate with each other. Still in love with each other, they finally peel back the layers and the misunderstandings surrounding their short marriage.

This is a fascinating and lovely story. The setting is fabulous - interesting and well-depicted. The stormy relationship between Leo and Bryony just carries you along. Slowly you start to understand them and see what went wrong with their marriage, as they reveal their truths to each other. And you feel their pain and anguish. And their love.

I like the intensity of Sherry Thomas' books. There is always a depth to her characters. These MCs are a professor of mathematics (Leo) and a surgeon (Bryony), both highly intelligent on one level, but both struggling with their ability to understand and express their emotions. So when they do really connect with each other, the payoff for the reader is very satisfying. An enjoyable read.

BOTM for HRBC September 2022 - Second Chance trope
Profile Image for Beanbag Love.
565 reviews246 followers
April 24, 2011
The main two reasons I bought this book were the good reviews and it wasn't an anti-free market price fix by one of the greedy publishers that have become my arch nemeses. After a few chapters, however, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into.

The first part of the book is very staid. A married couple who simply can't communicate. A heroine you want to drop off a cliff she's so bitter and hurtful. It takes a tad too long to find out why she behaves the way she does. I really had developed a strong hatred of her by the time of the reveal so I wasn't completely moved by the cause. Thankfully, the author is adept at giving both characters a heavy dose of soul searching and a situation where they can't do anything but finally talk to each other candidly.

This is a real "Can This Marriage be Saved?" storyline and I really wondered how/if it would work. But it did, and beautifully. About halfway through, the relations began to thaw and I started to believe the chemistry. By the end of the book I was enthralled and I have to say I really loved it. Those first chapters are extremely rough, though, and they cost the book a full star.

This book didn't make me LOL, but it did make me smile and it also made me cry. There's a lot to like here and it's a unique (for historical romance) time frame and setting -- turn of the 19th to 20th century in India. The book is all about these two, though. No real subplots going on, but I didn't really miss that. I look forward to reading the rest of this author's short backlist and grabbing up whatever she comes up with next.
Profile Image for seton.
713 reviews287 followers
May 20, 2009
Sherry Thomas pretty much writes my favorite type of romance -- an angsty read written in elegant concise prose -- so this book suited me to a T.

Some parts - reunited married couple working out their past against an exotic backdrop - reminded me of Mary Jo Putney's SILK AND SECRETS. The part of the hero, Leo, being fascinated/in love with the older heroine all his life reminded me of a bit of Jude Deveraux's THE INVITATION. I am just glad that the heroine Bryony NEVER baby-sat Leo and changed his diapers. That would have killed the romance for me and would have been a point of no return. And as always, there are touches that remind me of Judith Ivory (probably ST's favorite author), especially of Ivory's own older woman/younger man romance SLEEPING BEAUTY.

Reading the book, it really brought home to me that ST is one of the best at depicting the bittersweet yearning of people unsure in love. She knows how to heighten the agony of the moment so that it's pungent and sweet like the first taste of the ripest fruit, a moment not soon to be forgotten. To my mind, not many writers can do that as well as I would like.

But as I wiped my tears after I closed the books, I had a few quibbles and those niggles ultimately leads me to grade this as a B+ Read.

First of all, there is the controversal heroine, Bryony. She is antisocial, very intelligent, tightly wound, and such an emotional coward that she acts like a stone cold beeyotch through the first half of the book. Intellectually, I might have understood her but emotionally, I never warmed to her.

Second, altho it was not a big deal, I would have liked a line as to why Bryony thought she couldn't have children. It was never explained as to whether this was a physical reality or an emotional decision. WTH?

Third, the majority of the book is set during an uprising in northwest British India and all the descriptions of the local color with all them fur-reine words made my eyes glaze. This was definitely not ST's strongpoint.

Fourth, NQAH is related to ST's previous book in that Leo is the brother of the secondary hero in DELICIOUS. Leo is one of five brothers and the way ST casually throws out the names of the brothers as well as other characters from DELICIOUS is a little jarring, even for someone like me who had read DELICIOUS. Probably because it's been a while since I read it. NQAH could be read stand alone but just be aware of the name throwing.

But ultimately, these are minor quibbles. I am mostly forlorn that I will probably have to wait till next year for ST's next book to come out. Sigh. ST, please write faster.

More detailed joint discussion of this book with full spoilers on my blog:
Profile Image for Ursula.
584 reviews137 followers
September 26, 2017
Whoar- this book. It's been a long time that a book brought a tear to my eye. More than once. From desperate sadness to sweet joy.

Started this book about 6 months ago and hated the beginning, so left it to languish on my unread shelf. After chatting with my GR friend Christina, who is an ST fan, I thought I would try again. (I had read The Luckiest Lady in London some time ago and was very conflicted, so I was rather cautious about trying her again.)
I am so glad I did.

I am not going to re-hash the plot. I have to say that the historical background and phenomenally rich detail of the situation in India at the end of the nineteenth century, coupled with the fascinating insight into the progress of medicine (the heroine was a doctor, and had to study in Europe because England was still behind with regard to women at university) absolutely enriched the emotional and dramatic elements of the story. My God, that ST does her research!

But it is very much the story of a relationship, a marriage, and how two people claw their way back to find the love they always had for one another. It is a story about betrayal, yes, but also about abject remorse, about forgiveness and redemption.

To understand the two MCs, Bryony and Leo, takes time. Gradually, the layers are stripped away, their history is revealed, even as the shock betrayal, with its bitter fallout, makes your heart ache. Bryony is a fabulous heroine: lovely, fiercely intelligent, successful and passionate about her work. But childhood experiences have caused her to believe she is unlovable and she runs away from emotional problems rather than tackling them. Leo is a wonderful hero: brilliant mathematician, handsome and successful, but, ironically, lacking confidence where Bryony is concerned. He does NOT run away and fights for their marriage, never knowing the real reason for its failure.

If you like some depth to your HR, if you appreciate that a successful marriage requires trust and faith and will not be easy, if you love a rich and colourful historical context for your romances and if you are prepared to let yourself be put through the emotional wringer before the ultimately satisfying conclusion, this book is for you:)
Profile Image for Preeti ♥︎ Her Bookshelves.
1,266 reviews20 followers
November 8, 2016

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and I’m glad I did. The prose was beautiful and elegant, and the tone was so different – whimsical and at times almost lyrical.

The prologue gives us a view of a marriage gone sour within a year of marriage and the h’s decision to get a divorce/annulment. The quiet, reserved h is unutterably desolate and heartbroken, while the debonair and dashing H is out (presumably) painting the town red.
She’s older to him and amazingly a doctor in the early 20th century, while he’s a mathematician, writer and dramatist, when he’s not gracing parties and soirees with his charm, wit and exceptional good looks. There could not be two people so different and opposite to each other, but were they really?

Then it opens 4 years later when the H tracks his errant ex-wife in the Himalayas to bring her back on the request of her sister, as their father is extremely sick. They taunt and swipe at each other but she agrees to go back with him. They endure a tough journey through the western Himalayas in British India and face disease, raids and mutiny before they find their path to the planes, to each other’s hearts, the truth about the past (distant and even more distant) and redemption.
It’s an extremely sweet/bittersweet story.
The H just digs and burrows a way to the heart like no other as the story rolls on. Him being younger, and the childhood connect was awfully sweet and endearing. His love shines out more strongly and steadfastly, even as he starts out as the wrong vs the wronged one. I wont say more, it’s better to read for yourself.

I had a few problems with the h, even though her seemingly hopeless love and despair in the prologue broke my heart. She seems like someone who loves deeply and profoundly but with a quiet silent passion. Later in the book, the author reveals her obstinate and unforgiving side (and even touches fleetingly on a superficial, vain side). But then that was part of the story.
What I found somewhat unbelievable was her sudden unraveling and transformation to an unsure, clingy woman. Also her almost complete wastage of an education/expertise she had longed and fought hard for. She doesn’t seem to be doing any serious ‘doctoring’ when she escapes from one place to the other during her vagabond wanderings. Even her stint during the raid seemed reluctant to me, and she was shown as extremely relieved when the army doctor comes in and she gives him the charge and leaves instantly.
I would think she would turn to helping and serving the lesser fortunate ones to get over her past and pain.

As for the extensive details about undivided British India, its geography, the people and the empire’s workings, it was impressive and impressively correct, if more than a little overwhelming and distracting! But as an Indian, I have to say that it’s the very first fiction I’ve read where the details and the names have not made me cringe. The Punjabis, the Pathans, and the Bengalis have all got correct names. Many times I’ve read Muslim characters with Hindu names and vive versa, or with strange mixed up versions that leaves you scratching your head!

ETA - One thing left unexplained imo was
Profile Image for Jane Stewart.
2,462 reviews831 followers
February 11, 2014
I did not like it. I wanted it to be over.

Leo did one stupid thing which Bryony saw. She assumed he did it all the time which was not true. And then she was cold and frigid to him but never told him why. She had their brief marriage annulled. She then ran away to a remote area of India to practice medicine. Four years later her father is ill. So Leo travels to India to tell her and bring her back to England to see her father. Leo has always loved Bryony and does not understand why she is cold to him. Bryony refuses to tell him and to forgive him.

I prefer stories where two people meet, gradually get to like and know each other, and are together at the end. In this story we skip all that. It starts after they break up. And it’s all about their angst and hurt and not forgiving. Finally after she tells him what he did and he tells her what she did not know, they apologize and then they are together. But for most of the book, it’s reliving past hurts and pain. This was not a fun story. I was bored. I did not care about her.

As they traveled, she wanted to hurry up and get away from him, so she insisted on something really stupid, which resulted in something bad. She was also stupid in the beginning when she discovered Leo’s stupid thing.

The couple traveled through India during the Swat Valley Uprising - Indians rebelling against British rule. I believe the author was being historically accurate with her descriptions. But for me, the descriptions did not make the story better.

There are nonviolent rape scenes which might bother some readers. I was not bothered. When they were married and Bryony was being frigid, Leo came to her when she was asleep and had sex with her. Her body enjoyed the experience, but not her mind. So she began locking her bedroom door. In India, Bryony came to Leo’s bed while he was asleep and had sex with him. He would not have turned her down if he was awake, but her reasons were angst-type reasons.

Narrative mode: 3rd person. Story length: 341 pages. Swearing language: the f word once or twice. Sexual language: moderate to strong. Number of sex scenes: 13, most were short scenes. Setting: 1893 and 1897 England and India. Copyright: 2009. Genre: historical romance.
Profile Image for Wendy.
269 reviews125 followers
June 24, 2019
This was my second Sherry Thomas book and I became a firm fan of this author who has a very real and deep understanding of the complexity of the human psyche.

On the face of it, Leo Marsden and Bryony Asquith are a most unlikely pair; he an Adonis, beautiful, popular, outgoing, and a favourite with his family and peers alike; she cold, aloof, serious, a confirmed spinster by choice, and wedded to her work until she meets Leo. The two have been acquainted from childhood, although Bryony is four years his senior and barely noticed the child on the adjoining estate. He, on the other hand, has always been aware of Bryony, secretly watching and admiring the silent, withdrawn girl from afar; infatuated even before he knows the meaning of the word.

It is not until Bryony comes across Leo socially in London that she becomes aware of the incredible young man he has become. She is now twenty-eight years old, unmarried and still an innocent, although in every other way she is anything but, being a surgeon and physician of some repute and a well-respected woman in a man's profession and world. At twenty-four, Leo has some remarkable achievements under his belt - a brilliant mathematician, an expedition to Greenland, and even a published and performed play. He is popular, well-loved and the darling of everyone who knows him. Bryony finds herself completely smitten and follows him around London while he gives intellectual lectures on subjects about which she knows little - happy to just gaze at him and listen to his voice.

Eventually, he becomes aware of her once more and his own infatuation is rekindled. This time, with the passing of years, they are on a more equal footing. So smitten is Bryony that it is she who does the chasing and eventually, in her forthright way, proposes marriage. A lady of black and white with no grey areas, not capable of any sort of subterfuge herself, she does not allow for any sort of human flaws in the object of her complete devotion; therein lies her downfall - put someone on a pedestal and they are likely to topple.

From the moment of their marriage, even during the ceremony, they are on a downward track. Leo is at a loss; he tries his hardest to make her happy and cannot understand why she eventually denies him her bed, having only just tolerated his advances. The locking of her door against him is the final blow in their brief, tumultuous marriage and Bryony makes the decision to ask Leo for an annulment and he agrees.

Bryony flees the country, eventually ending up in the far reaches of India. After three years, Leo appears after a long trek, to summon her back to London as her father is ill and Bryony's sister, Calista, has persuaded Leo to find and bring her home. It is during the journey back to England, with a series of enlightening flashbacks, that the story begins to emerge. It is obvious that Leo and Bryony have never stopped loving each other, but the 'problem' which becomes apparent and is the reason for Bryony's sudden change and appalling treatment of Leo, appears insurmountable, I really did not see it coming.

After fleeing a marauding mob, they eventually reach the relative safety of a British fort and land bang in the middle of large-scale tribal unrest against the British, initiated by the Pathan tribesmen along the North-West Frontier of India. Here Bryony's skills as a surgeon and Leo's talent with a firearm are much needed. In the terrible days that follow they become closer and begin to put their differences behind them, although the trust on both sides is a different matter.

At the start, it is hard to like Bryony as she is so cold, withdrawn and unforgiving, but, as her own story emerges, my sympathy for her grew. While I didn't agree with her attitude and actions towards the thoroughly delectable Leo, I did understand. But if she had not behaved the way she did, we wouldn't have the story, and the story is beautiful, angsty, compelling and utterly romantic.

Sherry Thomas writes in a unique and unusual way. I love her flashback method of telling the story from each point of view, drip feeding the reader and slowly, layer by layer, revealing the reasons and emotions behind Bryony and Leo's actions. Watching Bryony and Leo rekindling the love that neither had ever lost for the other and, more importantly, regaining the trust necessary for their healing process to begin was so emotionally rewarding.

MY VERDICT: It is a lovely moment when one discovers a writer so in tune with one’s own taste and Ms. Thomas is a talented writer with a unique style that really appeals to me. With a writer of such calibre, I can overlook a few modern slips.
Profile Image for Pepa.
922 reviews228 followers
September 20, 2019
Reseña completa: https://masromance.blogspot.com/2019/...

Una lectura intensa entre dos personajes no del todo usuales dentro de la histórica. Parte de un matrimonio roto y, a través de un viaje lleno de aventuras emplazado en una zona del actual Pakistán, se desvelarán los motivos de dicha ruptura y usando el sexo como un personaje más, la autora nos retratará la evolución, aceptación y el perdón que motivará su reconciliación
No es una novela al uso, hay escenas que pueden chocar y la autora es, ante todo, parca en palabras, aunque las dichas son cruciales, y muy concisa.
Es una novela que me ha gustado mucho, mi único pero es que encuentro que los motivos de Leo quedan algo desdibujados.
Es de esas novelas que sé que releeré, porque seguro que mejorará
Profile Image for Lisa (Remarkablylisa).
2,209 reviews1,800 followers
June 14, 2020
I was just so bored???? So many things were happening but it was very event driven more than character couple driven.
Profile Image for Verity.
278 reviews232 followers
January 18, 2010
*~o~/*o*\~o~* Beware of SPOILERS *~o~/*o*\~o~*

Initially, I didn't think this book would be a page turner. I’m a quirky reader. I usually read the beginning & the ending first, ‘cuz I can’t stand the suspense =)~. I read the 1st 40 pages & the Epilogue, both didn't really grab me, so I switched to another book. Boy, was I wrong. I ended up loving & savoring ST’s luminous prose. Older heroine / younger hero is 1 of my fav themes.

The perilous journey of 2 people ( in love yet disillusioned w/ each other) is sprinkled w/ heart-pounding action, terror & heartache. When death is just around the corner, Bryony & Leo begin to re-think & re-evaluate their past, present & future. What could / would / might have been, if only they'd opened up to each other ? What happened between their engagement & their disastrous marriage ? Is it possible to forgive & forget, to pick up the splintered ruins of their marriage & make it whole again, stronger than before ? Where did they go wrong ? Revelation upon revelation, as they gradually have their long-overdue, heart-to-heart TALK, they discover how much they’ve hurt & failed each other. Bryony finally opens her eyes a li'l too late, how much she'd taken Leo for granted, by not appreciating his efforts during their brief marriage, how well he'd taken care of her, the lengths he’d gone to, in making sure their household ran smoothly like a well-oiled machine. I sympathized w/ both Leo & Bryony. Her sad, lonely, affection-deprived childhood had shaped the woman that she was. Both of them were unable to convey how they really felt to each other. When Bryony made a painful & shocking discovery by being @ the wrong place, @ the wrong time in her line of duty, predictably, she chose to retreat further into her impenetrable shell. Her vanity, blind adoration & determination to possess the unattainable, proved to be the downfall of her marriage. She’d gambled & lost. She over-estimated her ability to close that chapter of her life. Her unwillingness to lay it out in the open made it almost impossible for her to revel in wedded bliss. Something that Leo said during a chance encounter made her see the light, that she’d been blind in her desperation to cling on to the 1 thing that she loved the most. Upon her request for an annulment, Leo decided that she was not worth it. He could not stay away from her tho’. He still keeps tabs on her whereabouts & manages to stay in the same country, just in case anything happens to her, she wouldn’t have to cross the ocean to seek help.

During their reunion, Leo realized the enormity of his guilt, of reducing her into this travelling physician. He’s remorseful of how he’d utterly failed. Can they ever put their trust in each other again ? Marriage won’t always be a bed of roses. Love is not always enough. Will they have the fortitude to withstand the impact if their love’s put to the test ? Can they learn from past mistakes & compromise ? ST explored in depth, all the possibilities of rebuilding their shattered dreams & the fragility of love & human nature.

I thought ST must've overlooked Bryony's barrenness, as I reached the end & there’s no explanation whatsoever. As a confounded reader, I was left to conclude on my own that, since Bryony is a top-notch physician & knows human disease better than anybody else, she must’ve self-diagnosed based on her symptoms (irregular periods), that the possibility of her having kids is minuscule. I got foggy-eyed a li’l bit when Bryony made her peace w/ her dying father. There are moments that clench my heartstring. The epilogue was not really aaawww-worthy (I’m a sucker for HEA w/ kids), but I was spellbound by the rich historical texture & well-crafted characters =^P

My fav phrase of the book :
“Sometimes limbs must be re-broken to set properly, her heart too needed to shatter anew before it could truly heal.”
Profile Image for Zoe.
763 reviews171 followers
March 3, 2016
I struggled with my finally rating. I really had to think about it. First thing first, this isn't and probably never will be a review of a book, but rather a self-reflection.

There are a few things that I did not quite appreciate in the book. For example, I am not certain that the pull between Leo and Bryony (I hate this name) is as strong as it should have been. With such heavyweight material, I did not buy that Leo and Bryony really wanted to be together. This is naturally just my personal view.

I however, for one, recognize what the author was writing about. When I read Betrayed by Your Kiss by Laura Landon, I was painfully reminded of how one could be controlled by pride. Reading Silk and Secrets by Mary Jo Putney, I recalled acutely how desperation drives people to the brink and stop giving a damn. Reading this book by Sherry Thomas, I realized that inability to forgive sometimes results in the greatest regrets in life.

I do however, have a question: is there really such a thing as in "I cannot be your friend."?

I have always refused to believe that. I cannot comprehend it. How can you not want to be friends with someone you loved? To wish them well, to see that you both find your way to happiness, albeit not together. The notion escapes me. I would find great solace, in hearing him telling me that he has found peace.
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