Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.
She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.
But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?
Amanda Prowse is an author at the top of her game, head and shoulders above all the rest and from the frequency and calibre of her books this is a position she firmly intends to uphold for quite some time. My Husband's Wife is her 11th full length novel as well as the four short stories she has written and comes hot on the heels of her previous release from the beginning of the year - Another Love which showcased what an incredible talent Amanda is and why her books deserve all the acclaim they regularly receive. It proved to be a powerful, emotional, heart wrenching read that I know will be one of my top books of 2016. In fact it's the only book I have given five stars to this year and we are already at the midway point. Amanda never shys away from tackling issues that other authors wouldn't have the conviction to even touch. Her characters and plots are realistic and true to live and really anyone could find themselves in the situations faced by her characters. The reader is always quickly deeply absorbed in what the main character is facing at that time in their life. You may not always approve of what is going on or how the characters respond to situations but Amanda is an expert at providing a balanced, well presented view to all sides of the story. Her writing will make you laugh, cry, shout and scream and you will be left more often than not an emotional wreck but yet deeply satisfied that you have read such an outstanding book.
So what of this new release in the No Greater Courage series (all stand alone reads but obviously connected through the courage and tenacity displayed by the main characters) - My Husband's Wife? Can it or rather does it live up to the previous work of Amanda Prowse? Well the tagline on the front cover once gain proves interesting and I was keen to discover the answer to my question. 'She was a devoted wife and mother. Then her husband and children left home. How do you rebuild your life if there's nothing left?'. I'm neither a wife nor a mother so it's testament to the superb writing of the author that I could immerse myself so easily in the story of Rosie and feel her pain and anguish as she asks what is there really left in my life now that everything I have held so dear and nurtured has been taken away from me? She is left alone to battle through a myriad of emotions and feelings in an attempt to somehow pick up the pieces and move on but this is the hardest thing to do especially when it seems as if all those around you have abandoned you and left you to your own devices taking the side of the man whom you once called your husband and the father of your children your everything?
Rosie Tipcott lives in Woolcombe, North Devon with her husband Phil and adorable children Naomi and Leona who steal every scene they are in and provide light relief with their humour and innocence when needed the most throughout the book. Rosie is happy in her marriage and believes Phil is too. Yes they have the regular ups and downs like any couple married for a number of years and juggling children and work and financial matters but Rosie thinks her world is complete and Phil accepts her for who she is. Rosie wants the best for her little family particularly as her own home situation when she was younger wasn't what she had hoped or dreamed it could be. Her mother walked out when Rosie was very young and she has had no contact with her. Rosie believes her dad drove her mum away and although he did his best the nurturing instinct of a mother was all she ever longed for. Even after all these years Rosie is still questioning what caused her mum to leave? Rosie works on a caravan site with her friend Mel and although the work is not the most testing or inspiring it's enough to have some extra money coming in even though Phil works as a builder with his father.
Amanda did a brilliant job of setting up the cosy domestic scene of a family happily muddling along through life before landing us with the major shocker that Rosie least of all ever expected to happen to her. 'She was happy. This was all she needed, a squidgy sofa, a cup of tea, a stick of shortbread, crap telly and the promise of an early night with the man she loved. I'm a lucky woman'. Over time Rosie starts to notice Phil is not himself, he is becoming more distant and aloof, not as friendly or willing to engage and laugh over the antics of the kids. The beginnings of fear and doubt begin to creep in and soon the rug is pulled from under her, all that she has known her security, her safety net is gone as Phil announces he is leaving and won't be back. He is not happy. God I wish sometimes that men wouldn't just say they're not happy, why couldn't they work on finding their happiness instead of running off with the first woman who shows the slightest hint of interest? In this case Geraldine a successful businesswoman who Phil just happens to be working on her house renovations. The reader can't help but feel pity for Rosie and her 'tsunami of grief' (isn't that just the most brilliant and apt description?) as this revelation has come from nowhere. How can she contemplate life without the man who has always been by her side through the good times and bad. Now she will have to weather the toughest of times single handedly. 'Every task she undertook, every decision she made had him at the heart of it and try as she might, she couldn't conceive of a life where this would not be the case'. I suppose this is really the crux of the book how to find the courage and strength to move forward when you never even wanted the change in the first place or realised it was about to unfold.
It was sad to see Rosie begging Phil to stay. I acknowledge her world has changed irreparably and that the man she trusted and loved with all her being is leaving but if she can weather the storm the future may be brighter on the other side. 'Her thoughts were jumbled. Her grief sat like heaped spaghetti in her brain, strangling all rational coherent thought'. As the story unfolds the reader feels the sadness, despair and loneliness emanating from Rosie as her support system too falls away. I thought her parents-in-law seemed to switch allegiances pretty quickly and only for Kev (Phil's brother) offering some solace she would have been forgotten about as Geraldine's reach becomes ever more entrenched on both Phil and the girls. It just seemed so unjust at everything that was unfolding and my heart was breaking for Rosie.
The blurb does suggest that Phil takes the children and I kept waiting for this to occur (not that I was looking forward to it or would relish a mother losing her children) as I thought this would happen instantly. Yes it happens in a way but the blurb suggests they were taken as soon as the revelation came to light. That's not exactly what unfolded, more so that manipulation came into play and I did feel for Rosie but wished she put up more of a fight. She seemed to let everything go without proper resistance and Mel didn't appear much of a support system to her either. I suppose Rosie's own childhood and how she feels about the past slightly affected how she dealt with the present. I was rooting for a happy outcome for her but at times she was frustrating and I know strength has to come from inside but she did need a bit of a shake once or twice.
My Husband's Wife is another excellent read from Amanda Prowse although in my opinion it didn't top Another Love which left me with such a book hangover and so emotionally drained after the powerful punch it packed. I was expecting just that little bit more from this read and felt the ending was slightly rushed considering all the excellent writing, character development and scenes that were there for the vast majority of the book. Naomi and Leona were fantastic throughout and they made the reader even more aware of what Rosie was experiencing, where as Phil just came across as selfish and a man who had only being dying to play away from home. I did hope that Rosie would find fulfillment and come out stronger than the person who wept to see Phil go but the very ending in my mind just happened far too quickly and conveniently and it was all wrapped up a bit too neatly. Saying all that, that was really my only minor problem with the book and this is still another fantastic piece of work from an author whose stories I only discovered last year but have grown to love and with each new book I can never wait to see what issue she will tackle next.
This book would be a great introduction to the work of Amanda Prowse it will have you hooked to her writing style. I would say she is comparable to Jodi Picoult without the courtroom drama element present in her earlier books. Amanda's writing is hard hitting and thought provoking just what you want from a good read. Luckily for us fans there are two more books to come from Amanda later this year - I Won't Be Home for Christmas and The Food of Love - you really can't say she doesn't keep her fans happy.
Many thanks to Simeon Prowse and Head of Zeus for my copy of My Husband's Wife to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.