The Secret Wife
By Steve Robinson
Published in 2020
Cornwall, 1844. Rosen Trevelyan is happily married to Richard and the mother of six-year-old Sophia, until a house fire claims Sophia’s life. Or so she thinks. Rosen wakes locked in a room, held prisoner by her husband and mother-in-law, Mariah. Soon after she’s confined, Richard arrives home with a new wife, Grace, hoping his newly-betrothed will provide him with the heir that Rosen couldn’t. As Rosen withers away in an attic, Grace becomes increasingly suspicious of Richard’s conduct. Why won’t he let her leave the estate? Why won’t he invite anyone to stay? And why is Mariah so protective of her privacy in the carriage house? I’d add my own question here – why is Sophia, who is (surprise!) not dead, so creepy?
I’ve spent a good bit of time trying to figure out how to review this book without being snarky but dammit, it’s my blog and I’d have to completely skip the review otherwise.
This was a Kindle Unlimited book with a great premise, touted as Room meets Rebecca. I should have stopped right there because nothing in this book lived up to my expectations and the blurb is the best part. The kindest thing I can say is that the story brings nothing new to the “crazy woman in the attic” plot. The characters are flat, the plot points totally anticipated, and none of the character’s motivations are fleshed out. There’s no emotion, action, or tension and honestly, I only kept reading because I thought that at some point, it had to get better. It didn’t.
Since both Amazon and Goodreads has this book rated at or slightly above four stars, I’ll provide a few details. Because those ratings left me gobsmacked.
Both female protagonists, Rosen and Grace, are TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). Harsh? Possibly, but substantiated. When Rosen meekly confronts Mariah as to why she’s being confined, she learns it’s because she wasn’t a good wife by failing to provide a male heir. What’s her thought process? She doesn’t get pissed, rail, or try to find a way out of her predicament. She asks if she was really a bad wife. There’s no emotion other than that. Not even grief that her daughter was, presumably, dead. I don’t care that this was set in 1844, that revelation called for more than a tepid “Oh, okay.”
Near the end of the book, Grace finds the bodies of Richard’s step-brother and her maid on the roof. She’d been told both of them had simply up and left the manor. At her maid’s abrupt departure, she hardly uttered a “boo” to her husband for dismissing her life-long maid and friend, although she thought about how mad she was. Grace thought about her emotions a lot, but never acted on them, preferring to run to her room and avoid everyone. Back to the dead bodies scene. Grace hides behind a chimney when Richard and Mariah arrive on the roof and conveniently have a conversation about burying the bodies, during which Richard mentions Grace “prattling on” about a planned garden. Grace’s takeaway? She’s much more upset that Richard insulted her than finding out she married into a family of murderers. I rolled my eyes too.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I suggest skipping this one. Maybe the author’s other books are wonderful, but I’ll never know because I’m not planning on reading any of them. Or maybe you’ll pick this up and like it. It wouldn’t be the first time I went against popular opinion. And it likely won’t be the last.
I nearly broke my own “I don’t give 1 star reviews” rule on this book but in the end, just to be kind, I gave it 1.5 stars and rounded up to 2 on Goodreads.
Until next time, thanks for visiting.
My rating system:
5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.
4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.
3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.
2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.
What is the essence of the art of writing? Part One: Have something to say. Part Two: Say it well.Edward Abbey