It's not a very big book, and I had it read in two shakes of a lamb's tail.
This book is just as engrossing, just as compelling, as the first one.
The first book focused on Lady Mary Rose Ashley, who fell madly in love with Gabriel MacKay aboard an America-bound ship. They married and were converted to Mormonism.
How would you like it if you married someone, both of you deeply in love, planning to spend the rest of your lives together--and your husband decided to add another wife to the mix?
This is what happened to Mary Rose in Book One, and the pain and devastation were made worse by the fact that Wife Number 2 was her very best friend.
Book 2 is mainly from the viewpoint of Wife Number 2, Bronwyn. At first, I didn't like this. But it's to Diane Noble's credit that I came around to understanding and even liking Bronwyn.
Now, there's a third wife in the mix--Enid, who was Gabriel's teen-aged sweetheart. Enid is determined to supplant both Mary Rose and Bronwyn in wifely status and in Gabriel's heart.
Along with the very real problems of three women married to one man, matters heat up to a dangerous degree for the Latter Day Saints.
Bronwyn and Mary Rose are appalled by the increasing practice of marrying off very young girls to very old men, as well as the Saints' new creed of "blood atonement"...literally killing people they consider apostates, or people opposed to Mormon doctrine.
It becomes clear that in order to save their combined family from danger--and because they are both now repudiating objectionable Mormon doctrines, thus targeting themselves as apostate--they have to make plans to flee.
Gabriel makes me mad
I've got to admit, I can't bring myself to like Gabriel very much.
Although he does it all in the name of his understanding of God's will, it's got to be a pretty cushy gig for a man to keep adding beautiful women to his harem.
These books further illustrate the fact that, although it may be cool for the man, women were simply not created to share a man. A woman needs to know that she alone is the focus of her husband's love and devotion. I cannot, under any conceivable circumstances, imagine sharing my husband with another woman!
Noble refrains from any blanket condemnation of the Latter Day Saints, but she doesn't stint on depicting the faults and excesses of some of the early Mormon hierarchy. That would probably be difficult for a modern-day Mormon to read.
But this book was compelling and absorbing from start to finish--one of the best I've read all year.
I haven't heard if there's going to be a Book 3, but I certainly so! I believe the stories of Gabriel and his wives still have a lot to be told.
I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!