The Stolen marriage by Diane Chamberlain:
I've read many of the books by this author and am never disappointed. The stolen marriage is just the perfect romantic read to curl up with.
It take us back to the 1940s in Southern America, where we meet Tess DeMello an Italian American girl who has her life all mapped out, engaged to be married to the lover of her life boy next door Vincent, bound by their family ties, background and plans to work together in a medical practise as he is a fledgling doctor and she a trainee nurse.
But Vincent is called away to work in far away Chicago where he is needed to help treat victims of the outbreak of polio.
Tess's best friend Gina tries to take her mind off his absence and stop her moping and the 2 girls head off for the bright lights of Washington, where Gina's aunt owns a staid and well chaperoned boarding house, for a girly weekend together.
But Gina is a tad more flighty than Tess and the girls plans go badly awry and end up changing the course of Tess's life.
Events result in her breaking up with Vincent and heading off down South to a small town called Hickory, where she marries Henry, a virtual stranger, whose wealthy family see her as a usurper, are unwelcoming, set in their ways and harbour deep prejudices and she feels she will never fit in.
Henry is a secretive, though not unkind man, who nevertheless expects her to conform and be a demure housewife and give up on her dream of being a nurse.
But as we watch Tess face tragedy after disaster we see her grow and as she unravels the secrets which surround her new husband and find her place in the world.
It's a lovely story, beautifully told, with a gentleness and much old-fashioned drama which seems outdated now but was so relevant to everyones lives back in this era. It tackles many issues, racial tension, stillbirth, bereavement, death, the polio outbreak, mediumship and prejudice. I found it a quick and easy yet thoroughly enjoyable read.