I never read historical (hysterical!) novels – never – and, with the exception of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series, I never read novels written by men. Then one of my tweeps (people I follow on Twitter) said she’d heard A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick – an historical novel written by a man – had been garnering rave reviews. I looked up the title in the Harris County Public Library catalog, read the short synopsis and requested a copy.
My problem with historical novels – too long, too wordy, way too much detail – I stop caring about the characters long before I’m halfway through the book. My problem with novels written by men – they tend to write plot-driven stories featuring cardboard cutout characters. I much prefer character-driven stories, even character-driven stories featuring not-so-nice yet sympathetically-drawn protagonists. In my vast experience – I’ve been reading books for 55+ years – character-driven stories have most often been written by women.
So…A Reliable Wife = wealthy man + mail-order bride, who is most certainly not a simple missionary’s daughter + devious plans (hers) + furious demons ready to be unleashed (his) + snowbound isolation in 1907 Wisconsin. The short synopsis in the HCPL catalog hooked me, and I was reasonably sure that, clocking in at 291 pages, the book, if I made it past the first 10-15 pages, would likely hold my interest till the end.
It’s happened again – the second week in a row. I’ve been totally blown away by a first-novel writer’s skill. Goolrick has crafted characters so remarkable and so real they’d be haunting my dreams, only his twists ‘n turns plot has kept me up way past my bedtime the past few nights. With 50 pages to go, I can hardly wait to find out how the story ends, but I like Ralph Truitt and Catherine Land so much that I’m taking my time getting there.
Seriously, folks, I really do want to know if you’ve been blown away by a really good book lately. Help me make it three weeks in a row…please!