The Sister Wife

Written by Diane Noble
Review by Tamela McCann

Lady Mary Rose Ashley isn’t quite sure what to think of her grandfather’s newfound interest in Joseph Smith and the Latter-Day Saints, but she bravely goes with him to America in order to learn more and perhaps gently sway him to return to his native England. On the journey, however, Mary Rose herself comes to believe when she witnesses a miracle wrought by the prayer of Brigham Young, who is also traveling on board. So when her heart is captured by Gabriel McKay, the ship’s builder, she is thrilled when he also joins the Saints and the two joyfully make their way to the religious settlement of Nauvoo, Illinois. Once there, however, things take an unsettling turn as Gabriel succumbs wholeheartedly to the teachings of Joseph Smith, and those teachings dictate that he must take multiple wives in order to get to the highest heaven.

The Sister Wife follows the story of Mary Rose’s divided heart as she decides whether she can share her husband with another wife as decreed by the Prophet. Set in 1841, this book is heavily preachy, though I couldn’t always tell if the author was for or against the Saints’ movement. Mary Rose, spunky and opinionated at first, seems to lose herself after her marriage, and I found the addition of three young children as wards an unnecessary distraction. The story moves around among several characters, several of whom seem severely lacking a backbone. There is some action but it isn’t satisfying, and haste seems the key to most characters’ decisions. Most disturbing is the fact that the prologue is repeated almost verbatim as a chapter later in the book. The premise of this novel is excellent, but the execution is flawed. Sadly, I don’t think I will be looking for the next two installments in the series.