Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore

Written by Wendy Moore
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

When Mary Eleanor Bowes’ father dies, she’s left one of the richest heiresses in mid-18th-century England. She cultivates her interests in botany and marries a family friend, Count Strathmore. He’s indifferent to her, and when he dies, she’s left a young, rich widow with five children. Mary, always a poor judge of character, embarks on several affairs, writes poetry, and advances her botanical knowledge. Andrew Stoney, a dashing officer, fights a duel in her honor and begs her to marry him before he dies of his wound. Mary does so, and thus begins the nightmare of her life. Stoney is a debt-ridden scoundrel who beats her and squanders her fortune. After eight years of abuse, Mary finds the courage to escape and demands a divorce in a law system where men have all the power.

Stoney would be a caricature of a scoundrel if he hadn’t actually existed. Mary’s submission at first made me cringe, but she had few resources in her day. I couldn’t put this book down, knowing it a true story of a woman who fought an uphill battle in the courts for her rights and to be free of a brutal man.