Monday 3 November 2014


Book review: A Most Desirable Marriage by Hilary Boyd

My edition: Paperback, published on 2 October 2014 by Quercus, 441 pages.

Description: Lawrence and Jo have enjoyed a strong marriage, the envy of their friends. Even after thirty years they have lots to say to each other, many interests in common and, until recently, a good sex life.

But Lawrence seems wary and restless. Something’s wrong. Just how wrong, Jo is about to discover…

Can they use their years of history – all the things they’ve shared – to overcome a devastating betrayal?


Contemporary women's fiction doesn't often focus on an older generation and that is exactly why Hilary Boyd's refreshing novels stand out from the crowd. While Thursdays in the Park is the most famous title by her hand, it's the engrossing Tangled Lives and When You Walked Back Into My Life that I have had the pleasure to devour before and which made me keen to pick up Boyd's latest.

The author doesn't shy away from difficult subject matter as she previously touched upon giving a child away for adoption and abuse of the elderly in care. While A Most Desirable Marriage at first glance doesn't focus on quite such a harrowing topic, the reason for the rift in Jo and Lawrence's marriage is quite shocking, and on Jo (and Lawrence too) it has a significant impact.

When Lawrence initially drops the truth bomb which breaks them apart, Jo goes on like nothing has changed. Sure, the man she's shared home and heart with for the majority of her adult life has moved out of their house, but she still has her work and her children to keep her occupied and distracted.

However, when her family is finally able to convince Jo that she is in denial and that her life has changed drastically she needs to decide where she goes from there. Will she continue living by herself, find someone else to share it with or try to reconcile her relationship with Lawrence?

Jo's journey throughout the novel is an interesting one and I really felt for her when upon Lawrence's retirement she thought it would be the start of a relaxing and joyful time in their lives, when in actual fact it meant the end of an era and their marriage would be in shatters soon after. To add to the stress, her latest novel doesn't receive a large advance from her publishers and it seems that she has to leave the house she'd made her home for so many years as well.

Jo as the centre of the story was written well and had a lot of character development, but I found her children Cassie and Nicky, and also the latter's close friend Travis, more difficult to judge. My initial impression from the way they acted and where they were in their lives was that they were in their early twenties, which made Jo's gradual closeness to Travis very much out of character. It wasn't until much further into the novel that I realised they were older than that, Travis in particular, which shows that perhaps Boyd is better at writing characters of retirement age, opposed to those in their thirties and forties.

And while for the majority of the novel Jo's story made sense to me, unfortunately the ending left me disappointed. It felt as if the entirety of the plot that had come before had been erased, only to bring Jo and Lawrence back to where they'd started. And that was a shame, as Jo had grown into a strong and independent person and having her revert back made it seem as if the author believes none of that actually matters to find happiness, as long as you're someone's wife.

You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:

Twitter: @HilaryBoyd

Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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