In A Reliable Wife, Ralph Truitt, a wealthy Wisconsin businessman, advertised for "a reliable wife". Catherine Land answered the ad, but her intentions were anything but honourable. Besides sending him her cousin's photo instead of her own and then lying about her dreadful past, she has plans to abscond with his money. No, Catherine is not the woman Ralph advertised for nor is she the woman she claims to be. Things change though once she meets Ralph and lives with him for awhile. She realizes that she may not be able to carry out her plan. When Ralph sends Catherine to retrieve his son, she discovers that she her choices may be few. Does Catherine follow through with her plans or does she succumb to her husband's desires for a reliable wife? You'll just have to read the book to find out.
This beautifully written piece of historical fiction is suspenseful, emotional and heart-breaking. It was a wonderful and riveting read. I had a hard time putting the book down. The characters were very believable and memorable; the passion and emotions felt by the characters were all too real. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Ralph. He was very lonely and wanted someone with whom he could share his life. His humiliation, his passion, and his strength; all seemed so raw. As for Catherine, at times, I really felt sorry for her; at other times I hated her for what she was doing to Ralph. I really didn't like her very much. As the story progressed, the intensity continued to build until all of the emotions and expectations all come together in an powerful and totally satisfying conclusion.
The author includes many repulsive details of arsenic poisoning, Catherine's choice for getting rid of Ralph. It all seemed so real. Some readers might find the details a bit much. There's also quite a long section where Ralph's sexual yearnings for a woman are expressed and a few other sexual passages that might leave some readers uncomfortable.
This book would make a great book club read. There are plenty of themes that should keep the discussions going for some time.
For more information about the book, please visit the HarperCollins website.