All he ever wanted was a beautiful wife, a nice family and a comfortable life. Nicholas van Tassel got all that but the true love of his wife eluded him. Etna Bliss said yes to his marriage proposal but was frank about not loving him. Their lives are unremarkable, spanning the turn of the century and the changes that took place over that time. He is a successful professor at a small college and she is a wife, mother, and volunteer at a charity centre. She does have a secret that is revealed at the end of the story. Throughout, the tone is calm. Seemingly, nothing ruffles many feathers, and even the reveal seems subdued. Shreve's stories, for me, all seem to have that same swimmy quality where things happen but the edges are blunted, where emotions and reactions are toned down. Those who like her stories will find this one even more muted than usual.
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