Today is the day. The incredible Kishan Paul is celebrating her newest release- The Second Wife.
I first learned of Kishan Paul when I was reviewing and promoting the Love Least Expected anthology last year. Paul’s piece in the collection seemed like a excerpt for a full length novel (which I’m still waiting to get my greedy hands on–hint, hint) but with just that snippet of a story, she grabbed my attention. The story was very well written and I decided to put her on my watch list.
Then earlier this year, I got to read her debut novel, Blind Love. With this one, Kishan Paul immediately jumped to my MUST-READ-EVERYTHING-SHE-EVER-WRITES list. The novel was absolutely brilliant. She managed to weave in elements of romance, intrigue, and suspense seamlessly into a roller coaster ride that I never wanted to end. And when I think about the fact it was her first novel, I can only imagine what she will accomplish in the future.
Now it is time to celebrate her second novel- The Second Wife. This one deviates from the romantic themes of the previous stories–no hearts and flowers here–instead it focuses solely on the suspense. There is love in the story but it takes a major backseat to the intense thrill of the story.
If you want to live, you must let go of the past…
Twenty-eight-year-old psychologist, Alisha Dimarchi, is abducted by an obsessed client and imprisoned in his Pakistani compound for over two years. Forced to change her name and live as his second wife, her life is filled with trauma and heartbreak. Thrust into a world of violence and oppression, Ally must fight not only to keep herself alive but to protect the lives of the people she now considers family. At night, she retreats into her memories of the only man she has ever loved—a man she believes no longer loves her.
Thirty-four-year-old handsome surgeon, David Dimarchi, has spent the last two years mourning the disappearance of his wife. After a painful and isolated existence, he begins the process of healing. It is then he is visited by a stranger, who informs him that Ally is very much alive and needs his help. In a desperate attempt to save her, David enlists the help of a mercenary. Together they find themselves in the center of more than just a rescue mission. Will he be able to reach her in time, and if he does, will she still want him?
Warning: This story contains elements some readers may find offensive: violence, rape, death.
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Normally, I finish a book and immediately sit down to write my review. I couldn’t do that with The Second Wife. I had to take the time to truly process what I read and take a few days to reflect on how I wanted to approach this review. I knew, from the moment I finished, I would rate this one as a five-star read, I just wasn’t sure what I could say about the book. I will start with this: I don’t think I have ever read a book that affected me the way this one did.
Generally, I try to keep to more fantastical genres preferring to rely on an author’s ability to make me suspend my disbelief instead of delving into more realistic fiction. I do this because it is much easier to deny the existence of vampires, werewolves, and the like rather than the real monsters that exist in our world–rapists, kidnappers, murderers, ect. are scarier to me and contribute to more nightmares than any creature that goes bump in the night. Anyway. When I occasionally venture out into realistic stories, I find myself judging the book based on just how realistic it gets.
The Second Wife was terrifyingly realistic. I found it was filled with rich and occasionally horrifying details, that kept the adrenaline pumping into my system. Through most of the book, I was either on the verge of tears (the scenes told from David’s POV) or ready to run for my life (Ally’s POV). It was, by far, the most intense reading experience of my life. I felt like I lived every heart-breaking, terrifying, soul-shattering moment. There are some pretty intense scenes depicting violent attacks, including rape, so it is definitely not for the faint of heart.
I love how Paul constructs her characters. Ally is an intelligent therapist, so the way she analyzes typical responses before she acts gives the character more believable attributes and also avoids those ‘don’t do that stupid’ moments that you find in characters that end up victims in stories like this. She has a good heart and maintains the ability to feel compassion for others despite the hell she’s lived through. She chooses her battles and displays a quiet strength that manages to keep her alive. Then there is the selflessness she embodies which makes her situation all the more heartbreaking. Ally is truly a remarkable character and I believe Paul really outdid herself with this character’s story.
David is attempting to deal with his grief and trying to move on but he is haunted by his missing wife. The pain and anguish accompanied by the guilt and effort to move forward makes him a complex character that you can’t help but pity. He denies himself hope by constantly telling himself that Ally is dead–she has to be because if she isn’t then he can’t handle her absence. He tries to abandon hope but when he finds out that she’s alive, nothing will stop him from bringing her home.
The other characters… I just don’t know how to describe them all.
Her abductor is pure evil. Those within the household provide an abundance of various types of victims to be used and abused at his slightest whim. He uses various forms of control and manipulation techniques to assure they do as he says. The level of physical, mental, and sexual abuse depicted made me hope and pray that he’d meet a violent end. (I myself have a very protective nature so I what I really wanted was to kick his ass myself.)
There are children acquired either by capture or adoption that become Ally’s pseudo family. There is a doctor under Sayeed’s control who always skates the line between doing what he’s told and doing what he can to help her. The first wife who manages to invoke feelings of pity and hatred simultaneously. Ally’s sister who still has hope. David’s girlfriend who wants to help him heal. The mercenary who offers to help David rescue his wife but has his own agenda… All of these characters make for an incredible story that drove me to read until I reached the end of the book (no sleep for me during that one).
The story shifts back and forth between perspectives. David’s part of the story starts at the point he decides to seek therapy (over 2 years after Ally’s disappearance) and moves forward but Ally’s part starts from the abduction and goes from there. The chapters in the beginning, alternate between David’s present and Ally’s past until the two reach a point where the events are simultaneous. Despite the shifting perspectives and timelines, the story is clear. The portions focusing on Ally’s story serve as a flashbacks to let the reader know exactly what happened to Ally during her captivity. While the other chapters explain the events leading up to her reunion with her true husband.
I appreciate the realism of the story’s conclusion. I find it very refreshing that things happen in a manner true to life. No details because details = spoilers and I don’t like to post spoilers. I will say the ending raised some questions which make me wonder if this is the last we’ll see of these characters. I do know that I will be waiting for whatever Paul decides to do next.
From daring escapes by tough women to chivalrous men swooping in to save the day, the creativity switch to Kishan Paul’s brain is always in the ‘on’ position. If daydreaming stories were a college course, Kish would graduate with honors.
Mother of two beautiful children, she has been married to her best friend for over 16 years. With the help of supportive family and friends, she balances her family, a thriving counseling practice, and writing without sinking into insanity.
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