Lady Mary Rose Ashley of Liverpool, England is on a ship bound for America with other members of her family. She and her grandfather are new Mormon converts traveling to join the prophet, Joseph Smith. Gabriel MacKay, the ship’s builder, is also on board. From the beginning, Gabriel is attracted to Mary Rose. But, he has turned his back on God. Besides, Gabe is planning to return to England.
Mary Rose is not as convinced as her grandfather that this new religion is the right one for her. The more she thinks on it, the more she wants to go home. She is devastated to find out going home is impossible. Her grandfather had handed everything over to Joseph Smith. Mary Rose must come to terms with her new life. She asks Gabe to read the book of Mormon just to see if he will have the same doubts. Instead of hearing doubts, Mary Rose is surprised to find that Gabe has become a new convert. When Mary Rose’s new best friend has trouble giving birth, Brigham Young offers to pray for Bronwyn and her unborn child. After the prayer, the baby turns and is born with no more problems. To Gabe, the miracle solidifies his new faith. But Mary Rose saw the midwife, not of the Mormon faith, praying too. Whose God performed the miracle?
Now that Gabe’s life has changed he decides to ask Mary Rose to marry him and move to Nauvoo with the saints. Mary Rose accepts Gabe’s proposal with a happy heart. As they settle in town, Mary Rose hears the whispered rumors. The women are talking about the prophet’s multiple wives and that he will demand the other men take more wives as well. The idea sounds so preposterous that most of the women scoff and leave it as gossip. The secrecy behind the men-only meetings and Smith’s order to not tell the women adds fuel to the fire. Mary Rose comforts herself in her belief that Gabe will refuse such instructions. He loves her too much to take another woman for his wife.
When Bronwyn’s husband is killed during a fight with non-Mormons, Joseph Smith gives an edict to Gabe. He must take Bronwyn as a second wife if he wishes to advance in his spiritual life. Mary Rose is horrified and threatens to leave Gabe if he obeys Smith. But Smith’s laws do not allow women to leave. If they try, they are punished for apostasy.
Will Mary Rose take her chances in escape or will she live with the betrayal of both her husband and her best friend?
The Sister Wife by Diane Noble begins a new series: The Brides of Gabriel. This book has a slow beginning, but the pace picks up toward the middle. I wish more time was given to Mary Rose and Gabe on their own. I felt sad for Mary Rose who never felt 100% convinced in the first place, and had no choices given to her. It was Gabe she followed, not Joseph Smith. The Sister Wife is not a romance novel and it is not preachy. The author does a fine job of keeping opinions out of the book and only tells the story.