The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls
Published by Harper Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Thirty-something Bess Gray has resigned herself to a lifetime of being single when she meets handsome, charming, and hilariously funny Rory. Rory and Bess hit it off instantly, and before long, he’s asked for her hand in marriage. Imagine Bess’s shock and surprise when Rory reveals his big secret just after their engagement: he’s already been married eight times. Bess decides that in order to accept his proposal, she needs to get as many facts as possible about these wives. So along with her aging grandparents and her gay best friend, Bess sets out on a journey to meet as many of the wives as possible and get their sides of her future husband’s story.

The Ninth Wife is a story built upon an interesting premise – a woman wants to marry a man but she will literally be his ninth wife – and generally speaking, this novel delivers. There were many things about the book that I enjoyed, and overall it was a nice story with characters I liked and could relate to.

The book grabbed my interest from the start as it is narrated by Rory and Bess in alternating chapters, and when Rory is talking to the reader each chapter is devoted to telling the story of one particular wife, until the reader finally understands his entire marriage history. Later, it’s clear that when Rory is talking to the reader (he uses “you” a lot), he’s actually telling these stories to Bess after he confesses that he’s had eight wives. But either way, it gives the reader a full picture of Rory’s past and actually (this is hard to believe, but trust me on this) he is not such a bad guy. He has a legitimate story for each one of his wives, and it’s not tough to see how he got himself into eight marriages. And the funny thing is, he truly believes in marriage, which is why he’s so eager to get involved in it each time. Rory actually is a very complex character and I really liked him as a person – if he was real, I can see myself getting along famously with him. I liked Bess too although not as much as Rory. I didn’t “get” her quite how I wanted to, I felt that many of her actions were erratic and didn’t make a lot of sense, and I just wanted her to love Rory unconditionally even with his eight marriages. I did like her though, don’t get me wrong. I just liked Rory more.

I have to admit that I enjoyed the second half of the book less than the first half. The second half of the book begins with Bess deciding to make an attempt to meet Rory’s wives, as many as possible (one has passed away, one is in a foreign country, etc., so she can’t meet them all) and while the idea of this was interesting, I didn’t love reading it as much as I would have expected. Plus she’s doing all this in the context of a road trip with her grandparents, and I didn’t particularly connect with her grandparents, so generally these sections were just “eh” for me.

Although parts of The Ninth Wife were just okay, it came together perfectly in the end and I found myself really pleased with how everything worked out. There was one huge coincidence that I did not see coming (and I actually bought it, score one for Stolls) and I loved how that particular story line wrapped up. Overall, I did enjoy The Ninth Wife quite a bit and would recommend it.