A Second Hand Husband by Claire Calman

Many years ago I read and enjoyed some of Claire Calman’s earlier books, so when A Second-Hand Husband turned up on NetGalley I thought I’d give it a try. After a whirlwind romance, Natalie and Carl have married and are looking to move out of London in order to be closer to Carl’s children from his first marriage. When Carl announces he is buying a house at auction, without even giving Natalie a chance to view it, that also turns out to be extremely close to where his first wife now lives, this sets the tone for the rest of the story.

The characters are well drawn and believable, and Claire Calman treats sensitive subjects with understanding and empathy. There is a lot of humour, but also some really cringeworthy moments. The setting in the Kent countryside is described as idyllic, and seems very peaceful when compared with London, but is also a bit claustrophobic with everyone knowing each other’s business.  

At the beginning of the book, despite Natalie successfully running her own business, she is portrayed as being a bit indecisive and dithery. The story is told from Natalie’s point of view so the reader can see firsthand how her character develops as she learns to stand up for herself and have more faith in her own abilities. Carl, on the other hand, does not really change much; I’m not sure he even thinks he’s done anything wrong. His complete disregard for what Natalie might want or think seems at odds with how much he claims to love her. His high-handed and thoughtless behaviour would be enough to send most women running for the hills; Natalie is very forgiving, but even she has her limits. Will they overcome the obstacles in their path to live happily ever after? – You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.