The Major's Mistake
Edith Wharton once said that people want a sad story with a happy ending. I love these kinds of stories which explains why I enjoyed this book. The Major’s Mistake is nothing short of gut-wrenching and I mean that in the best way possible.
The book opens with an awful scene of sexual molestation. Newly married Miranda Sterling is attending a house party with her husband when she is accosted by one of his friends in the library. When she rejects his proposition, the man forces himself on her, tearing her bodice to her waist. He then tells her young, insecure husband Julian that he has witnessed Miranda in the library with a lover. As proof he drags Julian into the library and shows him Miranda in her disheveled state. Julian is so horrified that he doesn’t wait for an explanation. Instead he turns on his heel and leaves to join the military, vowing to get a divorce as soon as possible.
If ever there was a strong argument for women’s rights it is the story in this book. Six years later Miranda is living on the charity of Julian’s elderly aunt. Penniless and humiliated (her dowry was kept in Julian’s bank) and disowned by her own parents, she is lucky not to have been forced into prostitution. Miranda has a son, a little boy, Justin. Julian apparently obtained a divorce from Parliament and never bothered to worry about what would become of her.
Julian is unexpectedly reacquainted with Miranda when he pays a visit to his elderly Aunt Sophia. Now a Marquis, and no longer a handsome but insecure youth, Julian is a disabled war veteran who suffers terribly from a leg filled with shrapnel. Unlike Miranda however, he is deemed an excellent marriage prospect and rumors of his interest in a beautiful “incomparable” fill the papers.
When Julian visits his aunt he runs into Miranda and his son. Within minutes he realizes that this is indeed his boy. After a horrible scene with his aunt, where he actually considers seizing the boy (under English law he would have had no trouble doing it) they work out a plan whereby he can visit Justin.
The remainder of the book centers on Julian’s visits to see Justin and his interactions and growing love for Miranda. Julian is astonished at her poverty and remorseful about his role in it. He is frustrated and confused when Miranda will not accept a thing from him. Moreover, war has taught Julian a thing or two about life, one of them being that nobody is perfect and that Miranda paid far too high a price for (what he thought was) one mistake.
The more time that Julian spends with Miranda the more he realizes what a wonderful person he gave up. But because Julian still believes that Miranda is guilty, he considers his attentions forgiving. Why is Miranda so petrified at his very presence?
There is real pathos in this book and it comes from Miranda who never got over being discarded. When Julian first meets Justin he asks Miranda why she did not marry the boy’s father. “He no longer wanted me to be his wife,” she says, quietly turning away.
As the story goes on Miranda tries to quietly live with a situation whereby she must regularly interact with a man whom she loves, but who has destroyed her life. When Julian tries to charm her she is confused. Why is he doing this? Didn’t he throw her away? Didn’t he call her a whore? The more Julian tries to get close and develop a relationship, the more guarded Miranda becomes. In many romance novels a heroine’s fear of commitment seems forced. In Miranda’s case it seems quite reasonable. After all, this is a man who vowed to love and protect her forever, then abandoned her just weeks after the wedding.
Julian is a hero whom I should have hated but did not. He is pigheaded and it takes him forever to realize the terrible wrong that he committed. But Julian is so changed, so damaged by war that I grew to love him too. When he realizes what he did his remorse is total. I do wish Andrea Pickens had chosen to have Julian see the error of his ways earlier. It would have been nice if Miranda had had more time to come around to forgiving him.
I could barely put this book down. It is a very good read, and its only lack comes in that it needed more talking about love. I realize such discussion could only come after Julian understood Miranda’s innocence, and wish that revelation had come earlier. If you’re in the mood for a good cry with a warm and joyful ending do yourself a favor and go buy a copy of The Major’s Mistake.