#238 ~ The Wives of Henry Oades ~ Review & Giveaway

The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

Published by: Ballantine Books

Published on: February 2010

Page Count: 384

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: ARC snagged through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program

Availability: paperback and eBook

tlc-logo-resizedToday it is my great pleasure to be Johanna Moran’s host on her TLC Book Tour for her novel, The Wives of Henry Oades.  I would like to thank LibraryThing and her publisher for sending me a review copy.  I would also like to thank Random House for a copy to giveaway on this blog!  Please see the end of my review for a list of the blogs who are on this tour with me.

I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours.  They always have great books and authors on tour.  Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.

My Review

During the late 19th century, Henry Oades was looking to get ahead in his career and make an even better life for his family when he agreed to take a position that required he move his family from England to a much less civilized New Zealand.  His wife Meg didn’t really want to leave her family, but supported her husband because it would only be for a few years.  What neither of them anticipated was the hostility between white settlers and the native Maori  increasing after their arrival. One evening, in revenge of a Maori beating, Henry’s family is kidnapped while he is away at work.  From there begins a heart wrenching nightmare almost beyond comprehension. After holding out hope longer than most people felt sane, Henry eventually leaves New Zealand for America.  In San Fransisco, he discovers a love for farming and eventually falls in love with a young widow.  Shorty after Henry and Nancy marry, Meg brings her family out of captivity.  When Henry and his first family reunite, a struggle of a much different kind begins.

When I saw information about The Wives of Henry Oades while reviewing the list of Early Reviewer books last year, I knew it was one that I’d have to read.  I could not imagine what it would be like to be in Henry Oades’ shoes.  He believed he had lost his entire family and it was only reluctantly that he set off to start his life over again.  Just when he found purpose and contentment, he learns that his original family was alive and well.  What would you do?  Worse yet, what would or could a woman in the late 19th century do if she was given up for dead and her husband remarried?  What would or could a young widow with a small baby do when her new husband’s dead wife shows up on her doorstep.  I was so thrilled to learn that I had snagged it because I was going to be able to find out.

This book was a perfect match for me.  I love that it was told mainly through the voices of Meg and Nancy, Henry’s two wives.  I was intrigued from the very first when Meg and Henry set off to New Zealand and I didn’t want to put the book down until it was finished.  Some parts were difficult to read, especially the scenes of the kidnapping and the direct aftermath, but I could not stop reading.  I also found it interesting how Berkeley society, now seen as such a liberal, accepting place, could not see the difference between purposeful bigamy and an accident of fate that fell upon both halves of Henry’s family.  The community was too busy titillating themselves with what might be happening behind the Oades’ doors to take take stock of what really did.

The Wives of Henry Oades was inspired by a legal extract  about the Oades case that Moran’s father brought home to her mother.  What an interesting launching pad of a novel.  I enjoyed it all the way through.  I do have one lingering question about a decision Henry makes along the way, but mentioning that here would give too much of the story away.  My question aside, there would be an evening’s worth of topics to discuss after reading this novel.  It would also be interesting to read this novel and The 19th Wife back to back and discuss the impact of bigamy on the women involved during the 19th century.  I highly recommend this novel.  There are so many ways to look at this novel and the events it brings to life.  I would love to hear what you think.



I am excited to offer one lucky reader an opportunity to win a copy of this novel from the publisher.  To enter, leave a comment to this post with your thoughts about how bigamy impacts the women involved.  There is so much to say about it.  As much as I could never see myself coping well with that kind of living arrangement, I wonder how much cleaner my house would be if I had a sister wife around here…

This giveaway will be open for entries until Thursday, March 18 at 11:59 EST.  I will use the wonderful Randomizer to select the winner and will make the announcement soon thereafter.


Check out Johanna Moran’s other TLC Book Tours Tour Stops:

Monday, February 15th:  Luxury Reading

Wednesday, February 17th:  Book Club Classics!

Thursday, February 18th:  My Friend Amy

Friday, February 19th:  Beth Fish Reads author guest post

Monday, February 22nd:  Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, February 23rd: The 3 R’s Blog

Thursday, February 25th:  It’s All About Books

Friday, February 26th:  Thoughts of an Evil Overlord

Monday, March 1st:  Rundpinne

Tuesday, March 2nd:  Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, March 3rd:  A High and Hidden Place

Friday, March 5th:  Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-aholic

Monday, March 8th:  Bibliofreak

Tuesday, March 9th: A Lifetime of Books

Wednesday, March 10th:  Starting Fresh

Thursday, March 11th:  Savvy Verse and Wit

Monday, March 15th:  The Calico Critic


  • At 2010.03.04 08:57, Amanda (A Bookshelf Monstrosity) said:

    Interesting discussion topic. I looked up recent bigamy cases and found one in South Carolina. To quote the first wife, “This person came into my life under false pretenses and committed fraud. He promised to love, honor, and cherish me till death do us part,” Peasley said. “He just made a mockery of marriage. The damage he has done will never go away.”
    Kristine Peasley’s case actually initiated a new law in South Carolina. Here’s the link to the article:

    • At 2010.03.04 09:18, Johanna Moran said:

      Thanks for the lovely review, Jennifer. Feel free to email me about the lingering question.

      Warm regards,

      • At 2010.03.04 09:19, Jamie said:

        A year ago I read a memoir by Irene Spencer (Shattered Dreams: My Life as Polygamist’s Wife)–a modern and personal account of a polygamist life. I actually found it quite an interesting read. I remember how much she struggled with jealousy and wanting to be the “favorite” wife even though she knew that she was not to entertain such thoughts. Beyond not receiving the level of romance and affection that she so desperately wanted, such a large family (I think it got to be 50-60 members with wives and kids at the largest point) with only one income meant that they struggled with poverty too.

        • At 2010.03.04 09:30, Linda B said:

          Unsure how to frame an answer to your question. I certainly see a difference between an ‘accidental’ situation such as the one described in your review, and bigamy as practiced within the framework of religious or cultural beliefs. This book sounds very interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.

          • At 2010.03.04 10:40, Melanie said:

            It depends on so many things. I think in The 19th Wife, the wives knew about the bigamy going into the marriage. In Henry Oades the bigamy was unintentional. I also think it’s unfair to look at bigamy in the 19th century with 21st century eyes. The insttution of marraige is so different today. I’m really looking forward to reading this book.

            • At 2010.03.04 11:10, Lisa Munley said:

              Great review, Jennifer. Sounds like it would make an excellent discussion book for my book club (I’m keeping a list for our next voting meeting). Thanks so much for taking part in this tour! We love working with you too!

              Read more from Lisa Munley

              Jesse Mecham, author of You Need a Budget, on tour January/February 2018

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              Experience a life free of financial stress and transform your relationship to money with this indis[…]

              • At 2010.03.04 11:13, Jo-Jo said:

                I agree that I don’t think I would deal well with having to share a husband either. But after watching a couple seasons of Big Love I can see how you really evolve into a family that truly loves and respects each other. And the house cleaning and babysitting is all shared! woohoo! Please enter me.

                • At 2010.03.04 12:12, Jenn's Bookshelves said:

                  No need to enter me in the contest. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one as well. It’s definitely a discussion-worthy book!

                  Read more from Jenn’s Bookshelves

                  Review: The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

                  I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor Published by Crown/Archetype […]

                  • At 2010.03.04 14:20, Lisa said:

                    This does sound like it would make a great book club read. Definitely one that I would be interested in.

                    • At 2010.03.05 00:07, Jennifer said:

                      Thanks for stopping by everyone. Bigamy is an interesting topic. Thanks for the link to the South Carolina case, Amanda. I also agree with Melanie that you really can’t judge 19th century marriages with 21st century outlook. One thing that is true is that the women then did not have the freedom that we do today. I wonder if they did if bigamy would have been as big of an issue as it was.

                      Johanna, thanks so much for your comments. I’ll send you an email.

                      • At 2010.03.05 11:39, Sue said:

                        I can’t imagine personally. I can’t imagine that feeling of not being the one… ’cause there’s two. I don’t know~
                        Thank you for the giveaway.

                        s.mickelson at gmail dot com

                        • At 2010.03.06 18:31, Ready, Set, March! : literatehousewife.com said:

                          […] first March tour stop has already taken place.  I reviewed The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran last Thursday.  I read this book in February and really enjoyed it.  If you […]

                          • At 2010.03.06 18:38, AnnFes said:

                            About bigamy. My theory is a man can get away with having plural wives if they each think that she is number one in his affections. Women will forgive a man for anything except disinterest. I know that idea is controversial but…

                            The novel does set up an interesting premise. Since I’m such a stick in the mud, Henry should have returned to his first wife since she needs her life returned to her.

                            • At 2010.03.07 06:55, Kitty said:

                              Bigamy–When purposeful can be degrading. Accidental is another story.

                              Polygamy–Hate it. Saw a lot of it when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Reminded me of herding.

                              Thanks for this giveaway.


                              • At 2010.03.08 16:47, LH's Mom said:

                                (posted at my mom’s request)

                                So, my entry for that book would be to say, it would be something I would read….must have been hard for either of those two wifes and for Mr. Oades.

                                (Love you, Mom!)

                                • At 2010.03.08 17:48, Nancye Davis said:

                                  I do not support bigamy at all. I, for one, could never share my husband with anyone, EVER! I think it is demoralizing for woman and makes them seem like property instead of human beings.

                                  nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

                                  • At 2010.03.08 22:21, CLM said:

                                    I can definitely imagine some people who would tolerate bigamy better than others; however, it does seem very creepy to me. I am eager to read this book and am glad it is my turn to host my book group next month and pick the book.

                                    • At 2010.03.09 04:17, Mystica said:

                                      Please count me in for this wonderful giveaway.


                                      • At 2010.03.11 12:16, Stephanie said:

                                        This book sounds great – would love to read it. While technically bigamy, what happened here is truly an accident of fate – no party entered into marriage knowing of an existing marriage – such an emotional quagmire! Thanks for making this a giveaway!

                                        • At 2010.03.14 18:17, Nicole said:

                                          Bigmay!!! What woman would ever like that? Your husband for how many years married to someone else and you must be calm about it? Nooooo! not me not ever unless aliens came and kidnapped me.

                                          I would love to read this book and understand why this woman sticked around (if she did).


                                          • At 2010.03.15 22:36, Bonnie said:

                                            Bigamy seems to benefit the man more than the woman. I couldn’t imagine sharing a spouse with one or more women. I’m a monagamous woman! Thanks for the givewaway!

                                            • […] The Wives of Henry Oades […]

                                              • At 2010.03.17 13:03, Chris said:

                                                Having several polygamist families in the not too distant past in my family tree, I have thought and read about this subject a lot. Similar women I’ve seen interviewed on TV make their lives seem almost perfect – they have all these wonderful sisters/friends (other wives) who share all the family chores and support each other. But you do wonder … Of course, that is different than the situation in this book, which does sound fascinating. Thanks!

                                                • At 2010.03.17 19:57, Kathy (mommysreading) said:

                                                  My friend and I were joking around today about how wonderful it would be to have another woman around to help with the cooking, cleaning and child containment. I don’t think I could really do it. There has got to be some resentment there. However if this is the way you were brought up, then it might not be as strange to be in a that kind of relationship.

                                                  • […] Thursday, March 4th:  The Literate Housewife Review […]

                                                    • […] literate housewife […]

                                                      • At 2010.06.01 10:10, Carol Wong said:

                                                        I met someone whose father was a bigamist. It was a total surprise to her family when they found out. She didn’t anything except that they all shocked. I would like to enter this giveaway. I would like to enter this contest.

                                                        (Required, will not be published)

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