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The Secret Lives of Married Women

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Two identical twin sisters - one a sexually repressed defense attorney, the other a former libertine now living a respectable life in suburbia - are about to have their darkest secrets revealed, to the men in their lives and to themselves. As one sister prepares for the thorniest trial of her career and the other fends off ominous advances from a construction worker labori Two identical twin sisters - one a sexually repressed defense attorney, the other a former libertine now living a respectable life in suburbia - are about to have their darkest secrets revealed, to the men in their lives and to themselves. As one sister prepares for the thorniest trial of her career and the other fends off ominous advances from a construction worker laboring on the house next door, both find themselves pushed to the edge, and confronted by discoveries about themselves and their lovers that shock and disturb them.


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Two identical twin sisters - one a sexually repressed defense attorney, the other a former libertine now living a respectable life in suburbia - are about to have their darkest secrets revealed, to the men in their lives and to themselves. As one sister prepares for the thorniest trial of her career and the other fends off ominous advances from a construction worker labori Two identical twin sisters - one a sexually repressed defense attorney, the other a former libertine now living a respectable life in suburbia - are about to have their darkest secrets revealed, to the men in their lives and to themselves. As one sister prepares for the thorniest trial of her career and the other fends off ominous advances from a construction worker laboring on the house next door, both find themselves pushed to the edge, and confronted by discoveries about themselves and their lovers that shock and disturb them.

30 review for The Secret Lives of Married Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Faiza Sattar

    ★★★★☆ (4/5) And yet this happiness didn’t feel the way I’d always imagined it would. It felt fearful and precarious. As if it might be taken from me at any moment. Contrary to the cover, this book is not erotic fiction. It is an incredibly thrilling ride into lives of two (or three so to speak) ordinary women, who occupy conventional spaces in their lives as wives, mothers, sisters and friends. They are to perfectly balance inner turmoil with adventurous exploits without losing hold of their sens ★★★★☆ (4/5) And yet this happiness didn’t feel the way I’d always imagined it would. It felt fearful and precarious. As if it might be taken from me at any moment. Contrary to the cover, this book is not erotic fiction. It is an incredibly thrilling ride into lives of two (or three so to speak) ordinary women, who occupy conventional spaces in their lives as wives, mothers, sisters and friends. They are to perfectly balance inner turmoil with adventurous exploits without losing hold of their sense of reality. The two novellas nestled within this one book deal with marital frustrations, anxieties of motherhood, and undisclosed fantasies which are sweetly attainable but would disrupt the quiet order of their lives. Secret yearnings especially of sexual nature can unravel their entire lives at a moments’ whim. And suddenly from within me came a white-hot answering flash, like oil flung into a hot pan or the silver of a hooked fish catching the sun This was my first brush with Hard Case Crime series, and much like the appeal of The Dorothy Project, I’m invested owing to the brilliant narration and story arc which kept me hooked. The book cover and title may appear misleading after having read the two entwined stories, but Hard Case Crime publishes stories of classic noir, dealing with adultery, murder, suspicion and sexual deviation. It is reminiscent of old-school paperback which lends the reading experience a tinge of delightful nostalgia. Would it ever feel safe to savor these things, or would I always be waiting for that knock at the door, the slow whirl of red and blue lights in our driveway, the flash of a badge that would level our lives? The Man Under the House I hadn’t realized how much space this belief had occupied until it was suddenly dismantled The first story revolves around Leda Reeve, a woman whose life has drastically changed since her marriage and subsequent motherhood. As a former libertine, adjusting to newly acquired roles as a wife and a mother seem slightly oppressive. She admits to having married out of mere necessity since she was getting on in age but also confesses to having eventually fallen in love with her husband Stas, a Russian refugee whose past is as undecipherable as hers. This was something I never would have noticed. I could be close with someone for years and never notice what they drove, beyond a vague sense of its shape and possibly its color. Whereas Stas kept a vehicular inventory of his every casual acquaintance: the brand, the make, the year, how many miles it would get to the gallon The story starts off with Leda and Stas moving into a new home in Portland, from New York, to settle into a proper house and start their life as a well-adjusted family. The house is in desperate need of repairs which is when Jack, a handyman working on their neighbours’ house, makes himself readily available to come to their disposal. He is eager to identify Leda from the past and presents himself whenever Leda is home alone. Her surreptitious past is at a threat of being disclosed to those she had long veiled her secret from. Still, for accuracy’s sake you might say I often stopped, that I rarely went as far as I dreamed. Jack becomes overbearingly intrusive and Leda decides to divulge her secret to her husband Stas. Soon after, Jack disappears and Leda begins to suspect her own husband of a grievous wrong-doing. Her apprehensions alter the nature of their relationship, from distance to intimacy, as she worries about their future together. Her scandalous misgivings make her question her present and future and can only be placated by knowing the truth of her husband’s action. But when it happens, when you’re truly forced to revise the meaning of the clues you’ve disregarded, there’s no humor in it, only breathlessness and dread Abel’s Cane It’s like we’re one person split in two. I got the wildness, the darkness and the artistry. You got the credentials, the integrity and the sense. Two stories of two different women are burrowed within this one novella which is narrated by Leda’s twin sister Lillian, a high-profile lawyer. She narrates the story of a client Abel and his working relationship with his personal secretary of sorts Nan. Nan was an orphan and brought up in a Convent amidst the stringy but modest and humble values embodied by nuns. As a young woman she became a professional submissive, offering her body for sexual pleasures for dominant men. Her work entails traits of her personality which have always come naturally to her – that of being of service to a man whom she cherishes secret admiration for. She often felt hollow, transcendent, as if she were pure spirit and the pain was what weighed her to the earth. Other times, in a way that made no sense even to her, she felt hurt and close to tears. She felt pangs of aftershock, arousal, and bewildered grief all at the same time. Abel Nathanson is a blind, non-profit industrial developer who hires Nan to read legal documents to him. Their relationship is symbiotic and professional but Nan begins to get much more invested in it than Abel who is a happily married man with an adopted child. Nan not only helps him with official work but also gets involved in assisting the Nathanson’s in their household chores. Soon Abel finds himself cornered by a rival developer and the case is bought to Lillian. Amidst narrating Nan’s story, Lillian recounts her own experiences of a loveless and sexless marriage with Darren. Their inability to have children have left both reclusive in their associations with each other, and the act of copulation is scheduled and perfunctory, devoid of any pleasures. Here Nan and Leda’s past entwine to give Lillian a sense of sexual liberation which she had long ignored deliberately. Abel’s case takes a dark twist resulting in his acquittal and Lillian is reunited with her husband. Moments like these come suddenly and without warning, adrenaline-driven and past all decision, where no resistance is possible, no sense of propriety can prevail Concluding Thoughts I’ve come to believe that intimacy is available to anyone who’s truly ready to give and receive it. The two stories deal with women and their repression of desires – yearnings of sexual and psychological intimacy – in a patriarchal world. Two kinds of men exist in Elissa Wald’s world, those who nurture their women through providing order in their otherwise chaotic life and those who seek to upset the order primarily through sexual advances. Rae, a close friend of Leda is involuntarily attracted to a man who has done acts of extreme violence in the past and she is more than willing to forego his criminal actions owing to their wonderful sexual chemistry. Same is the case with Nan who is involved in submissive sexual acts with absolutely no regards for her physical integrity. Her relationship with Abel is beautiful and self-destructive at the same time. After a while, I realized that the aura—an annoying, new-age word but I couldn’t find a better one—around Leda in the movie was something like the aura around Nan: a force field of whole-hearted focus, devotion, self-abandonment. Rapture. For the reader, these stories may seem to make unlikely heroes of men who rose to an occasion just in time to rescue their women from adversity. But these tales are as much assertive of women who, despite the appeal of adventure and zeal to experience change, hold their moral and social ground. But I told myself it was better if I went. I needed a visceral and immediate sense of the place, the better to glean the stray and unexpected details that were often the most effective. This was a quick read with though-provoking substance as well as high entertainment value. Wald keeps our curiosity at bay, holding on to the final reveal till the very end. We anticipate a tragedy but rejoice at narrow escapes. We empathise with the characters and are uncomfortable with their predicaments. The author playfully tightens the reins around her heroines as well as the reader, sometimes relieving us with their happiness and at other times jostling us with shock. An overall engaging book which has made me want to read more from Hard Case Crime series. More of my favourite lines Characterisation • So far, I wasn’t afraid as much as jittery, skittish; Jack seemed more off-putting and overbearing than truly menacing • Until then, I’d thought that Bryce alone created the frisson in the office, but now I understood that Stas supplied an essential part of it as well • He was rootless, he could go anywhere. • I was elsewhere, on my way to a party. On arrival, everyone was sure to be carrying a piece of the awful world with him. Not one of us wouldn’t be smiling. There’d be drinks, irony, hidden animosities. Something large would be missing. But most of us would understand something large would always be missing. • Had the labored breathing of a smoker and his clothes, too, bore the scent of cigarettes. • In all the bewilderment, the vertigo, the upended perspective of a funhouse mirror, one lone conviction was still in place: Stas loved Clara • Her dark blonde hair, pulled back into an elegant twist and pinned in place with lacquered chopsticks • She read as if an oracle might be divined from the document if only it were rendered with enough care • It took stamina to plow through page after page, and stoicism not to betray a flicker of fatigue • Nearly every evening at this hour, a nameless sadness would threaten her with suffocation • In the social arena, so much physical contact relied on visual cues—intentions signaled in advance, consent sought and granted, as one person leaned in and the other bent in reception. Who would dare such an intimate gesture without implicit permission? Not Erica. So often, amidst these exchanges, Abel was set apart, an island—as if blindness warranted a kind of quarantine. • There are things too unbearable to think about, memories you can never let float into focus. Nan could barely bring herself to consider that day, and the terrible stilted awkwardness of the ones that followed, where she was unable to meet his sightless gaze and she knew things would never be the same Beautifully crafted sentences • The kitchen faucet sprayed rivulets in all directions. The bathroom door scraped hard against the floor and the lock refused to catch • There was at once no time and nothing but time • There are three speeds in construction: slow, dead and reverse. • Relieved and restored and unburdened and bereft • Slavery made them graceful, light on their feet beneath that floor-length cloth, floating like dark swans in their bridal black • To waste the slightest amount was a sin against poverty. • Deirdre could always be counted upon to draw these lines, lest Nan start to feel like a part of the household. • And then, just as quickly, this dark thrill of recognition was displaced by professional assessment • The overriding aromas of disinfectant and leather couldn’t fully mask the more pungent ones just beneath: the musk of sweat, the gamy tang of struggle and tension and intensity. • As if its violence might be stayed with a show of passion.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A very steamy and interesting noir exploration of sexuality, repression, and morality. The book is broken up into two halves, each the story of one twin sister. The first is a story of a former wild woman who has settled down into suburban life. When he quiet life gets shaken up, she's not sure if she's ready for the consequences. She is forced to answer the age old noir question: Does she really know her husband?...and does she really want to? The second half is her sister who is a big wig attor A very steamy and interesting noir exploration of sexuality, repression, and morality. The book is broken up into two halves, each the story of one twin sister. The first is a story of a former wild woman who has settled down into suburban life. When he quiet life gets shaken up, she's not sure if she's ready for the consequences. She is forced to answer the age old noir question: Does she really know her husband?...and does she really want to? The second half is her sister who is a big wig attorney. She's got a high profile case with a blind man and an assistant who would do anything for him. Anything. The book may be too steamy for some but I truly believe the sexuality was necessary for the story and was a fascinating character exploration.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Generous

    Interesting, the story lines fit together pretty loosely. Not so crimey either. Engaging, and the one prolonged sex scene was spicy as hell, so that was fun. Only real downfall was the dialogue, a lot of "Well..." Still totally worth a read. Interesting, the story lines fit together pretty loosely. Not so crimey either. Engaging, and the one prolonged sex scene was spicy as hell, so that was fun. Only real downfall was the dialogue, a lot of "Well..." Still totally worth a read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Neil McCrea

    I've been greatly looking forward to this book ever since Hard Case announced it, and I'm positively tickled to have received it in a giveaway from Goodreads. That said, I didn't really know what to expect. I rather adore Christa Faust, but I'm glad Hard Case finally has another woman author in their ranks, a wider range of perspectives in my crime fiction is a welcome thing. The title and cover of the book led me to expect something along the lines of Orrie Hit or the novels Lawrence Block wro I've been greatly looking forward to this book ever since Hard Case announced it, and I'm positively tickled to have received it in a giveaway from Goodreads. That said, I didn't really know what to expect. I rather adore Christa Faust, but I'm glad Hard Case finally has another woman author in their ranks, a wider range of perspectives in my crime fiction is a welcome thing. The title and cover of the book led me to expect something along the lines of Orrie Hit or the novels Lawrence Block wrote as Jill Emerson, loose crime novels where the draw was the soft core porn over the "crime". There is a little of that here, but Secret Lives of Married Women is quite frankly smarter than those titles. Cover blurbs from Pat Conroy and Junot Diaz hinted at aspirations towards literary fiction, and there is a bit of that as well but there is no denying the pulpy genre goodness within. So what did I get? The Secret Lives of Married Women tells the story of twin sisters. One is a "libertine", and the other is perpetually repressed. Each of them gets a novella of their own. The libertine's tale deals with a stalker who knows a little too much about the protagonist's past. This story takes a nice turn when we learn that her husband may be harboring some dark secrets of his own. The prude's tale is a courtroom drama of real estate fraud, kickbacks, and BDSM. In this story we also meet Nan Magdalene, the platonic ideal of a submissive, who is simultaneously the most unrealistic and compelling character in the novel. The libertine's tale roars right along full of sexual threat and danger. The prude's tale seduces and insinuates, giving us a vision of sex as liberation. This thematic conceit could easily have been hamfisted and ridiculous, but Elissa Wald pulls it off through the strength of her characters. Seekers of erotica are liable to be disappointed by the fact that there is only one sex scene. It is graphic and steamy enough, but the sex is here to serve the story rather than the story serving the sex. In short, The Secret Lives of Married Women is smart, thrilling, funny and sexy. Wald keeps the stories grounded. They almost always feel not only as if they could have happened, but as if stories quite like them are happening around us on a regular basis. Even the unlikely character of Nan adds to the credibility of the scenarios, as she seems too unlikely to have been entirely made up. Truth is stranger than fiction and all that. I should also note that I had a great deal of fun reading this book in public. Apparently seeing a giant, hairy, troll beast reading what appears to be erotica for women is very troubling for some people. Sadly, no one had the guts to talk to me about it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the author, and the publisher. That was different. That is, while I didn't know whether to expect a "hard case crime" noir type story or a story about repressed sexuality, I didn't get either. Or I got both. Sorta. Anyway, it wasn't what I would have expected had I any expectations. It was good, however. I did find there was more "hard" than "crime", but Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the author, and the publisher. That was different. That is, while I didn't know whether to expect a "hard case crime" noir type story or a story about repressed sexuality, I didn't get either. Or I got both. Sorta. Anyway, it wasn't what I would have expected had I any expectations. It was good, however. I did find there was more "hard" than "crime", but then again....well. I don't want to spoil anything. What I can say is that it was intriguing, and that the prose was excellent. Wald's flow and style bumped this thing a whole star by itself. It was very comfortable to read, even during uncomfortable moments. Yes, I'm being vague. There is so much to explore here that it just needs to be explored. Rather than put it all in a review, I'd rather tell people to just read the book itself.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Craig Childs

    This novel is composed of two novellas about twin sisters. The stories overlap in a single scene but otherwise stand apart in terms of plot. Together, however, the novellas work in tandem to form a thoughtful, literate rumination on the theme of human desire in its myriad forms: In the first story, Leda is moving into a new house with her husband Stas. After two years of marriage, some tensions beneath the surface are straining their relationship. Leda is not sure she made the right decision in e This novel is composed of two novellas about twin sisters. The stories overlap in a single scene but otherwise stand apart in terms of plot. Together, however, the novellas work in tandem to form a thoughtful, literate rumination on the theme of human desire in its myriad forms: In the first story, Leda is moving into a new house with her husband Stas. After two years of marriage, some tensions beneath the surface are straining their relationship. Leda is not sure she made the right decision in exchanging her youthful dreams and carefree lifestyle for matrimony and motherhood. She hopes a new home and a new baby will reassure her. Leda makes friends with a nearby handyman Jack, whose aggressive flirtations and eagerness to help soon cross the boundary into stalker behavior. Stas confronts Jack. A few days later, an investigator begins poking around, asking questions, insinuating that Jack is missing. Lena suspects Stas, who is doggedly loyal but also controlling, may have committed a terrible crime. Strangely, this new element of mystery and danger in her husband serves to bring them closer together, even as she begins to fear for their future… In the second story, Lillian is defending a client from corruption charges. One of the key witnesses is Nan, a hired assistant who is still in love with her former boss. Lillian digs into Nan's past life in an attempt to discredit her testimony. Nan's obsessions, however, are less sexual in nature than compulsive, and they are nearly religious in their intensity. Nan opens a window onto a new world for Lillian. She may be more like Nan--and even more like her sister--than she ever dared admit to herself… As the title and the cover art so aptly imply, this novel is in some ways an attempt on the part of Hard Case Crime to capitalize on the kink craze after 50 Shades of Gray spent 30 weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. Yet, this book is so much more. First of all, it is well-written and thoughtful. It actually has very little sex in it--although what there is, is memorable. The story of Nan, in fact, is about the nature of obsession and compulsion and why it is revered and respected in some forms (for example, nuns who devote themselves to holiness) while it is shamed and misunderstood in others: "Her favorite part of the job was her occasional trips to other cities to visit wealthy men well known to the establishment. It was at these times that she felt most free: moving through foreign airports towards the homes of strangers, where her job would be to endure whatever they brought down upon her. To stand trembling, waiting. To suffer and to beg. She used to dream that she would find her true place in one of those houses. But she always knew within minutes that she would be turning around and coming back. "The opposite happened the day of her interview with Abel. Then she could see that the little room just off his office was where she belonged: underground and spare, threadbare and sad, two floors below his bed, and her covetous heart hurt with wanting it." The plot twists keep you guessing and turning the pages. The three dimensional characters make you think and feel. 4 and a half stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Hard Case Crime doesn't publish many books by women and perhaps there is a dearth of women writers in the hardboiled field. Even so, Hard Case has found a couple of topnotch female writers who offer a slightly different perspective to the writing. The Secret Lives of Married Women appears to be quite salacious and provocative from both the lurid cover and the title. One would think that it is more about sexual affairs than it is. It is an unusual book for Hard Case to publish. It neither involve Hard Case Crime doesn't publish many books by women and perhaps there is a dearth of women writers in the hardboiled field. Even so, Hard Case has found a couple of topnotch female writers who offer a slightly different perspective to the writing. The Secret Lives of Married Women appears to be quite salacious and provocative from both the lurid cover and the title. One would think that it is more about sexual affairs than it is. It is an unusual book for Hard Case to publish. It neither involves a hardboiled detective nor a bumbling criminal on the run from the mob, the police, his inlaws, or foreign mercenaries. It is the story of two sisters, Leda and Lily. One is a housewife, creeped out by Jack the Handyman, who has an inability to share with her husband aspects of her racy past that she wishes no one knew about anymore. The second portion of the book focuses on the other sister, the one who did not have a racy past, went to law school, married her best friend from law school, and has a somewhat boring love life with him. The focus of this portion of the book is this sister's fascination with sadomasochism. It does contain elements of courtroom drama, blackmail, and sexual experimentation, but those elements are not overwhelming in the story and the true story focuses on the sisters' emotions. It is a well written book and reads quickly, but it is, as mentioned earlier, outside the crime fiction world.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    3 stars for the first story, 4 for the second. I thought the table setting for the first took too long but the payoff was good. The second one was more realized and Eliza Wald brought both together well. I really hope she writes more; her catalog looks a little sparse.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marleen

    Leda and Lillian are identical twins yet very different. While Leda has always been the wild one with a free and adventurous spirit, Lillian is a lot more repressed and has lived her life according to a strict plan. Now that they’re both in their thirties and married their lives should be settled but both women are about to discover that life still holds shocks and surprises. Leda has just moved into a new house with her Russian husband and young daughter. Even before she moves in she attracts th Leda and Lillian are identical twins yet very different. While Leda has always been the wild one with a free and adventurous spirit, Lillian is a lot more repressed and has lived her life according to a strict plan. Now that they’re both in their thirties and married their lives should be settled but both women are about to discover that life still holds shocks and surprises. Leda has just moved into a new house with her Russian husband and young daughter. Even before she moves in she attracts the attention of the builder working on the house next door. And before she’s quite aware of it the man seems to be around all the time, constantly finding opportunities to be in her company and in her house. Leda has found herself a stalker who knows more about her past than even her husband does and Leda can’t help being afraid of the man. She doesn’t know what fear is though, until the builder disappears and the police start investigating what happened to him. Lillian is preparing for what may well be one of the most difficult trails of her career when she discovers her sister’s dark secret and a side to her husband that she never knew existed. When the facts she uncovers for the trail show links to the secret her sister has kept for so long Lillian finds herself discovering things about herself she never knew. This is a strange one for me. The Secret Lives of Married Women was a very easy book to read and yet it is proving very hard to review. Part of the problem is due to the fact that rather than one continues story this book contains two separate narratives. While there are some links between Leda’s and Lillian’s stories, these are superficial at best. The continuity lies in the fact that both sisters find themselves in situations they are ill prepared for and dealing with them in ways they wouldn’t have been able to imagine. If, like me, you find yourself waiting for a closer connection between the two stories to be revealed you will be disappointed; I know I was. I was also slightly bewildered that my favourite character in this book was not either of the two sisters but rather a secondary character in Lillian’s story. Nan’s story, for me, was the most powerful and heart-wrenching one. The orphan raised by nuns who resigns her job as a professional submissive when she has the opportunity to become the personal assistant for a blind developer, only to lose what has been the best thing that ever happened to her was equally beautiful and devastating. Unfortunately I can’t say more without completely spoiling the story. The cover of this book seems to suggest that this is a rather sexy, if not raunchy book. And while there are certain scenes in this book that more than live up to that promise, I wouldn’t call this erotic fiction. But then, I wouldn’t call this a crime novel either even though there is an investigation in Leda’s part of the story and a trail in Lillian’s. In fact, I’m not quite sure how to label this book. What I can say with certainty is that this is a good book that managed to surprise me on several occasions. This is a very well written novel containing a fascinating and easy to read story which is never quite what you expect it to be. And in these days when a lot of books appear to be written according to a formula, that makes a very nice change.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara Benson

    [I won this book in a GoodReads First Reads giveaway, and am posting a review as requested.] I'm a big fan of the Hard Case Crime series, both the reissued pulp titles and the new novels. That's why I was looking forward to getting this book in the mail. It only took me a few hours to read through both of the novellas that compose this book. Without giving away any plot points, let me say that both novellas build to anti-climactic conclusions, which may disappoint anyone looking for a true, down- [I won this book in a GoodReads First Reads giveaway, and am posting a review as requested.] I'm a big fan of the Hard Case Crime series, both the reissued pulp titles and the new novels. That's why I was looking forward to getting this book in the mail. It only took me a few hours to read through both of the novellas that compose this book. Without giving away any plot points, let me say that both novellas build to anti-climactic conclusions, which may disappoint anyone looking for a true, down-and-dirty pulp novel. As one other reviewer has noted, the cover photo is misleading - nothing of what's shown actually happens in either part of the book. The first novella is basically the tale of a Portland housewife with a vivid imagination and too much time on her hands. The second novella is a story-within-a-story - and the inner tale of the lawyer's client is more nuanced and interesting (but still quite tame) than the main frame story. It felt to me like this book took a cheap, superficial ride on the "50 Shades of Gray" wave of popularity. It's neither really a crime novel, nor an erotic thriller. It didn't hold my full attention for very long. There was too much explication, and not enough action. I felt cheated by the weak conclusions of both parts.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Soft Case Crime

  12. 4 out of 5

    Randy Money

    A bit of bait and switch between what's hinted on the cover and what's delivered. That's not necessarily bad since I was expecting intelligent but not demanding entertainment and what I got was a complex story dealing with (among other things) issues of female sexuality and sensuality, and their intersection with power, mainly the power of men over women, though that might be simplifying. The McGuffin is a soft-core porn video Leda made with her then boyfriend when she was 19 years old. The book A bit of bait and switch between what's hinted on the cover and what's delivered. That's not necessarily bad since I was expecting intelligent but not demanding entertainment and what I got was a complex story dealing with (among other things) issues of female sexuality and sensuality, and their intersection with power, mainly the power of men over women, though that might be simplifying. The McGuffin is a soft-core porn video Leda made with her then boyfriend when she was 19 years old. The book follows two stories, the first when a man recognizes Leda, who is now 36, married (not to that boyfriend) and with a daughter and another child on the way. Then the man disappears and the police become involved. The second story follows Leda’s twin, Lillian, who is as repressed as Leda was care-free. At 36, unable to have a child, in the middle of a marital and emotional crisis, and while acting as defense attorney for a man who has an odd relationship with his personal assistant, finding her identical twin had been involved in porn is especially shocking. But also somehow troubling beyond the moral implications she usually rallies against porn. I found this well-written and well-thought-out, the characters plausible and Leda’s and Lillian’s actions and their reactions to what happens around them and between them believable. The ending may be a little more pat than it should have been, but rounds off the story reasonably well. I would read more by Wald.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Woody Chandler

    I read her "Meeting the Master" when it first came out, during my 13-month tour on Diego Garcia. I was impressed, but not ecstatic & when I bought this title on its release several years ago, I found the first story, "Part One - The Man Under the House" to be utterly plodding. As a result, I just put it aside & forgot about it until recently. I decided to make a conscious decision to finish it, so that is what I did today. I was actually quite close to the ending of the first story, which I stil I read her "Meeting the Master" when it first came out, during my 13-month tour on Diego Garcia. I was impressed, but not ecstatic & when I bought this title on its release several years ago, I found the first story, "Part One - The Man Under the House" to be utterly plodding. As a result, I just put it aside & forgot about it until recently. I decided to make a conscious decision to finish it, so that is what I did today. I was actually quite close to the ending of the first story, which I still think is a clinker. The second story - "Part Two - Abel's Cane" was much more compelling, plus I liked the sub character of Nan, who had been raised in a Carmelite convent(!). BDSM isn't really my thing, but I am conversant where Ms. Wald is fluent. If that trips yer trigger, you will like her writing. if not, give it a wide pass.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    I will readily admit the main reason I chose to read The Secret Lives of Married Women: it is part of the Hard Case Crime line. The cover by the late Glen Orbik is striking but if this had not been a publication of HCC I doubt I'd have read it. The book concerns the "secret lives" of twin sisters, who are actually very different women. Told in two parts (one for each sibling) we explore some of what makes them tick. If the cover makes the novel look too "porny" for you then you would probably do I will readily admit the main reason I chose to read The Secret Lives of Married Women: it is part of the Hard Case Crime line. The cover by the late Glen Orbik is striking but if this had not been a publication of HCC I doubt I'd have read it. The book concerns the "secret lives" of twin sisters, who are actually very different women. Told in two parts (one for each sibling) we explore some of what makes them tick. If the cover makes the novel look too "porny" for you then you would probably do well to avoid this altogether. Certainly some of the dom/sub "games" in the second half of this left me cold. However I am a big believer in live and let live. There are enough noirish undertones to make regular Hard Case Crime readers find this an enjoyable read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Horror DNA

    I don't enjoy romance. I enjoy crime. When I started reading Elissa Wald's The Secret Lives of Married Women, from Hard Case Crime, I thought it was going to focus too much on what the main characters feel. In a way, the narrative did that. However, it also kept me reading because Wald uses the two narratives that make up the book to explore some dark and twisted elements of sexuality, married life, and human nature. You can read Gabino's full review at Horror DNA by clicking here. I don't enjoy romance. I enjoy crime. When I started reading Elissa Wald's The Secret Lives of Married Women, from Hard Case Crime, I thought it was going to focus too much on what the main characters feel. In a way, the narrative did that. However, it also kept me reading because Wald uses the two narratives that make up the book to explore some dark and twisted elements of sexuality, married life, and human nature. You can read Gabino's full review at Horror DNA by clicking here.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Misleading cover, and while there were some cute moments in the book (such as the first wife's fear that her husband was a killer!), there was no real mystery. The initial build up of her fear was overblown. Misleading cover, and while there were some cute moments in the book (such as the first wife's fear that her husband was a killer!), there was no real mystery. The initial build up of her fear was overblown.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maria Micallef

    Following this author now, loved this read. I'm wishing it was a sequel! The way the author presents every character, their backgrounds, the way their worlds collide and then the storyline..this one was interesting, intense and most definitely surprising. Following this author now, loved this read. I'm wishing it was a sequel! The way the author presents every character, their backgrounds, the way their worlds collide and then the storyline..this one was interesting, intense and most definitely surprising.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sue Siebert

    Worth it! Interesting, attention grabbing, intense, most of all thrilling! My first endeavor with this author and not my last📚 Can't wait to dive into Meeting the Master😍 Worth it! Interesting, attention grabbing, intense, most of all thrilling! My first endeavor with this author and not my last📚 Can't wait to dive into Meeting the Master😍

  19. 5 out of 5

    Morgan bookaddicts.ahoy

    Ehh... hit the second part and I think im gonna call it on this one. The first half was decent and I want to leave it at that.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Dally

    Good for what it was, but "Hard Case Crime" it most certainly is not. Certainly not what I was looking for, but was well written overall. Good for what it was, but "Hard Case Crime" it most certainly is not. Certainly not what I was looking for, but was well written overall.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Twistedtexas

    7/10 - Two interesting, tangentially related tales. I thought the characters were mostly fascinating and the trial was interesting. Decent read, and mercifully short.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Baker

    The Secret Lives of Married Women consists of two separate stories about a pair of identical twins suffering humdrum marriages. The first story follows Leda and her husband Stas as they move into their new house together with their daughter and another baby on the way. But while Stas leaves for work every day, Leda is left to contend with a local handyman who's becoming a bit too familiar. The second story revolves around two separate characters, Nan, a girl developing a strong loyalty for her n The Secret Lives of Married Women consists of two separate stories about a pair of identical twins suffering humdrum marriages. The first story follows Leda and her husband Stas as they move into their new house together with their daughter and another baby on the way. But while Stas leaves for work every day, Leda is left to contend with a local handyman who's becoming a bit too familiar. The second story revolves around two separate characters, Nan, a girl developing a strong loyalty for her new employer Abel as well as, incidentally, an insatiable need to please him, and Lillian, the determined career-driven lawyer representing Abel in an upcoming case against him. The characters were well-defined and each of their trains of thought were very clear. Some of the auxiliary characters felt a bit flat(by auxiliary I'm pretty much referring exclusively to the male characters), but you got a strong vibe of what kind of people they're supposed to be nonetheless, even if it's in a broader sense. The stories were a mixed bag. The author certainly took special care to ensure it was detailed enough, but ultimately the first story didn't feel like it went anywhere. It led you to believe it would culminate in something bigger and more shocking but it never seemed to quite get there. It was very brief and I was even a bit caught off guard when it ended so abruptly. The second story, on the other hand, delivered a much more satisfying plot, almost to the point where the first one felt entirely out of place and unnecessary. It may just be that there were more moving parts, giving it a bit more complexity, and it took a bit more time to develop both the character and story arcs. Nan and Jillian's stories intersected in a very organic way that really complemented both plot lines. Both perspectives played out to a very gratifying conclusion, but then the author decided to top it off with a twist at the end that really detracted from the final punch of the story. I think, judging from the suggestive cover, it's safe to say that this book was trying to market itself as a seedy, provocative pulp novel, but it really felt more on the timid side, pulling punches and shying away from anything truly scandalous. I think a lot of readers will end up disappointed. I suppose everything felt a bit trivial in the end, but it was relatively well-written as far as trivial reads go, so I'd bump it up to a 3.5.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Liza

    I ended up winning this book on a goodreads giveaway. So I went into this book with no idea what I was getting into but the description on the back cover(which is actually pretty vague to what the stories are about). First off, there are two stories in one. One about Leda and another about her identical twin sister Lily(I think her name is Lily...). Leda's story I found to be very creepy and the mood was great with the character named Jack. It had a mystery to it however it was resolved pretty qui I ended up winning this book on a goodreads giveaway. So I went into this book with no idea what I was getting into but the description on the back cover(which is actually pretty vague to what the stories are about). First off, there are two stories in one. One about Leda and another about her identical twin sister Lily(I think her name is Lily...). Leda's story I found to be very creepy and the mood was great with the character named Jack. It had a mystery to it however it was resolved pretty quickly(I really want to know why Clara, their apparent one year old doesn't need as much attention as a child her age should...). It was an okay stand-alone story. Lily's story though, was the main crux of this two-part novel. The cover as well as the tag line on the cover is related to her story and if there wasn't one crucial bit of information in Leda's story that played a role in Lily's, Leda's story would have made no sense. And to go on a tangent, the two stories are vastly different to each other in tone and such to the point that it seems like these two stories should be in different genres all together! However, enough of that. Focusing on Lily's story, I found it tedious. For some reason the story was focused on telling the story of a girl named Nan(who does play an important role in the plot). Yes, it was important but it pushed Lily to the side and put Nan in the starring role. In fact, Lily could have been totally removed and the core plotline would have still been there. Due to this, it dragged. A lot. Lily's personality just grated on me(whenever she actually had thoughts and narrated) and I just wanted the story to hurry up and end(or go back to Nan) The sex scene in the book seemed to come out of nowhere to me. For a book that's been pretty clean in terms of raunchy sex scenes, that just seemed very random. I guess it did fit the theme of the story but I felt like it was out of place and the author just wanted to throw in an S&M scene for the sake of it. Plus, this might be related to my obvious dislike of Lily. So, all and all, I would not recommend this book to anyone. The first storyline is good and it can be a stand-alone however it is connected to Lily's story which is unfortunately a bore.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Albert

    The Secret Lives of Married Women by Elissa Wald left a lot to be desired in a novel that was a Hard Case Crime Novel or by the cover, a book of erotica. There were surprisingly very little of either. There was no great mystery to solve and very little in the way of erotic moments in the book. Two whole stories and one good sex scene between them both? What there is in The Secret Lives of Married Women are two very confused married women. The first story is about Leda, a young married woman wh The Secret Lives of Married Women by Elissa Wald left a lot to be desired in a novel that was a Hard Case Crime Novel or by the cover, a book of erotica. There were surprisingly very little of either. There was no great mystery to solve and very little in the way of erotic moments in the book. Two whole stories and one good sex scene between them both? What there is in The Secret Lives of Married Women are two very confused married women. The first story is about Leda, a young married woman who is pregnant and buying her first home with her Russian husband Stas. She finds a handyman who is helping her with her remodel, but seems to be taking a much more avid interest in her. Leda complains to her husband and soon the handyman goes missing. Leda must come to terms with her suspicion that somehow her husband may be involved in the murder of the handyman. More so, come to terms with her own feelings about it. The fact that she loved the thought that her husband may have killed for her. That this thought brought passion and danger to desire for her husband. The second story is about Leda's sister Lil, a high powered attorney who has little to no time for her husband or family life. Lil approaches everything in her life in a cold and calculating manner and the result of her attitude has begun to wear on her marriage. She takes a case for a well known real estate developer who is caught breaking the law. But what is surprising here is not the developer but his assistant. Nan. A young woman who up until this current job, had lived her life before as a submissive in a sex club. It is in her interviews with Nan that finds in herself, a longing for desire that she had left behind. Both stories are well written and character driven. They do seem poorly marketed. The Secret Lives of Married Women would have been better served not being advertised as some mystery noir with erotic overtones. For in that regard, it does fail miserably. Had it been marketing differently it might have been better appreciated for the characters and fine writing that it does have.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN – both title and cover are a little misleading. I’ve seen reviews note the cover is R18 whereas the content PG13 and for the most part I’d have to agree. Not necessarily a bad thing, as I for one, wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this book so I didn’t have any expectations. The story plays out in two distinct and subtlety linked acts. The first focuses on a young couple with a baby and another on way. The housewife, Leda, feels underappreciated and disco THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN – both title and cover are a little misleading. I’ve seen reviews note the cover is R18 whereas the content PG13 and for the most part I’d have to agree. Not necessarily a bad thing, as I for one, wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this book so I didn’t have any expectations. The story plays out in two distinct and subtlety linked acts. The first focuses on a young couple with a baby and another on way. The housewife, Leda, feels underappreciated and disconnected from her husband and finds a friend in labourer Jack, who happens to be doing some work next door. Cue the adultery? Not quite, while I thought this was the direction the story was heading, Jack turned out to be a stalker of sorts and ends up missing with Leda’s husband, Stas, a prime suspect. The second half of the book is all about the world beneath the silk curtain - one where desires and lustful ambitions can be bought, exploited, and used as currency. Lilly, Leda’s sister, is a successful lawyer who has been trying for some time to have a baby with her husband but thus far, falling pregnant has eluded the power couple. Lilly’s case takes her to a place so foreign to her everyday life that it at once excites and appals her. Nan, a professional submissive, has left the life to work as a devoted receptionist/personal assistant to a blind powerbroker only to cross paths with Lilly when her employer is involved in a shady development deal. Nan’s world and Lilly’s collide, opening them both to new experiences and ways of life. This portion of the novel is more along the lines as to what the cover promised. THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN is an enjoyable, well written and easily readable book. It’s not heavily explicit and the touch of crime added some flavour to the overarching tale. More Hardcase Crime than Fifty Shades of Grey. Read the full review on my blog: http://justaguywholikes2read.blogspot...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ian Mond

    I just loved this book. Very nearly Writer and the Critic worthy, but there’s so much else I want to recommend I’m not sure if it’s going to make the cut. Maybe. The Secret Lives of Married Women is essentially two novellas stitched together, telling the stories of two married women – sisters and identical twins – and as the title suggests the secrets they hide. Of the two novellas, the first is the more traditional in terms of the crime element. Leda, the outgoing twin with past aspirations of b I just loved this book. Very nearly Writer and the Critic worthy, but there’s so much else I want to recommend I’m not sure if it’s going to make the cut. Maybe. The Secret Lives of Married Women is essentially two novellas stitched together, telling the stories of two married women – sisters and identical twins – and as the title suggests the secrets they hide. Of the two novellas, the first is the more traditional in terms of the crime element. Leda, the outgoing twin with past aspirations of being an actress, believes she’s being stalked by her next door neighbour. She tells her husband. Next door neighbour disappears. Leda thinks her husband – who may or may not be linked to the Russian mafia – might have killed the stalker. Leda finds the idea that her husband might be a killer – a husband who she’s not convinced she loves anymore – sexually exciting. And yes things do get a bit hot and sweaty. The second novella is light on when it comes to crime. For the most part it’s a legal drama, with Lilly – the second sister, a lawyer and more repressed of the two – defending a blind businessman from charges of corruption. The wrinkle to the case, apart from the businessman being blind, is his personal assistant who once worked as a submissive in an S&M club. Repressed Lilly finds the submissive PA a fascinating proposition. I know I sound like a prude when I say that in-spite of the subject matter neither story is tawdry or sordid. Wald expertly juggles the tension and eroticism with some strong character work. The repressed lawyer and bored housewife scream cliche, and yet Wald avoids this by digging deep into their past and exploring their motives and instinctual reactions. From a feminist and gender side of the coin, these are two women – empowered in different ways – who uncover a part of themselves that’s lain dormant. And it’s more than just a desire for rough sex. It’s an understanding of their role as sister, wife and mother. Secret Lives is a compelling read. I’ll be searching out for more work by Wald.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marlene

    Leda seems to have the stereotypically perfect life in the suburbs of Vancouver Washington. Her husband is an engineer at Intel and they’ve just bought their first house for their daughter and the baby on the way. Underneath that veneer are the secrets that Leda hides; she used to be a porn star, and the handyman next door is stalking her. Even worse, when she confesses her secrets and fears to her husband, she sees him threaten her stalker, and then the man disappears. Leda doesn’t merely fear Leda seems to have the stereotypically perfect life in the suburbs of Vancouver Washington. Her husband is an engineer at Intel and they’ve just bought their first house for their daughter and the baby on the way. Underneath that veneer are the secrets that Leda hides; she used to be a porn star, and the handyman next door is stalking her. Even worse, when she confesses her secrets and fears to her husband, she sees him threaten her stalker, and then the man disappears. Leda doesn’t merely fear that her husband murdered her nightmare, she enjoys submitting to the man that she secretly fears is a ruthless killer. Her twin sister Lillian, a high-powered attorney in New York, in the midst of the most challenging case of her career is disturbed to discover that the key witness against her blind client is his former assistant; a woman who is also a professional sexual submissive. Lillian’s search for evidence to discredit the witness leads her to uncover her own submissive sexual desires. Verdict: Although there is mystery in both stories in this book, Wald’s specialty is in exploring the intricacies of the submissive relationship as well as the lengths that someone will go to in order to serve, whether or not the context is sexual. Recommended for readers of the Hard Case Crime series, it fits right in with their pulp-revival themes of sex and violence.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Koltnow

    Elissa Wald is only the second woman to publish with Hard Case Crime. When women write noir they sometimes play like the boys: Christa Faust, Hard Case's 1st woman writer, writes taut action stories as tough as any hard-boiled writer around. Wald, on the other hand, creates a new noir rhetoric, one aimed at the inner lives of everyday women. We may think that we are the truths we uphold but in THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN, we are the secrets we conceal. Two sisters, as opposite as twins can Elissa Wald is only the second woman to publish with Hard Case Crime. When women write noir they sometimes play like the boys: Christa Faust, Hard Case's 1st woman writer, writes taut action stories as tough as any hard-boiled writer around. Wald, on the other hand, creates a new noir rhetoric, one aimed at the inner lives of everyday women. We may think that we are the truths we uphold but in THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN, we are the secrets we conceal. Two sisters, as opposite as twins can be, are drawn into prickly crime situations. Leda is pursued by a handyman and her Russian husband discourages him, perhaps permanently. Lillian, who is both haunted and aroused by the world of S&M submissives, handles a case involving corruption, political and personal. It is an odd novel that would appeal to readers of both James M. Cain and Pauline Reage, and one that delivers far more kink than 50 Shades of anything. However, Wald has succeeded in writing a page-turner that explores the dark impulses of the women we think we know. THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN is Cornell Woolrich for the post-feminist reader.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sprout117

    There wasn't much of a reason to link the two sisters but I guess it was in order to show some sort of contrast. I found myself skimming much of the book just to get to the end as it wasn't so interesting and I was looking for something to peak my interest. I can't say that I didn't like the book, but there just wasn't a wow factor-it was average. It wasn't a waste if time but a quick read that tells a story, doesn't make you think and just sort of flows. Too heavy for a beach read but good for There wasn't much of a reason to link the two sisters but I guess it was in order to show some sort of contrast. I found myself skimming much of the book just to get to the end as it wasn't so interesting and I was looking for something to peak my interest. I can't say that I didn't like the book, but there just wasn't a wow factor-it was average. It wasn't a waste if time but a quick read that tells a story, doesn't make you think and just sort of flows. Too heavy for a beach read but good for a plane read. Quick and forgotten. I know many complain about the deception on the front cover/lack of sex scenes but I think I can give the writer credit for creating a sexual undertone in different ways throughout the book rather than throwing sex scenes at the reader. I appreciated this aspect as it's not so obvious and let's your imagination take over...though for some it could be disappointingly subtle. Overall the book was quick, ok...but good to pass time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    There's a lot to like in this volume from Hard Case Crime, but it falls a little flat in the crime department. Ostensibly two novellas connected by their protagonists - twin sisters - the stories read more as reactions to crimes more imagined than real rather than the standard unraveling of the whodunnit format of most mysteries. The characters are interesting. Each of the sisters must come to terms with desires hidden even from herself through the course of the novels, and the young assistant N There's a lot to like in this volume from Hard Case Crime, but it falls a little flat in the crime department. Ostensibly two novellas connected by their protagonists - twin sisters - the stories read more as reactions to crimes more imagined than real rather than the standard unraveling of the whodunnit format of most mysteries. The characters are interesting. Each of the sisters must come to terms with desires hidden even from herself through the course of the novels, and the young assistant Nan in the latter half of the book is unique to the point of fantasy, but every other character comes off as a cliche of a cliche. Little space is available to make them much more than plot devices. I enjoyed the book, but it isn't really what I expected from a Hard Case Crime book. It is well written, and interesting, but I wanted more grit and less contemplation. Recommended with the caveat that this is not a hard-boiled novel, no matter what the cover or imprint suggest.

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