The Mortification of Grace Wheeler by Colette Dartford

A stale marriage, an illicit affair. Who pays the price?

Faced with an empty nest when her only child goes to university, the flaws in Grace’s marriage are sharply exposed. Finding excuses to escape the taut atmosphere at home, she is drawn into an affair that ignites a mid-life sexual awakening.

But when her secret is discovered there is a terrible price to pay, and Grace is not the only one who pays it.

A compelling and emotional read, The Mortification of Grace Wheeler shines a spotlight on a marriage in crisis, the challenges of being a middle-aged woman, and the fear that your best years are behind you

The Mortification of Grace Wheeler was an unexpectedly good read that became my obsession whilst reading it as I just didn’t want to let Grace go! She’s one of my favourite characters of 2022 and I miss her even now! Colette Dartford wasn’t an author I had heard of before but now I want to read everything she’s written in the past and be first in the queue for anything she writes in the future!

I’m sure we have all used the expression “I was mortified” before but until reading this, I hadn’t actually been aware of other uses of the word mortification. Mortification is the “action of denying one’s bodily desires” and is originally from a religious perspective of denying yourself pleasurable experiences or objects. And Grace is certainly living a life deprived of happiness and fulfilment. Her teenager son has left home and the state of her marriage can no longer be camouflaged by the bustles of family life. To maintain a connection with her absent child. and hiding from the difficult situation at home, Grace decides to learn fly fishing as a surprise for Josh when he returns home-but meeting her instructor awakens feelings in Grace that could signal the end of all she hold dear…

As I said before, I loved Grace and found her just so beautifully written with a true understanding of how women feel at this pivotal moment in their lives. Grace still feels young and desirable but not longer finds her (much older) husband sexually attractive and she struggles to work out who she is without the label of “mother”. Falling into an affair seems rather a cliché but there is a need within Grace that just isn’t being met and although probably not the right decision for her, it’s one she takes ownership of. There is so much pressure on women still to remain “young” but we all age and should embrace it in whatever way we feel is right for us. The moment a man’s eyes travel straight past you to your daughter doesn’t hurt as much if you are happy and content in yourself, moving onto the next chapter of your life adapting and evolving as you go because you never know when that final page will be turned.

But although it’s the “empty nest” that’s the catalyst for her affair, we come to see that Grace’s marriage hasn’t been right for years. For many women, the last child leaving home signals a second honeymoon as you and your partner finally have back some privacy! But ofcourse nature isn’t that kind and this often coincides with the start of menopause and all the devils it carries on it’s shoulders! So I did understand why Grace responded as she did when it became obvious a flirtation could be pushed over that unmarked line. And who wouldn’t want to forget the tension at home? Unfortunately for Grace, her actions also affect others in her inner circle-her friendships and her relationships with her stepchildren especially-and the ripples caused change everything…

This is such a stunning book-beautifully written with a confidence in it’s characters that shone throughout. It’s a emotional journey through a marriage, and it’s hidden adversity, that doesn’t pull its punches so therefore it felt authentically convincing in its breakdown. I was drawn into this affecting and heartbreaking novel and remained there for sometime after finishing that final page-a sign of a truly compelling storyline.

The Mortification of Grace Wheeler is published by Whitefox on 18th August 2022.

Colette Dartford writes contemporary fiction with compelling emotional themes. Her debut novel, Learning to Speak American, was shortlisted for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published by Bonnier Zaffre. Her second novel, An Unsuitable Marriage, was a Kindle bestseller for over 18 months. In addition to her novels, Colette has had award-winning Flash fiction, short stories and poetry, published in popular magazines and anthologies. The Mortification of Grace Wheeler is her third novel. Colette lives in Bath with her husband and a very demanding labradoodle.

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I am a Norfolk girl living in leafy Cheshire with my grumpy Scotsman. A mum and nana who lives for my family but who is also addicted to reading (and Marmite!) I will read almost anything but my preferred genres to review are psychological thrillers, crime procedural novels or women's fiction. My kindle is my life but I also have a substantial bookshelf in my cosy reading room where I can go to escape the stresses of family life with plenty of tea and chocolate. I am a member of netgalley and bookbridg. I review on Amazon, where I'm a Top 500 reviewer, and Goodreads. You can always find me over on Twitter @jocatrobertson for any review requests.

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