The ”he” in Shreve’s cautionary romance — set in the popular author’s favorite time, a more genteel past — is a priggish academic so obsessed with a woman he sees on a New Hampshire street that he pursues her into marriage. Then he punishes her horribly, in an imperious, turn-of-the-20th-century masculine way, for having thoughts and emotions of her own. Much is baldly educational in the plot, especially the shock value of the prof’s casual, unexceptional anti-Semitism. But the simple, skillful storytelling doesn’t fail the intended audience: Shreve (The Pilot’s Wife) alludes to a serious 19th-century literary style, but writes for the sensibilities of 21st-century romance readers.
All He Ever Wanted