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Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite
Rebecca Bryn’s title, Kindred and Affinity: When the man you love marries the sister you hate – a family saga of love and betrayal, hides almost more than it appears to tell. Elizabeth Underwood has a large family and a pang of secret guilt; she finds it impossible to love one of her daughters, Mary Ellen, and jumps at the chance to rehome her with her childless sister, Harriet Bull, who is married to a successful innkeeper– an alternative to Mary Ellen working hard for her keep. When Annie is twelve, she is sent into service with strangers. Annie falls in love with Edwin, but both are underage, and Edwin’s staunch Methodist father forbids marriage to a Baptist. Mary Ellen, who has adopted the name Bull, knows Edwin as Ned, she's attractive, and a man can’t put off marriage forever.
I felt for Annie, who gave up the love of her life, Edwin, freeing him to marry a “suitable” bride. Mary Ellen loves the man she knows as Ned, but when she discovers her sister’s secret, she hides their relationship and accepts Ned’s proposal. The sisters ignite passions, jealousy, and family feuds already tinder-hot. Religious intolerance was rife in Victorian England, so what is Edwin/Ned to do, married to one sister and secretly loving the other? Annie attends the wedding, but does she answer the statement: “If any person present knows of any lawful impediment to this marriage, he or she should declare it now"? Rebecca Bryn’s characters don’t walk off the page. They jump off and twist the reader’s heartstrings into an impossible tangle. Kindred and Affinity is a gripping, captivating 5-star story.