My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Sarah Ballance’s An Unexpected Sin, book 2 of Sins of Salem was a delightful read. I enjoyed it much more than book 1, Her Wicked Sin. The storytelling was flowing; I was hooked from the first page. Reading about a young couple, known to each-other since childhood and already harboring deep emotions, IMO, was a plus point of this story.
An Unexpected Sin, though set in the dark backdrop of Salem’s witch trial, is not directly involved in it. There are instances where one or more of the characters are said to have some kinda connection to this horrid event one way or the other but the story itself is all about Anne and Josiah’s love for each-other.
Anne was a minor character in book 1, who was also a friend to the h, Lydia, Salem village’s physician. She was falsely accused of witchcraft, from which she was saved by her lover (later her husband), Henry Durham. Anne proved to a true friend, warning Lydia about the farcical accusation about her that were being spread through the town. Though Lydia left Salem in the dark of the night to avoid any further consequences, Anne is stuck here with her parents.
Anne now lives in Salem town and helps with her father’s inn but once upon a time, Salem village was what she called ‘home’. That was before her brother Samuel was lost in the nearby river. Anne and her parents’ lives have never been the same, this is the reason why they moved away from the memories to start anew. Samuel’s best friend, Josiah, who was like another member of the family, has always been blamed. It’s said that Josiah led Samuel to his death, though no one tells Anne of the true incident, least of all her parents.
Anne has had a crush on Josiah since she was a young girl, barely in her teens. Josiah is only 2 years older than her. Because his mother died when he was just an infant and his father remarried, Josiah called Anne’s family ‘home’ rather than his own. He was well-loved and always welcomed, spending more time with her family and Samuel. Anne loved those days, still fondly remembers them. But after Samuel’s death, Josiah was sent from Salem by his mortified father, never to be seen again. Anne thinks she may never see him again.
In the middling years, no man has caught Anne’s attention and she has not been in a hurry to get married, though her mother is gradually becoming more and more vocal about it. That was until one day, a stranger catches her eyes, alongside her flirty best friend Prudence’s. But Anne is ensnared by the way she finds this stranger helping out in the building of a house for a neighbor. It was not just the physical response to his attractive (and sweaty :p) body... Ok it was plain that cause at that time, Anne couldn’t even begin to imagine how her life was going to change in the coming months. When she gathered enough courage and talks to the stranger in pretense of offering him a glass of water, she finds he looks familiar. Then, he introduces himself and Anne’s world is completely altered.
Josiah returned to Salem just for this moment, to see Anne once again and to find out if she’s still single, and would have him. He wondered if he’d see anger and hatred in her eyes because of his part in Samuel’s death. He’s ecstatic to learn that not only Anne recognizes him but also, she’s not even betrothed. The next, Anne and Josiah go private to talk about what happened to him in the past few years. Josiah keeps thinking how fortunate that Anne doesn’t hold him in contempt! Sadly, he had no idea that Anne didn’t know of that little nugget of information, so she never had any reason to belittle Josiah. He had always been the man she wanted to be with, and finding him returned to Salem, claiming that he specifically came to see her, could only make her heart pound with joy. I didn’t even mind that they kiss that very day cause the yearning was just that palpable, coming from the both of them.
It doesn’t take long for the love birds to find a plan to help Josiah. Anne thought he wants to prove himself to her parents before divulging his true identity, and for her hands in marriage. His return can also mean a great deal of distress because he’d remind them of Samuel. Yet, she suggests that Josiah go to his father’s inn and ask to be hired, because a strong helper is always needed. Her poor, elderly father can’t do many chores around the inn anymore.
Against his better judgment, Josiah does just that. Being close to Anne wins out all reason. He decides he’d face it if things come to that... but to his relief, neither of the Scudders seem to recognize him. Josiah finds a place at the inn, starting as a help around that very day. Though he’s a man educated in Cambridge, Josiah doesn’t care for anything but being with Anne at the moment.
Anne is exited to find Josiah heeding her suggestion. They try spending time together, hiding away from Anne’s mother’s ever watchful eyes. It’s apparent that she doesn’t care much for him. But Anne doesn’t care either. She feels reckless and alive to have him nearby; one night even going to his room, where they end up kissing and touching. Anne’s mother starts petitioning to her father about Anne’s marriage. This makes her unhappy, so much so that a couple of times, she ends up quarreling with her mother for her rudeness towards Josiah. Anne doesn’t understand why her mother is like that around him. No matter, Anne is determined to marry Josiah and that’s that.
One day, a tragedy takes place. One of Anne’s friends, Elizabeth, was falsely accused of witchcraft and she’s hanged in front of her eyes. Feeling helpless and bitter, Anne wanders away, not telling her family of where she’s going. When she doesn’t return, Anne’s frantic parents consider Josiah’s proposal of help. He finds her and instead of coming home, they spend the night in an abandoned cottage. Anne does what she always wanted to do, seeking solace in Josiah’s arms. I wouldn’t have minded if Josiah, who was about to tell Anne of his guilt about Samuel’s death, came clean of the whole matter. But he breaks off midway and they end up having sex. This didn’t feel right to me. I already knew that when Josiah informs Anne, there’d be trouble between them. Now I knew that it’d be tenfold because of their new intimacy...
... Which it is, the very next day. Anne’s mother was more than happy to twist things in a way that left Anne confused about Josiah’s role in Samuel’s death. It was way too apparent that the woman was trying to get rid of him, and I knew it wasn’t just because of Samuel. From the conversation Josiah earlier had with Anne’s ancient grandmother, who doesn’t speak that much these days, it became clear that he harbored another dark secret; Josiah’s mother was hanged after being condemned as a witch. The whole matter was rather hush-hush. So far, Josiah thought no one else but his father, he and the people who were involved in the crime knew of it. But after this, and Anne’s angry confrontation about her brother’s death, he decides it’s best for everyone that he leaves, even if it breaks his heart. Either way, he wouldn’t stay when it’s Anne who doesn’t want him here anymore.
True to his words, Josiah leaves that very day...
Josiah was a great guy; soft spoken and overall nice. I think when he said he was true to Anne, he meant about not being with anyone else. Maybe he should’ve fought a little harder to be heard. But the fact was, he was wrecked with guilt. And if you were thinking; did he kill Samuel? In literal sense, no. I never felt he’s capable of killing anyone. What happened is this- Josiah has always been afraid of water, yet because of his urging Samuel accompanied him on that fateful day. He couldn’t save Samuel when he drowned, that’s all. I was rather annoyed at Anne’s mother, and then Anne for not even giving him the chance to explain anything. When the truth was revealed at the end, I didn’t like Anne’s mother at all. Then, Anne... they just had sex the night before, how could she be so cruel to him?
Anne, though late, realizes her fault and what her outburst and rash decision has wrought. She finds herself pregnant and no way of contacting with Josiah. She becomes desperate and leaves town secretly in search of Lydia, who also used to be a midwife.
The story moves fast from there. I knew Josiah would come looking for his Anne. He just couldn’t have stayed away. Anne was able to reach to Lydia. She starts living there for the duration of her pregnancy, with a sketchy plan about her future at best... until Josiah comes knocking at the door. Then, it was all about revelations and what happened to Samuel and why Anne’s mother wanted Josiah away from Anne. I loved the ending because I finished the book with a smile on my face.
I know there’d be a book 3 and it made me think, could the next installment be of Samuel’s? His body was never found, so he was presumed dead. I don’t know but I’d like to find out later. 4 stars.
This ARC was provided to me by Entangled Scandalous via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.