The best books about adultery

6 authors have picked their favorite books about adultery and why they recommend each book.

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Lady Chatterley's Lover

By D.H. Lawrence,

Book cover of Lady Chatterley's Lover

It may seem odd to include a novel in a feature about swear words but Lawrence’s famous/notorious book Includes several taboo terms. True, these relate to sex rather than swearing but there is considerable overlap between the two. This is the long-banned account of the affair between Constance Chatterley, a lady, and Mellors, the gamekeeper on her husband’s estate. Lawrence knew it would not be published openly in Britain in his lifetime. The watershed Old Bailey case in 1960 cleared the book of obscenity and (depending on your point of view) opened the floodgates of filth or ushered us towards the sunlit uplands of the permissive society.

Who am I?

I write fiction, mostly historical mysteries, and non-fiction, generally about the English language. Both aspects of my writing reflect an interest in the past and how it continually shapes the present. The roots of English go back thousands of years to Latin, Anglo-Saxon, French, and many other sources. Yet the newest term to the vast storehouse of language may have been added only last week. Recently I’ve been writing about oaths, swear words, and bad language.


I wrote...

Bad Words: And What They Say about Us

By Philip Gooden,

Book cover of Bad Words: And What They Say about Us

What is my book about?

Bad Words investigates the most controversial words in the English language in a way that is both anecdotal and analytical. Intriguing and provocative, the book delves into expressions connected to religion, ethnicity, nationality, and politics, and examines contemporary issues like political correctness and elitism.

Effi Briest

By Theodor Fontane, Hugh Rorrison (translator), Helen Chambers (translator)

Book cover of Effi Briest

This is the heartbreaker, the one you need tissues for. Effi Briest was written by Theodor Fontane in 1894/5 and is a German classic. It’s also really good. When we first meet Effi she is a young, naïve girl about to be married off in the way of wealthy families to a suitable husband. The Baron she is given to might be suitable but he is also old and dull and Effi makes the fatal mistake of letting her head be turned by a dangerous man. Fontane’s writing is so spare and so knowing that you end up as angry with the hand poor Effie has been dealt and the hypocritical world she lives in as you are broken-hearted for her. Don’t miss this one, it really will stay with you.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with the history-soaked city of Berlin where my novels are set since a school exchange trip as a teenager. It was the border that did it. Machine guns, dog runs, barbed wire, watchtowers. They were daunting. More striking still was our guide’s story about her sister who lived on the other side in the East. They were barely a mile apart but hadn’t seen each other in the twenty years since the Wall went up. I’ve been back many times since and have had a passion for German history from that day, particularly for the experiences of its people who have lived through such turbulent times.


I wrote...

The Secretary

By Catherine Hokin,

Book cover of The Secretary

What is my book about?

The Tower House, a crumbling villa choked with memories. Berlin 1940Magda leads a dangerous double life working for the resistance and also as secretary to Himmler, leader of the SS. Her capture, and her death, seem inevitable.

Forty years later. Her granddaughter Nina flees the GDR carrying a forged passport and a scribbled address for the Tower House taken from a drawing she found hidden in her grandmother’s wardrobe. Separated from her family and betrayed by her country, Nina’s last hope is to trace her family’s history in the ruins of the past her grandmother ran from. But, when she finally finds the abandoned house, she opens the door to a forgotten story, and to secrets that will change everything: past, present, and future…

Unfaithful

By Gary Shriver, Mona Shriver,

Book cover of Unfaithful: Hope and Healing After Infidelity

I found Gary and Mona Shriver’s true story a captivating read. They share their personal journeys of weathering and surviving Gary’s extramarital affair. Couples suffering from the impact of infidelity often feel isolated and alone. It helps to read a realistic yet successful story about a marriage similarly impacted by the trauma of infidelity. They are Christians and so this book is especially helpful for believers. I often recommend this book to both partners. I have found that faithful spouses really appreciate the book and hope their partners will grow to better understand their pain as a result of reading it.


Who am I?

I grew up in an alcoholic home. To me, my father’s addiction felt like an attachment to an outside lover that threatened the stability of our family. I think this is what motivated me, as a Marriage and Family Therapist, to have a special heart to help couples salvage their marriages from the destructive, outside influence of infidelity, when they so desired. I read every book I could get my hands on about affair recovery, for my clinical knowledge as well as for clients to read. Each of the books I included in this list are among my favorites from my 33 years of experience helping couples.


I wrote...

How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair: A Compact Manual for the Unfaithful

By Linda J. MacDonald,

Book cover of How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair: A Compact Manual for the Unfaithful

What is my book about?

In my work as an infidelity specialist, I watched many confused, well-intended people make fatal mistakes in their efforts to reconcile their marriages post-affair. Disheartened, I decided to put together a practical step-by-step guide for straying spouses on how to avoid undermining their chances of salvaging their relationships. I framed those who wanted to save their marriages in the aftermath of an affair as “Rebuilders,” as a positive encouragement that they can do this. My suggestions were based upon my 20 years of experience (at the time) helping couples & individuals heal from affairs. The book has sold over 110,000 copies. I receive appreciative letters from all over the country as to how this book was a corner-turner for them, individually and as a couple.

Labors of the Heart

By Claire Davis,

Book cover of Labors of the Heart: Stories

The title story of this collection is a miracle of human relations, ecstatic prose cut to perfection, and the multivalent understandings that arise when we give ourselves freely, openly, and yes brokenly to the will to love. There is nothing so sweet as the kind of development and shaping of humanity found in  Davis’ short stories. An author whose work has appeared in Best American Short Stories and won a Pushcart Prize, Davis is an author who has not received the kind of national following she deserves.


Who am I?

Alongside writing poems and short stories, I am a clinical psychologist focusing on the psychology of men. People echo the vastness of the stellar expanse in which only 1% is matter like the planets and stars, our bodies, days in which we love and hate, moments we embody healthy intimacy or enact violence, the light that gives the face radiance. 19% of the universe is dark energy, and 80% dark matter-- less than 1% is light, and yet light is the foundation of life. "God is light," the ancient text intones, and though the words resound, what that light means in the despair of this world is a beloved mystery.


I wrote...

American Masculine: Stories

By Shann Ray,

Book cover of American Masculine: Stories

What is my book about?

American Masculine envisions women and men in a new country of grace. Winner of the American Book Award, named by Esquire as a “Three Books Every Man Should Read” selection, and chosen by Kirkus Reviews as a Best Book, Best Short Story Collection, and Editor’s Choice selection, the book also won the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize and two High Plains Book Awards, for Best Short Story Collection and Best First Book. With starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, the American Library Association, Kirkus,  and Shelf-Awareness, American Masculine was called a book of “elegance,” “muscularity,” and “astonishing power,” “prophetic,” “lyrical,” and “fiercely written,” forming a “true and pure depiction of sorrow and a primer for forgiveness.” “These stories are powerful literary stunners,” said Booklist.

Vow

By Wendy Plump,

Book cover of Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and Other Affairs)

Wendy Plump’s VOW is the only memoir I have ever read that reveals what it is like to be the “cheating” partner (there are many books that address being cheated on). This is NOT a book touting infidelity or polyamory. It is simply an extremely honest accounting of a marriage riddled by affairs (both partners), how the author coped with the fallout, and grew into a more mature and insight-driven version of herself. This very topic activates so much judgment by so many people (just read some of the seething, scathing reviews on Amazon), but the truth is, human beings DO cheat, they DO commit infidelity, and Wendy Plump, who is a terrific, elegant writer and storyteller, has addressed this topic with great candor. It takes an extremely brave person to tell this type of story; hence, this book is brave and beautiful.


Who am I?

I am a therapist, and I work with people from all walks of life and with all manner of suffering. I am drawn to memoirs because I consider it the real self-help genre of literature. Like good therapy, a good memoir will make sense of a story: how it happened, why it happened, how it affected the person, and what they did (do) to face it, and thrive in spite of it. As a writer, I take pride in bringing that same quality to my work. I have been asked many times, “How can you bear to reveal all that stuff about yourself, especially when it’s unflattering?” The answer is always “Isn’t that the part that matters? Isn’t that the part where the growth occurred? Isn’t that what makes the story worth telling?”


I wrote...

Trailing: A Memoir

By Kristin Louise Duncombe,

Book cover of Trailing: A Memoir

What is my book about?

Something unexpected occurs when Kristin Louise Duncombe moves to New Orleans to begin her adult life as a psychotherapist: She falls madly in love with a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor, abandons all of her plans, and follows him on a medical mission to East Africa. Just when she has managed to establish a life for herself in Nairobi, a violent carjacking catapults her into a state of acute post-traumatic stress, and her life thereafter devolves into a world of intense anxiety that permeates every aspect of her existence. Forced to examine questions about her relationship, career, and personal identity, she struggles to save her marriage while facing the most difficult fight of her life: saving herself.

Probing deeply into her tumultuous search for identity, she captures the essence of the experience with extraordinary authenticity and honesty. 

Confessions on the 7

By Lisa Unger,

Book cover of Confessions on the 7:45: A Novel

Lisa Unger is an auto-buy author for me, but Confessions on the 7:45 might just be my favorite of her books. Selena strikes up a conversation with a stranger on the train during her commute home. The woman confesses she’s stuck in an affair with her boss, prompting Selena to confess her husband is sleeping with the nanny. A chance meeting…or is it? The women part ways, presumably never to meet again, and then the nanny disappears and strange messages begin appearing on Selena’s phone. Strangers on a Train, anyone? This is a top-notch thriller and a masterclass in plotting -- Unger at her absolute best.


Who am I?

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of seven novels of domestic suspense, including her forthcoming My Darling Husband and The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller. Her books have been published in more than a dozen languages and have been optioned for film and television. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.


I wrote...

My Darling Husband

By Kimberly Belle,

Book cover of My Darling Husband

What is my book about?

Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple, with two adorable kids, a spacious home, and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef, and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

The Scarlet Letter

By Nathaniel Hawthorne,

Book cover of The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter is dripping with diction. Nathaniel Hawthorne chooses his words so carefully during certain descriptions that my language-loving self feels jealous about his precision. This classic explores sin, as well as the dark side of the soul. A vengeful old scholar is an unusual villain, but Roger Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter is so smart and evil. 


Who am I?

The human mind is crazy. Stories that can stir me psychologically and leave a lasting mark morally are my favorite. When I was about 11 years old, I peeped through two pillows at Stanley Kubrick’s masterful production of Stephen King’s It. Since then, psychological thrillers and horror stories have been molding my warped mind. Administration at Trinity High School in Washington, Pennsylvania trusts me enough to teach Dark Fiction like Edgar Allen Poe, or the aforementioned Stephen King on a daily basis.  


I wrote...

The Thrillplex Theater

By Brandon Swarrow, Nick Weiss (illustrator),

Book cover of The Thrillplex Theater

What is my book about?

A group of dull, miserly teachers accept an invitation to attend a movie premiere event at the mysterious, new 5D ThrillPlex Theater. Their experience turns out to be more than just a night of bonding with their dates, it is an insufferable trap. The ThrillPlex Theater is specifically tailored to its audience. Simply put, whatever happens to the characters on the screen; occurs as well to each audience member. Theater founder, Amanda Castro refers to the experience as “Reciprocation: on both the corporeal and emotional level.”

The Next Wife

By Kaira Rouda,

Book cover of The Next Wife

The grass is not always greener on the other side is the takeaway message from this novel. 

Talk about schadenfreude dripping from page to page. 

While the new wife is very easy to despise, the ex-wife comports herself with dignity when she has every right to be angry and pop Xanax like candy.  

Here we have a genuflecting husband begging to return to the marriage he destroyed. He’s had his fun and now he’s pining for the woman, who he finally realizes is his true soul mate. 

Like all good mysteries, there’s an “I didn’t see that coming” moment which in my humble opinion made this book shine. Twists are not easy to devise. As a writer, you can accidentally give the game away by offering hints that readers sniff out a mile away. Readers are an instinctive bunch. That didn’t happen in this novel, therefore kudos to the author.


Who am I?

As an avid reader, I’ve been reading novels longer than I’ve been writing them. Despite possessing an eclectic taste in fiction, I promised myself this year only to read current, chart-topping novels. And to that end, I must admit, it hasn’t been easy. There are so many unfinished novels on my kindle reader! I’m still stuck in the past. I adore the classics—from George Eliot to Somerset Maugham, Du Maurier, and Steinbeck. I’m just naturally drawn to descriptive language and exotic settings. The novels I reviewed, however, managed to hold my interest up to the last page. If I possessed half of these authors’ talent, I’d be blessed. 


I wrote...

Uncovering Love

By J.J. Sorel,

Book cover of Uncovering Love

What is my book about?

To escape an abusive ex, Scarlet Black takes on a new identity and accepts a role masquerading as an admin assistant. She moves to a secluded mansion in a small English coastal village working for the reclusive billionaire, Daniel Love, whose wife has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Scarlet soon forms a connection with her troubled but handsome younger boss, and together they descend into a torrid relationship. The deeper they delve into each other the more insatiable they become. The problem is if she breaks from her undercover role her ex, a rogue policeman, will find her. But if she stays, after winning the trust of this guarded and damaged man, the deep bond they’ve formed will be shattered.

The State of Affairs

By Esther Perel,

Book cover of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

This book was published years after mine, but I wish it had been around when I was going through my life upheaval. The author writes about relationships and has an intelligent and thoughtful take on marriage. You might not agree with her philosophy, but her book is eye-opening, will challenge your assumptions, and shares information that might help people as they rebuild their lives after widowhood, infidelity, and divorce.


Who am I?

Though I’ve been a great reader since childhood, I sometimes describe myself as an accidental writer—I came to this work later in my life, following the events that I write about in my first memoir Perfection. Before I became a writer, I did spend many years in the publishing business designing book covers, so I appreciate all sides of the work of bringing books to readers. My favorite books help me enter new worlds for a time and re-reading favorites is like visiting a faithful friend. My recommendations here are a mix of both memoir and fiction and include some of my “desert island” favorites. I hope you enjoy them!


I wrote...

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

By Julie Metz,

Book cover of Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

What is my book about?

Julie Metz’s life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. Seven months after Henry’s death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had hidden another life from her. It's true that he loved Julie and their six-year-old daughter ebulliently and devotedly, but as she starts to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life without Henry in it, she learns that Henry had been unfaithful throughout their twelve years of marriage. 

Little Children

By Tom Perrotta,

Book cover of Little Children

I love a book rich with flawed characters; this one is full of them. Perrotta’s peek into the mundane life of a stay-at-home mother at war with her lot in life is delicious. Sarah once coined herself a feminist, and now, she’s wiping noses. It’s a struggle many mothers of little children face, and while most don’t go to the lengths Perrotta’s characters explore, it’s a valiant example of losing oneself for the sake of a higher calling: motherhood. 

I first read this book at graduate school, with two babies at home. Perrotta taught me that exploring the human condition is necessary for connecting with readers. I’ve received many letters from readers citing that they connected with Veronica on the pages of Trespassing, and that’s the best accolade.


Who am I?

My life, in particular, has been a series of challenges to overcome, from an attempted kidnapping at age eight to surviving breast cancer (twice!) before the age of forty-five. I believe in a world of equal opportunity, but I know the pursuit of happiness takes hard work. As a general contractor in the male-dominated construction industry, I’m well aware of gender biases in our world and the dedication it takes to overcome them. However, the struggle empowers us all, and even small victories inspire us to overcome adversity. Life is a survival story, and art imitates life. So I crave, read, and write novels starring empowered women.


I wrote...

Trespassing

By Brandi Reeds,

Book cover of Trespassing

What is my book about?

Veronica Cavanaugh’s latest round of fertility treatments failed, leaving her on edge, frustrated, and unbalanced. Her three-year-old daughter, influenced by an imaginary friend, inexplicably announces her dad is dead. When he fails to return home from a business trip, what’s left of Veronica’s stability begins to crumble. The police suspect she knows more than she’s telling, and given her family’s history of mental illness, Veronica starts questioning her every thought. Worse, it seems someone wants her and her daughter dead, too―unless it’s all in her mind…

Woven somewhere within her paranoia is the answer to her husband’s vanishing. To find it, she’s led to the Florida Keys. But once there, the truth she uncovers might be more dangerous than the lie she’s accustomed to living.

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