Pros: A page turner, lots of subplots, sexy, for the (very) modern woman, titillating
Cons: Extremely graphic sex scenes and language, ending leaves many questions unanswered
I hadn't read a Harlequin romance novel years. I think they're campy, predictable, and just too formulaic to enjoy. However, Harlequin was having a buy one book, get one free sale and, being a shopaholic and a writer, I wanted to see what the new romance novels were like. I saw an erotic section which I had not known existed in such books and picked up two of the Spice novels. I just finished reading Megan Hart's Stranger.
This book is quite graphic and certainly will not appeal to all. The language is almost TOO graphic to get the sexual aspect of the storyline across and actual plot takes a backseat to sexual liaisons which begin almost immediately upon opening the cover. Having said that, I enjoy Hart's style in some ways but she failed big time at the end of the book, almost as though she ran out of wind and just wanted to wrap the story up and move to the next novel without bothering to tie up loose ends.
About Megan Hart's Stranger
This book is part of Harlequin's erotic fiction/Spice line so I clearly knew what I was getting myself into when I bought the book. I had read some sample pages online and liked the style of writing. I am no prude and I hate romance novels that dance around the subject of sex as though adults don't even think about it and, if they do, they blush crimson and run to church to avoid sin.
This line of books is anything but innocent and certainly doesn't dodge sex. It is the main subject of the books and is as graphic as I have seen in mainstream novels.
The novel is about funeral home owner Grace Frawley who chooses to pay for "escorts" rather than engage in real relationships. She works hard and plays even harder with her boy toys that are bought and paid for.
The very first chapter has Grace at a bar waiting for one of her paid "strangers" to appear and role play picking her up and taking her to the attached hotel. However, she mistakes Sam, a tall, handsome, real stranger for her paid escort and immediately ends up in bed with him. It isn't until she leaves the hotel that she realizes that she had actually missed the paid stranger and had sex with a real stranger. That is, an unpaid, unwitting one.
As the story progresses, Grace is caught up in the thought of her sexual liaison with Sam but begins an ongoing paid relationship with bad boy Jack to keep her mind off of the man she mistook for an escort.
There are a few interwoven storylines in this novel such as Grace's reason for not wanting to have a real boyfriend or a real lover, her struggle to run the funeral home as her father and uncle before her had, and a mini storyline involving her two employees who are not exactly what they seem at first.
As all romance novels go, Grace and Sam end up seeing one another again and sparks fly. Grace continues to be reluctant to let herself feel anything but lust for Sam and he has no idea what on earth her problem is.
Sex scene, internal struggle, side storyline, another sex scene, longing, chance meetings, crazy circumstances, and more sex scenes ensue. Hart writes in the first person and doesn't flesh her character's looks out at all. She drops tiny hints about what Grace looks like but I suspect that is so those reading can slip themselves into her persona and make Grace look like whatever or whomever they want. I found it distracting. I like to picture the people I am reading about and everyone but Grace, the main character, was clearly visible in my mind while Grace remained a shadowy figure.
The novel moves along quickly and, if you don't offend easily, is quite sexy. There are a few terms that turn me off, such as Hart's affection for the word c*unt rather than, well, almost anything else. That word isn't sexy to me. It's just nasty.
The storyline is laid out well and the tenderness of Grace, the funeral home director, and the seemingly icy nymphomaniac Grace are interwoven well, making Grace likable enough to forgive her transgressions and hope for a happy ending for her.
Of course, there is conflict before the usual happy ending and that is where the book fell apart for me. Grace is humanized more at the end of the book but Sam comes off as a jerk and a drunk. Chance meetings are so unlikely that I rolled my eyes. And the ending left me stone cold. It is as though Hart was bored by that time and just wanted to put the book to bed and did so in a way that didn't answer important questions and left me wondering if the ending was, indeed, a happy one after all.
All the conflict and suspense of will they or won't they fall in love goes up in smoke in the final pages of the book and leaves the reader wondering if they did or didn't. An extra few pages of explanation of where Sam had been, why he was back, if the two were going to "live happily ever after" and a quick wrap up of a few other storylines that were left hanging would have made reading this book much more satisfying for me.
Don't get me wrong. I don't expect brilliance from any erotic novel, especially a Harlequin one, but I do expect the book to end with most outstanding questions answered.
This fat paperback book weighs in at a lofty 432 pages that fly by. It's an easy read and does have enough suspense to make a reader want to keep on turning the pages although most know the ending will inevitably be a happy one.
Megan Hart has written around 29 novels for Harlequin's Spice/erotic fiction line and is working on another. She has a large following and for good reason. She keeps her novels in the here and now rather than taking them back into time and she references things that we relate to in the here and now (iPods, certain songs and performers, internet terminology, etc.) that certainly helped me to relate to the novel. I am no fan of historical romance and their foreign settings and odd language although I am aware that many readers are.
Stranger was a fast, sexy, somewhat intriguing, well woven graphic novel that only failed me at the very end. It left me ticked off that I had immersed myself into the characters only to be cut out of their lives without getting answers to the questions that were looming throughout the book. We do learn why Grace shuns relationships and why Sam is struggling with certain issues but still, I would have appreciated a bit more.
* Paperback: 432 pages
* Publisher: Spice (January 1, 2009)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0373605277
* ISBN-13: 978-0373605279
For those who like their romance novels with a healthy, heavy dose of spice, Megan Hart's Stranger satisfies. While the sex scenes aren't always romantic and classic, they are certainly well described! The book has a decent plot and several interesting subplots that keeps it from being just an erotic novel and more of a novel with a whole bunch of graphic sex interspersed.
The only things I would have changed had I penned this novel, were to flesh out Grace's looks a bit more so readers could envision her better and to avoid using the word c*nt so often and defer to somewhat "tamer" words without falling back on cliched terms like "womanhood" or clinical terms like "vagina". Each time I read that one word, I just shook my head. It took away from the flow of the scene. And trust me, I am not one to shake my head at much!
Megan Hart's Stranger is a decent read for those looking for this type of novel and I am giving it 4 stars because it did keep me captivated and managed to bring the characters to life. I also enjoyed the subplots and the interweaving of Grace's character as both sexually obsessed yet extremely caring and respectful of those who passed away and their families. It gave her a three dimensional character often missing in erotic novels. The ending disappointed but didn't completely ruin the book by any means.
And a warning. The cover is a bit revealing so, if you plan to read this book on the beach or around kids, a book cover is suggested!