Friday, October 23, 2009

Stranger by Megan Hart

Title: Stranger
Author: Megan Hart

Type: Erotic Romance
Published: 2009

Why: Hart is an auto-read for me.

Thoughts: This was the first Hart book that did not wholly satisfy. Engaging and provocative, I enjoyed the reading of it as much as the other Hart titles I've read. Her voice, pacing, characters, all of it worked for me. In this one, I simply did not like the outcome.

I liked Grace best--a good thing since she narrates every page. She exhibited that matter-of-fact outlook I appreciate in Hart's heroines. For me, it's not that she's practical or modern or that she is emotionally void. I see her as neither. Instead, I see her as mature. In that she accepts what she cannot control or change and doesn't meddle (like in her sister's choices or the budding romance between her employees). She listens, but does not take their problems onto herself. She also manages a perspective I admire in the face of her idiot father. He gets to her, yes, but she does not become overwhelmed by the emotion he evokes. Nor does she waste a lot of energy hoping he will change.

I like these things about Grace. One, because I can relate. And two, because I aspire to the idea of worrying less and living more. However, I also suspect that these things do not translate into emotional well-being for Grace. One, because I can relate. And two, because I acknowledge the oh-so-fine line between worrying less and straight-up avoidance (or...perhaps selfishness).

In some aspects of her life, her matter-of-factness works well for her. Specifically, dealing with her sister, her parents, her employees, her clients and the tasks that make up her job. IMO, she is a good (healthy) judge of how much or how little she allows the clutter inherent in each to occupy her headspace. .

In the more personal aspects of her life, her matter-of-factness appears to work well for her. She is decisive and unapologetic. Paying for sex--instead of investing emotionally in a relationship--seemed to work just fine for her. Of course we all know her reasons for doing so were unhealthy. But honestly? For me, I didn't see a lot of harm in it. I figured that one day, she'd fall hard for someone, her fears be damned. IOW, I didn't see Grace's 'affliction' as a long-term or permanent one.

This is likely why I didn't care for the book's outcome. Personally, I think Grace should have waited for a better man to fall hard for. At first, Sam titillated. He charmed. I wanted Grace to take her chance on him. I wondered at her ability to get it on with Jack while Sam was on her mind. I think I was right in the muddle Hart intended me to be.

Then we got to know Sam. Turns out he's a bit of an asshole. A loser even. Meanwhile, Jack is growing up before our eyes. Interesting. At least I thought it was, because Grace is still a woman with freedom of choice. Nothing weighing her down, nothing demanding she choose right now.

But somewhere in here, Grace fell for him. Enough so that she hesitates to stand up for herself, for fear of losing what she's just allowed herself to find. That's the part I missed or failed to buy. Or just flat-out couldn't respect. The character that Hart built for us felt smarter, more self-assured than that.

So right there, it went from interesting to unbelievable. If you've read any of Hart's books, you know that her characters--her heroine narrators specifically--rarely make choices you or I would. In every other instance but this one, I understood the choice(s). Here, I simply could not reconcile Grace's actions and mindset throughout most of the book with the love-struck doormat she occupies at its end.

Had Hart opted for Grace to experience the ache of that love, but ultimately walk away from it (because he is an asshole, let's face it), I would have been satisfied. But she didn't. And I closed the book thinking "not my favorite Hart book."


  1. I liked Sam better than you did - but did feel he got the short end of the character development stick because the author spent WAY too much time on Jack. I was frustrated by this, because it was pretty evident to me that Jack was NOT the hero of this story. So I wasn't interested in reading about the heroine spending her time with him - I wanted her to be spending that time with Sam.

    Other than that? Liked this one. Didn't love it, but did like it.

  2. Agree Wendy - Hart didn't spend enough time on him. But, I'll also admit that it was his drinking that soured me and, as my reaction was personal, it's not likely Hart could have changed my mind anyway.

    Overall, I liked it too. Just won't be my fave from her list.

  3. Great review. I had slightly more problems with her internal obstacle to a long term relationship than with her inability to stand up for her choices at the end, which is not to say I don't totally see your point. I didn't want either out of this character, though, without those internal obstacles, we wouldn't have had the delightful ride that this book gives, of all the stranger sex with Jack. All these megan Hart books are just like candy to me.

  4. I think this one clutches at your heart just a little less than some of the other ones also. So its impact is just a little less.

  5. I don't necessarily think that Stranger is a weak book, however it is my least favorite of Hart's books. That is mainly due to the fact that I like my hero to be... well, a hero. Sam had a lot of problems, his drinking and inability to hold a job the main ones were a major turn off. His personality was too artsy for my taste. I like my men more concrete.

    What I thought was very well done was how Grace grew throughout the story. I loved how she came to the conclusion that she could survive loss. That grief is a natural part of life and that she would survive it, if it happened to her.

    Plus, Hart still pens a great story. The dialogue and characters are still well written.

    Another great review Jen!

  6. I couldn't have said it any better myself even if my sister disagee with us on this one. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Carolyn and Jill - You both point out the best of the conflict in Stranger--Grace's fear and avoidance of loss and her eventual growth/realization that she could survive it. Very powerful stuff.

    But - Lori - I agree, not as much a tug at the heartstrings as in other Hart books.

    And I never did get past the idea that it all could have played out--exactly as Hart let it--but without that ending. It all felt wasted on him, IMO.

    Thanks HEA!

  8. Is this the same Jack as in Broken? (I hope not!) I've only read Broken and enjoyed it. I think i'm going to wait a while before reading this one though.

    Thanks for the review, Jennifer!

  9. Geez...I had to go look, LOL. And no, I'm pretty sure, no, not him. I looked back at my review of Broken, but it was more about me than the storyline and characters of that book. So pretty sure...but maybe not 100%, LOL. Memory is first to go... :-)

    Still the stellar writing of Hart BTW. Just didn't like that ending much.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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