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13 June 2006

Stranger in My Arms (1998)

By Lisa Kleypas

From the back flap: "'Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead...' With these words, Lara's life is turned upside down. Her unhappy, loveless marriage had ended when the Earl of Hawksworth was lost at sea. But now a man stands before her, virile and powerful, who says he is her missing husband, revealing secrets that only he would know. While this dark-eyes stranger closely resembles the earl, he is as attentive and loving as Hunter was cruel and cold, promising to make Lara his wife once again in every way. With every beat of her heart, she aches to believe that this remarkable man is who he claims to be. But is he truly the rake returned and reformed... or is Lara being seduced by a cunning imposter?"

Sigh. Things were going so well! But this novel did not follow through on the solid initial build-up, nor did it justify Kleypas's popularity amongst romance fans. (I will admit that this one of her earlier works, so maybe she has gotten better with practice.)

Based on the French film The Return of Martin Guerre - which was adapted as Sommersby, one of my all-time favorite weepers - the only difference was the eventual happily-ever-after. Richard Gere did not get to shag happily ever after - although that would have been fun to see; he was hanged. Rest assured that no such fate awaited Hunter Cameron Crossroads, Earl of Hawksworth. I shit you not. That was his name.

The dialogue was natural and free-flowing, but descriptive passages thudded along with a clumsy, chunky rhythm that never fully engaged me as a reader. I certainly did not buy the whole negligee scene, although it was fun to read. The man has been celibate for a year - why was he so insistent that she wear a negligee?? Lara's constant and irredeemable do-goodery was too much to stomach, as was Hunter's flawless personality. Brood, brood, brood, but ah yes - we can take in this orphan and help another twelve. Why not? Oh, and there was an awkward sub-story about Lara's abused younger sister and various comments about how very, very wrong it is for husbands to treat wives as property. Shudder. But it's over now.

I have been reviewing few bits and bobs lately because I have been trying to watch all 24 episodes of my The Young Riders Season One collection, and I have been reading an anthology of essays about Shakespeare's plays so that I catch myself up with the ones I have already reviewed. No easy, quick reviews to be had except the occasional romance novel. And shhhh... I've been writing again.

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