by Megan Hart
(© 2009 Spice)
This is exactly what it looks like my friends. Yes, this is the selection for my book club this month. I will give you one chance to guess the genre and if you cannot guess it, then perhaps you need to flip through some of the magazines that they have on the very top shelf of the magazine rack at variety stores. You know the ones; either covers are hidden or stickers are dotted all over the front cover to hide prying eyes before a purchase is made. Yup, this is along those kind of lines.
You might ask why we are reading a book that hearkens from the realms of Harlequin. Well, some of the members of my book club are wondering the same thing to be honest. Ha! We all agreed to read whatever is on the table though and this year we went with genres. One lucky lady selected Erotica and we all agreed, with a round of titters. When it came time to announce the selected book for our genre, Stranger was presented to us for our erotic pleasure. Some had questioned why not a classical approach, such as Lady Chatterly's Lover, Tropic of Cancer or perhaps something by the Marquis de Sade. Modern was the answer. So a modern look at erotica was perused this month compliments of Meagan Hart and her novel Stranger.
The story opens with the main character Grace entering a hotel lounge and settling into the bar for a drink. A description of her provocative attire leads one to assume that she is meeting someone for a date, or at the very least trying to meet someone for something of the kind. A lewd and pushy man tries to hustle her, until a tall, dark and very handsome man interrupts. He fashions himself her boyfriend to dissuade the first stranger to depart, then with him gone introduces himself. Before either of their drinks are done, they are headed upstairs for a night of wild and raucous sex.
Now you might think that Grace is a bit of a tramp, but this is where the story tries to hook you. Grace is under the impression that the handsome stranger she "picked up" at the bar was a man that she had hired from an escort agency. She had already paid for his services and had requested a bit of kinky fun with the game of "having sex with a total stranger". Little did she know, that is exactly what she did. After wonderfully satisfying and over the moon sex, she freshens herself up and heads out the door, checking her voice mail as she goes. Only then does she get the message that her "real" date is wondering where she is and if their gig was cancelled. Well, she is mighty shocked, appalled, but even more titillated, but she doesn't have time to think about it as she heads out to pick up a body from the hospital.
Oh, I haven't mentioned that yet? Yes, well, our dear Grace is a funeral director. She has just taken over the family business and is trying hard to impress her gruff father that can never be pleased. She has a male intern and female secretary (who have an affair, but is a pretty minor sub-plot that doesn't add anything to the story in my opinion) that work for her, but other than that she is fiercely independent. That of course is why she hires men for company, but more importantly, sex. She has no time for a relationship, but as the story unfolds, it is pointed out that she is afraid of commitment, loving someone, and ultimately losing them. In her narrow world, all she sees is that everyone leaves you sometime. She forestalls the hurt caused by someone leaving her, by not letting anyone in to cause harm. Wonderful, except for the fact that she is dealing with the bereaved as a line of work.
At this point the novel is more than a little flat on character development. Grace is a self-centred, narrow-minded individual that has no room for anything other than proving her father wrong, and of course sex. She supposedly is good at her job, but without truly caring about another individual, I don't see as how she could actually come across as believable to any kind of client. Her words would ring pretty false to a grieving soul's ears. I suppose that the story is trying to legitimize itself here though, so I will move on.
What else is in this book? Well, sex for the most part. Fine, except for I find it annoying how she has the best sex ever, every single time she has sex in the book. I am not saying that I am virginal, but I also wouldn't suggest that every time I have slid between the sheets with someone the moon and stars have realigned into a new constellation with my name on it. Jealousy on my behalf, I suppose, but I have to beg realism here. I don't mind the sex, but a little more titillation wouldn't hurt either. I suspect that I will not be alone in my questioning as to why the book did not appeal to my erotic imagination. That is not what this book was about though. The pictures were vividly painted and no imagination was required.
Ah well, I did read it to the end and to be honest didn't mind it that much. Intellectual stimulation was not the main point, as the story was all about getting the motor running, if you will. Predictably, Grace gets together with her Stranger, loses her stranger, and then finds him again, as well as a dose of love thrown in for good measure. Any moral or ethical questions to be learned here? That is a stretch, but perhaps it is that while an individual's happiness is vital and important, allowing others into our lives to share the joys and sorrows makes for a much more enjoyable and worthwhile ride.