A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: Beloved Stranger by Joan Wolf

on February 18, 2015

The theme: A recommended read. I believe it was my friend Janet’s GoodReads review that made me request this from paperbackswap.

Why this one: Not sure, really. I found it in my historicals, realized it was actually contemporary, and decided to go for it.

I originally DNF’d this. The description of the Colombian hero felt othering — “in this enchanted moment he seemed to her almost a god, a strange and mythical being, enormous and overwhelming…” — and the initial sex scene, in which he somehow gives her an orgasm immediately after the obligatory hymen tear, was weird. I moved on to Summer Storm (I have the 2-in-1 edition), but that turned out to be so interesting, I decided to review it for Dear Author, and so I gave Beloved Stranger another try.

Beloved Stranger almost crosses the line into “women’s fiction.” Although the basic plot is certainly a romance staple — unexpected blizzard –> sex with a handsome stranger –> pregnancy –> marriage –> love — the story is very strongly focused on the heroine’s personal journey, and how her feelings about her husband and her marriage complicate it. Ricardo is not only from a wealthy background, and a famous member of the New York Yankees, but he’s used to being the spoiled center of feminine attention at home. He expects Susan to be happy with a traditional society wife role, as his mother and sisters are. But Susan is a quiet, somewhat introverted person with aspirations to write. When she realizes that she loves Ricardo, she feels intensely vulnerable, because she doesn’t feel that she knows him at all, and because she fears she can’t be what he wants.

He was pleased with her; she knew that. Why shouldn’t he be? In all their relationship so far she had conformed to what his idea of a wife ought to be. She had been as docile and tractable as her mother thought her. She had bent before the overpowering force of Ricardo’s personality, given in to all his wishes. But if the day came when she had to stand up for herself? If she stopped being what he thought a wife should be?

She shivered a little, suddenly cold in the pleasant heat of the ballroom.

For Susan, writing is “the door into her deepest self,” but she faces the classic challenges for creative women: lack of time, of space, and of support from people who take her needs seriously. Still, she perseveres, and finds that that she can be her own person and happily married.

Nothing really dramatic happens in this story; there are no big upheavals or misunderstandings. It’s just about two intensely private people learning to know and care for each other. If you like gentle marriage of convenience stories, check it out.

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4 responses to “TBR Challenge: Beloved Stranger by Joan Wolf

  1. lynnaar says:

    Hmmm…that sounds interesting. I have a feeling I would either love it or get frustrated and DNF. I’ve read this author before and her books tend to be that way for me. Might have to look it over at the UBS.

  2. Barb in Maryland says:

    Joan Wolf’s early contemporary books were rather hit or miss for me and this was a miss. Though I will confess that the hero’s biggest flaw for me was that he played for the Yankees!
    I had the same discomfort with the ‘Latin hero’ trope that you did. Another of her early books that features a Latin heroine (Change of Heart). I wasn’t keen on it, either.

  3. Jennifer @ Feminist Fairytale Reviews says:

    Hmmm…not sure if I will pick this one up. I’m always willing to try new authors, but this doesn’t sound like it would appeal to me. I don’t always need DRAMA in romances…just something external to keep things interesting (for me, at least). Thanks for the review!

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