Hello Stranger
Grade : C+

Katherine Center’s new novel is a fairly unique take on the two-people-fall-in-love-and-don’t-know-the-truth-of-it genre. Center’s emotional prose makes up for Hello Stranger’s weaker spots – mainly its ludicrous plot, fairly unlikable supporting cast, and uneven tone. It gives us a hero worth rooting for, even if the heroine isn’t so great and the plot is a little muddy.

Sadie Montgomery has been hoping for ages that her bad luck will break, and it seems as if it finally has. The twenty-nine-year-old portrait photographer has made it to the finals in a major photography competition; an excellent break, since she badly needs the prize money. With only a few weeks to finish her final project and submit it, she collapses in the street when a seizure sees her almost hit by a car. The diagnosis is a cavernoma, the same ailment that killed her mother. It requires emergency brain surgery.

After her surgery, Sadie is horrified to wake up with (hopefully temporary) face blindness (prosopagnosia). Sadie is assigned a therapist to help her come to terms with the situation and brace for the fact that the condition might be permanent.

Things only get worse when her senior pup, Peanut, gets ill. Sadie rushes Peanut to the vet’s office, and there she meets the golden-voiced Dr. Oliver Addison. To her surprise he wants to take her out on a date. Desperate for him not to know about her face blindness, Sadie conceals her condition from him – and from Joe, her loud, womanizing and rude neighbor whom she catches saying mean things about a one-night-stand on his cell phone. Still, they become friendly. Now Sadie has a dating dilemma – which guy will she choose? And will her face blindness ever alleviate? And what will she do about her stepsister, Parker, moving into her building and building a relationship with one of the guys.

Okay, some of you will have already guessed where the plot goes from here, but I’m not spilling that particular secret. Suffice to say it’s a little ludicrous, especially since… well, you’ll see. What makes up for the plot is the quality of Center’s writing, which is top of the shelf premium good. The way she takes some of these cornball choices and makes them compelling is a work of art she didn’t pull off with The Bodyguard.

Sadie is another problem here. She has a tendency to act like a teenager instead of an adult when confronted with conflicts. Her issues with her family work fairly well, and her rivalry with Parker is interesting. Parker herself, however is a weak soup character whose over-the-top evil bored me. Sadie’s ‘best friend,’ Sue, is a horrible and incredibly selfish person. I was a little antsy about the representation here; though it felt well-researched it also felt a little like a cheap romantic stumbling block at times. But Center did put in the work, and I’ll give the book that much.

And yet despite all of that, the romance is charming and tender. When Sadie’s good she’s very good, and her psychiatrist is delightful. I liked Joe and Oliver equally, and the latter is an excellent hero. The quality of Center’s writing is excellent and her prose is a lot of fun; that and the dreamy romance is what pushes Hello Stranger into the C range. None of that saves the book, but it’s still a decent time.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes
Grade : C+

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : July 15, 2023

Publication Date: 07/2023

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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