The Perfect Stranger
Rosalyn Alsobrook and Victoria Barrett joined forces a couple of years ago to write a series of romances centered at The Seascape Inn – a bed and breakfast in Maine. According to my records, The Perfect Stranger is second in the series; six have been written so far. These sweet romances occur when strangers meet at the Inn and are prodded along by some loving ghosts into falling in love with some help by Hattie, the Inn’s manager.
Nicolle Stone, a wealthy business heiress from Dallas, has escaped from Willett Porterfield, the man who won’t take no for an answer. Both Nicolle and Willett are V.P.’s in her father’s company, and both Willett and her father think she and Willett ought to settle down. Willett is handsome enough, but he’s quite the stuffed-shirt – he owns nothing but business suits and wing-tips. While this is supposed to inspire first humor and then pity, the author went over-board. No wealthy and powerful businessman from a large metropolitan area would be without the right “casual clothes;” not every day calls for a power suit.
Willett has followed Nicolle to Maine, and in hopes of causing him to head back to Dallas, she asks the man in the next room, gorgeous suspense author Joel Brannon, to pretend to be her lover. Intrigued by this lovely woman, he agrees, assuming the escapade will be over within minutes. Unfortunately, Willett is a stubborn cuss – he really won’t take no for an answer. The upshot is that Joel has to move into Nicolle’s room and pretend to be her lover for the next two weeks.
This entire scenario struck me as very juvenile, sort of the reverse high-school thing teenagers do to make each other jealous. A “You pretend to be my boyfriend so that Johnny will notice me” kind of thing. But these are not teenagers, these are thirty-year-olds who should know better. Setting that problem aside, what are we left with?
Joel’s beautiful niece Joy is his research assistant, but Nicolle assumes Joy is his lover, especially when she reads the dedication to her in his latest novel. Joel, who hates dishonesty, especially in women (he was badly burned by his last girlfriend), is less than truthful in setting the record straight about who Joy really is. Yes, he’s said she’s his niece, but Nicolle hadn’t believed it, and Joel is either not very observant (unlikely for an author), or not above being dishonest himself. So while he condemns Nicolle for not telling Willett the truth, it’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.
Once Nicolle realizes she is coming to care for Joel, she digs in her heels – if she tells Willett the truth, Joel won’t have any reason to be with her. By contrast, Joel is starting to care for Nicolle, but she’s duplicitous, just like his last girlfriend. He believes she only reacts to his kisses when she thinks Willett is around. She believes he only kisses her when Willett is around. Oy! When Joy is enlisted to keep Willett away from Nicolle, things just get sillier. Suddenly Willett is wearing blue jeans and Reeboks, and skinny-dipping in the sea.
There are some good things to say about The Perfect Stranger – the ghosts, Hattie, and the townspeople who keep a pool going of who is going to fall in love at the Inn and by what date are great fun to read. When Joel and Nicolle are just being themselves with one another, they are fun to read. I was also impressed by the sexual tension maintained by the author, given the mild sensuality of the book. But those didn’t even out the silly scenario author Alsobrook set up for the story. I stopped my juvenile antics in high school; didn’t you?