Review: Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas (2018)

The Ravenels, Book 4

Reviews of previous books in The Ravenels series: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3

Heat Factor: Moderate level of historical romance-style heat 

Character Chemistry: Sort of an odd couple, but they’re very committed to each other

Plot: Spinster surgeon finds love, become embroiled in government conspiracy

Overall: Come to while away a few pleasant hours, not to be blown away

If you’re read any of the other Ravenels books (esp Marrying Winterborne), you’ve met our protagonists before. Garrett Gibson, our heroine, is the first and only female doctor in England. In Marrying Winterborne, she meets Winterborne just as she is on the brink of closing her practice because no one thinks a woman can competently be a doctor. Winterborne is impressed and hires her to work at his clinic, where she saves the life of Pandora Ravenel in Devil in Spring. Winterborne also hires Ethan Ransom, our hero, to surveil…things…in Marrying Winterborne, but we don’t know his name until he gets involved as an agent in the nefarious doings of Devil in Spring. Other than as secondary characters, how do these two even have anything to do with the Ravenels? Well, Ethan Ransom just so happens to have the Ravenel blue eyes. There’s a story there, I guess.

Garrett and Ethan have met before, although Garrett doesn’t know Ethan’s name. Since he came to the aid of Garrett and Helen when they were in a bad neighborhood, he’s been mesmerised by Garrett, following her surreptitiously as she does her weekly medical errands in rough neighborhoods. If she knew this, she’d be appalled. She’s been learning to fence with a cane so she can defend herself in these hazardous conditions, and that’s exactly what she does as the book opens and she’s set upon by three ruffians. But then Ethan steps in and rescues her, which she finds totally obnoxious. For his part, Ethan is not impressed by Garrett’s hand-to-hand combat skills, and he offers to teach her. Blah, blah, blah, they meet, he’s too into her so he tries to avoid her, she doesn’t let him, they can’t stay apart…aaaaaaaaand Ethan gets into a load of trouble because that’s how Kleypas novels go. 

Here’s the deal: Ethan was recruited by this shady guy in the Home Office for some possibly shady intelligence work. As it happens, it’s bad news bears, because Shady Home Office guy is trying to prevent Irish home rule by conspiring with Irish radicals to blow up English people. Peachy. (We’ve had an inkling from Devil in Spring, but you don’t need to read DiS in order to read this book.) Ethan, having a heart of gold, becomes a whistleblower and is nearly murdered for his efforts. This was immensely stressful for me the first time I read this book, as it comes less than halfway through. For real, how does this guy survive a point blank shot to the gut? Answer: Dr. Garrett Gibson, Lister-trained surgeon extraordinaire!

We’re only about halfway through the book and Garrett performs the most exceptional surgery and saves Ethan’s life on the Earl of Trenear’s table. The rest of the story is Ethan and Garrett falling in love and addressing the problem of the murderous conspirators in Her Majesty’s government. Given that the story is somewhat action heavy before the surgery and afterward Ethan has to recover from his near-death experience, the pacing changes from active to passive plot development. It’s not a bad thing, and I didn’t find it particularly uneven, as such, but there is a little pivot in there. 

Garrett is great. She’s all matter-of-fact and put together. Competent. There’s nothing in particular she needs in her life. Ethan is a different kind of matter of fact and put together, but he’s gotten into a bundle of trouble. There’s nothing in particular he needs, either, but he really wants Garrett. Some might say that Garrett’s susceptibility to her emotions at a critical point betray a weakness that doesn’t match her competence and overall personality, but we all have vulnerabilities and things we believe in and people we love, and it makes sense that Garrett would lose some of her composure at that point. And after all, she doesn’t lose her cool enough to make her unable to perform the surgery of her life, so there’s that. 

At the end of the day though, this story was somewhat shunted into the Ravenels thread. If you’re looking for a Kleypas hero like we’re accustomed to seeing with Westcliff or Craven or Cannon, you’re not going to find it here. If you’re looking for a plot based on some kind of meaningful interpersonal communion and personal introspection, you’re also not going to find it here. Ethan’s alpha, sure, but he doesn’t hit that A-level alpha hero echelon, and the plot is driven by an external conspiracy. This book does its job, and it does it pretty well, but do you need to keep it on your bookshelf forever? Probably not.

Buy Now: Amazon

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