Rant, Review

Review: Imperfect Stranger by Carrole Lerner (1985)

Heat Factor: Sorry, not sorry: sex outside marriage will disappoint both Bree and God

Character Chemistry: Simply, no

Plot: Bree promised herself that she would never be with an unbeliever again, so it’s a real problem that her current assignment is, like, the love of her life. (We know this because she falls out of love with the old guy and into love with the new guy in 24 hours.)

Overall: So. Much. Jesus. And OMG the end. I can’t. 

Well, I didn’t really pay attention when I picked up this book, and it turns out that the imprint is a Christian imprint that offers the reader “an alternative to promiscuity and superficial relationships. Now you can read a romantic novel—with the romance left intact.” Because, as we all know, nothing kills romance like a lady spreading her legs before vows have been spoken before God and everybody. 

Anyway, this did not please me, but I was somewhat curious to note that this subscribes to the late 20th century philosophy that, as long as everybody’s a Christian, it doesn’t really matter what kind of Christian they are. HOWEVER, part of Bree’s problem is that she had been in a relationship with a man, Spence, who is not a Christian. I would bet a substantial fortune that Spence is actually not Christian enough, not that he is not Christian, because he certainly inhabits the inherently Christian setting of Midwest Detroit just fine. That said, Bree focuses more than once on the Bible verse “Be ye not yoked with unbelievers…” 2 Corinthians 6:14 which is actually more aligned with the old philosophy that one should “be yoked” with one’s own kind. If you have ever read Anne of Green Gables, just think of the unbridgeable divide between the Presbyterians and the Methodists. We wouldn’t even bat an eyelash now. 

An analysis of religion in romance would be all kinds of fun, but that’s not what we’re here for, so let’s discuss the rest of this book. We know we’re reading a romance from the 80s because the first thing described about every woman is relating to how pretty she is. They’re all pretty. Svelte and desirable in their very eighties clothes. And nobody bats an eyelash when everyone comments on every woman’s appearance. It was glaring. 

Another component I found to be very eighties and maybe trying to Do Something (but, I’ll be honest, not succeeding) was the reason Bree and Neville (Yes! His name is Neville! Have I not mentioned that yet?) were thrown together in the first place. Bree is assigned to be a sort of personal assistant and driver/escort for Neville while he’s in town. In this role, she “takes charge” (extremely questionable that she is ever in charge) by doing all the “manly” things. She takes Neville’s bag for him at the airport, drives him around, brings him flowers when he takes her to dinner. It’s only when things shift for them and the relationship goes from professional to romantic (approximately 12 hours after they meet) that the gender roles shift back into what we might expect them to be. This is signaled by Neville refusing to allow Bree to pull out his chair for him when they go to dinner. 

Oh, and apparently Neville is a stranger because he really wants Bree to confide in him about her misery over the aforementioned Spence even though they don’t know each other at all. And he’s an “imperfect stranger” because Bree corrects him that “nobody’s perfect” when he tells her “I know I’m a perfect stranger…” Very cute. 

I was hoping for cattiness, and I got it in spades. The cattiness started within the first ten pages, and it’s not only limited to the women in the story, but of course Bree is above all that. Kind of. She’s of the “kill with kindness” camp (on account of being a Good Christian Woman), but it’s so irritating to everyone else that she’s successfully getting under their skin. 

OH, AND ALSO! The book makes it sound like there’s a love triangle that Bree has to overcome to win Neville, but that sitch doesn’t even become a thing until two-thirds of the way into the story! There’s a double love-triangle! In the first half, Bree is being pursued by Spence when she doesn’t get sad enough about him dumping her and then she shows interest in a sexy sportsball guy. Sheesh!

Okay, now, I gotta talk about the end of this book. 

Bree is so bent out of shape about how her relationship with Spence went that she vows never to date another unbeliever. So, kinda everything with Neville is a test after she realizes how strongly she feels for him. And he always fails. Because why would you ever just have a frank conversation about something important to you? 

Anyway, it’s the last day for Neville to be in town and Bree’s all tied up in knots about Neville showing his true colors. If he isn’t a Christian, she won’t tell him she loves him, and everything will be over. But if he is… 

Okay, so he doesn’t demonstrate anything. She takes him to the airport and says goodbye. Her heart is broken, but she is resolute. 

And then Neville is like, “j/k! I didn’t leave! You passed the test!”

To which stunt Bree naturally replies, “You are a terrible human being. How could you?”

And then Neville says, “—if I’d done anything to make you compromise your decision, your promise to God, all your experience with Kenyon [Spence] would have been for nothing. You had to know you could stick to that decision, and trust the Lord and His will enough to let me go, not knowing if I’d be back. You had to know you could do it.”

Girl, no. 

But, at the end of the day, this is all very on brand for Bree, a woman to whom things happen but who does very little to make things happen for herself.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

Inspie romances please!

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3 thoughts on “Review: Imperfect Stranger by Carrole Lerner (1985)”

  1. I love all the work you do but this series is chef’s kiss Inspired to read more romantic suspense category romance 🤣


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