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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Review: Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas (+ Excerpt)

Garrett’s story is here! I definitely wish I could experience this book again for the first time!

Format: Paperback (A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. )
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 27, 2018

A woman who defies her time

Dr. Garrett Gibson, the only female physician in England, is as daring and independent as any man—why not take her pleasures like one? Yet she has never been tempted to embark on an affair, until now. Ethan Ransom, a former detective for Scotland Yard, is as gallant as he is secretive, a rumored assassin whose true loyalties are a mystery. For one exhilarating night, they give in to their potent attraction before becoming strangers again.

A man who breaks every rule

As a Ravenel by-blow spurned by his father, Ethan has little interest in polite society, yet he is captivated by the bold and beautiful Garrett. Despite their vow to resist each other after that sublime night, she is soon drawn into his most dangerous assignment yet. When the mission goes wrong, it will take all of Garrett's skill and courage to save him. As they face the menace of a treacherous government plot, Ethan is willing to take any risk for the love of the most extraordinary woman he's ever known.

What’s it About? Garrett Gibson is used to the curiosity and disbelief surrounding her. As England’s only female physician she’s pretty much seen and heard it all and handles herself very much like her male counterparts. Except when it comes to Ethan Ransom who makes her feel out of sorts and very female. His loyalties are questionable, his skills as a detective legendary, but it’s the way he sees and treats Garrett that has her questioning everything she thought she knew about men. Ethan is attracted to Garrett in a way that goes further than the physical and the timing couldn’t be worse. He is about to undertake the most dangerous mission in his life and now Garrett is in the crossfire.

Overall reaction to the story? It’s really no wonder that Hello Stranger made my Best Reads list for this year. This folks is what solid romances and author growth look like. Over the years Lisa Kleypas has established herself as one of, if not THE best historical romance authors out there and I’ve read ALL of her historical romances so I can see why. However, today’s romance readers, my generation, are vastly different from say, my mother’s generation of romance readers and Kleypas has shown that, especially with this book, she understands and supports those differences. Her heroines are now less damsel in distress and more plucky, independent, and quirky. They’re still historical romance heroines but they now reflect those REAL women in history that stood out and made life more interesting to say the least. Her heroes are defying convention by being open minded and confident about a woman’s abilities and worth outside of marriage. It’s a wonderful change for an already amazing author to make. Is there a word above amazing? Because it totally qualifies here.

Hello Stranger has depth, charm, and a stout determination to tell a grand, sweeping romance between two unlikely, and unique characters in a time where being different was akin to committing an unforgivable crime.

Describe the hero in five words: Lonely. Determined. Romantic. Clever. Protective.
Did you like him? Yes. He has been added to my list of Book Boyfriends.
Why? Ethan is a poet at heart, only he doesn’t know it. He’s already halfway in love with Garrett at the beginning of the book and it doesn’t take long for him to fall completely in love with her. And the beautiful thing about that is that he doesn’t deny it to himself. He is fully aware of how he feels, which at first seems at odds with his rough and tumble personality but Ethan is total book boyfriend material because he has such a big capacity for love, he just needed to meet someone who would accept him for who he was. He may not have intended to be a super sexy spy hero but he totally pulled it off and had me swooning over him.

Describe the heroine in five words: Plucky. Inquisitive. Determined. Kind. Strong.
Did you like her? I LOVED her.
Why? Garrett is one of those few female characters who can talk the talk and walk the walk. She is completely confident in her abilities as a doctor. In other words, she isn’t playing doctor one moment and then becoming a completely useless female once the hero comes swooping into her life. She doesn’t need to flatter anyone’s ego nor does she need to play the part of a woman who needs a man to save her. She tends to meet her attraction to Ethan like she does her work: Head on with a determination to find out the hows and whys. That said, another part of her charm is that she can’t seem to turn off the scientific and medical part of her brain which provided more than a few laughs. Where most women are running silly girlish thoughts through their minds, Garrett is analyzing the effect Ethan has on her and her on him in a very scientific way. That made me smile because she’s just so honest about their attraction; she isn’t going to go with what society says she as a woman has to fake when it comes to men. She’s blessedly real without trying too hard, even when she’s offering words of encouragement to other women, she comes off as natural and not a cheesy, forced, “girl power” cliché.

Let’s talk about the romance: The romance is where Hello Stranger really excels. Ethan and Garrett don’t fight their attraction; they’re pulled towards each other in a helplessly romantic way. Garrett always says what is on her mind and Ethan was always the more restrained one but it was those moments when they were together that Ethan showed just how desperately he cared for her and how romantic he could be. Not once did he mock or doubt Garrett’s abilities as a doctor, her intelligence and perseverance were two things he was attracted to (Men who love and appreciate independent women are so sexy). There were a lot of obstacles in front of these two but I really appreciate that Kleypas didn’t make these two one of them. They fell in love and were determined to protect each other and find a way to be together. Some of the best parts of Hello Stranger were when Ethan and Garrett were in each other’s arms and just talking. That’s when I felt they were really building a solid relationship.
     He heard her muffled chuckle. She continued to lean against him while the trio of constables expressed sympathy for the unfortunate patient. Eventually the men departed with a chorus of hearty farewells. Ethan discovered that his other arm had stolen around Garrett. Making himself let go of her was like trying to uncoil a steel spring.
      “You should go up to your father now,” he said with difficulty.
      “Eliza will look after him while I take a few minutes to show you some slides. I have insect wings . . .pollen grains . . . flower petals . . . What would you like to see?”
      “The inside of a hansom cab,” he said softly. “I can’t be alone with you, darlin’.”
     Garrett touched the edges of his vest, fingers clamping on the thin leather. “Ethan.” A blush rose in her face, like light glowing through pink frosted glass. “I don’t want to end this. We . . . we could meet in secret, now and then. No one would have to know. We would make no claims on each other. We’ll just . . . do as we please.”
     The way she fumbled with the words, so unlike her usual precise way of speaking, devastated Ethan. He could only guess what it cost her to lay open her pride like this. He wasn’t certain what she was offering, or even if she knew. Not that it mattered. He wanted, craved, needed anything she was willing to give. But he had to make her understand that it was impossible. And even if it were, the idea was beneath her.
      “Have you had that kind of arrangement with a man before?” he brought himself to ask.
     Her eyes were the green of deep summer and lush growing things. “I’m a woman who makes her own decisions and handles the consequences.”
      “That means no,” Ethan said softly. At her silence, he continued, “You’d be risking your reputation. Your career.”
      “Believe me, I understand that better than you.”
      “Have you ever shared a bed with a man? Even once?”
      “Why is that relevant?”
     Her evasive response sent a pleasure-pang down to the pit of his stomach. “That means no,” he said again, his voice even softer than before. He took a slow breath, trying to steady himself, while his blood sang with the knowledge that she’d been waiting for him. She was meant to be his. God, he wanted her beyond any reckoning of earth or heaven. But her well-being mattered a thousand times more than his own desires.
      “Garrett . . . I’m a man full o’ trouble. When I vowed to let nothing harm you, I included myself on that list.”
     A frown crimped her forehead. She closed her grip on his vest until her fists were tight as pine knots. “I’m not afraid of you, or your trouble.” Her green eyes were narrowed and intent as she tugged him closer.“Kiss me,” she urged in a whisper.
      “I have to go,” he said shortly, and pulled back while he was still able.
     But Garrett moved with him, her hands reaching up to grip his head on either side, the way he’d taught her at Baujart’s. The strength of her fingers electrified him.
      “Kiss me,” she commanded, “or I’ll break your nose.”
     The threat startled a ragged laugh from him. He shook his head as he looked at her, this fearsomely capable woman who loved geese and was afraid of spaghetti, and could either wield a scalpel in a complex surgical procedure or use it as a throwing-knife.
     There had always been a cold streak in him, but he couldn’t seem to find it now, when he needed it most. He was breaking apart inside. He would never be the same after this.
      “Christ, you’ve ruined me,” he whispered.
     His arms went around her, one hand gripping the heavy silken mass of her braided chignon. She guided his head down, and he lost the battle, all his will vanquished as he began to kiss her as if the world were about to end.
     For him, it was.

How about that supporting cast? I just love the Ravenels as a whole because they truly are a group of misfits who have banded together as a family. They’re unconventional, they’re loud, they’re argumentative, and they’re loyal to a fault. I loved the check in with Helena and Rhys because Helena was the calm, collected member of the family and yet she married a man with a louder and larger than life personality. I also wanted to see how the newest member of the family, Carys was doing. I hope she gets her own story too. The one Ravenel who always seemed to be missing or barely passing through in the series so far has been Weston but it was great to see a bit more of him this time around. I like him, he’s entertaining.

Click It or Skip It? Click It. Hello Stranger is definitely one of those books that you wish you could forget what it was about just so you could have the pleasure of reading it again for the first time.

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