Strange Adventure by Sara Craven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the third time I've tried to write this review. I don't know if it's because my brain is fried after this week, or because I want to say good things about this book and just had trouble saying the right way.
I love the old school Harlequin Presents, and this book reminds me why. What has became cliched about my favorite (other than the Harlequin Historicals) Harlequin/Silhouette series, was authentic and fulfilling in the older books. I happens that this was the first book that Sara Craven (who is one of my favorite authors in this series) wrote for Harlequin Presents, and it's from 1977. It was her second book (her first is a Harlequin Romance that I have put on my to buy list), and it's very well-written.
The narrative is such that you don't lose interest. In fact, I put this book down last night because I was tired, not out of boredom. I picked it up first thing when I woke this morning and quickly finished it.
The heroine is very young, seventeen, when this story begins. She's convent-educated, and innocent, but she's not too stupid to live. In fact, she seems more mature than some of the newer, older and experienced heroines that are written about in this series nowadays. I don't mean to put down the newer Harlequin Presents so much. They just disappoint me because I know how good this line used to be. So, I am sorry if I sound so disparaging of the current Harlequin Presents. She makes some choices that are not ideal, but her reasons are justified by her innocence and by the information she has to work with. The hero is also a character that you can visualize as a credible, three-dimensional person, and not a caricature of a virile, Mediterrean hero that is seen so much in the current Harlequin Presents books. He's not over-sexed, with a bevy of past and current mistresses, and he's not a jerk, but he is a hero that you hope the heroine chooses. Yes, he does the kissing to punish the heroine, but he leaves it at that. In fact, he turns out to be a very good, decent person, even if Lacey believes the worse of him from the beginning.
There are the classic elements of this series: the evil stepmother (which can be interchanged with an ex-mistress, sister, scorned suitor, etc), and the arranged marriage. But these elements are utilized beautifully to tell an interesting story that is not built around semi-meaningless sexual encounters set in a upscale, jet-setting environment. This is a fully-realized romance in which the sensual moments are implied rather than detailed. Yet there is a current of attraction that I felt was intense enough to make this book exciting to read. The English countryside and the Greek island where this book is set are secondary characters that are beautifully-described (probably a large reason why I enjoy the Harlequin Presents, armchair traveler that I am). And Troy (the hero)'s young half-sister has a pivotal role in this story that I feel compliments the narrative, instead of detracting from the romance.
You have to dig these kinds of books to enjoy Strange Adventure. But if you do indeed enjoy stories about the growing love between a young woman and an exciting man of the world, and the intrigue related to the secrets between them threatening to tear them apart, I think you'll like this story too.
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