Perfect Strangers

by: Rebecca Sinclair
available at:

I recently signed up to become a reviewer of epublished books.

I've written before in this column about self-publishing, and how this once "vanity" activity has evolved. The good the bad and the ugly: it's great that there are so many more literary "voices" out there; it's frustrating that there's also a lot of junk to weed through; some of it is absolutely unreadable.

Fortunately for me, my adventures in reviewing this type of publication have thus far been more than just satisfactory. Aside from a few gripes I have with things an editor would have (or, in this day and age I'll say "should have," as it seems to me that even the pricey big publishing house releases aren't really editing any more) picked up, the books I've reviewed thus far have been better than "ok."

Perfect Strangers, if you're a fan of historical romance, is no exception.

Yes, it's a wild Scottish highlander lover set in the 1600s; yes, the hero and heroine meet cute and fall impossibly in love; yes she doesn't think he loves her when he knows perfectly well from first glimpse that he adores her and will forever. But still: if you're a fan of the genre, what's not to love?

I belong to a writers' group, and at a recent meeting we were reviewing a piece of fictional military history. Many of the very solid and instructive comments were offering what is normally great advice: edit, edit, edit. Cut words. If it doesn't advance the plot, get rid of it. In my customary fashion, I had to be contrary. I suggested that while we, as writers, must always be conscious of rambling on just because we fall in love with our words, there are certain forms of fiction in which part of the experience the readers have come for is the love scene; the battle details; the horrific crime scene. It's almost impossible to overdo these in genre fiction.

Sinclair does not disappoint.

More than this, she has taken a much-loved formula and given it an interesting changeup: rather than a gorgeous heroine and a beefcake hero, Sinclair has given us a chubby leading female, and a bold but craggy leading man. Neither is physical perfection, and heroine Gabrielle Carleton, much-derided for her lack of beauty by her skinny monarch (Elizabeth I), has given up on ever being anyone's love object.

So when she is abducted by her arranged-marriage intended's twin brother, she is convinced that even his evident passion for her is just lust and in passing, not the "real thing."

A small complaint, and I can't really heap the blame for this on Sinclair: the Scots accent has been attempted in writing many, many times, especially in recent romances, as we seem to have, er, fallen in love with Tudor-era Scottish highlander heroes. But there doesn't seem to be much agreement on how that delightful accent should be rendered when written. In this case, Sinclair chooses to express the Scottish "do not" as "dinny" and "very" as "ver" rather than the more commonly chosen "dinna" and "verra." I don't know why, exactly, though as all of these are representative rather than actual words it's strictly up to the author. I did, however, find it a little distracting.

And while the writer has done a great job of creating characters and balancing plot and love story, and has included some juicy period detail, she clearly has the knowledge of the times to take that even further - and as I told my military history friend, it's hard to overdo these kinds of things in genre fiction.

It seems clear that the story of Gabrielle and Connor won't end with the end of this book. Sinclair has left us wanting more, with the romance of Gabrielle and Connor just beginning, and with a cast of characters just begging for further entanglements and intrigues. I'll be watching for more!


Heather Powers said…
Thanks for the great review!!
Rebecca will appreciate it:)


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