2 stars

Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright

To see a Stranger
To See a Stranger, Kate Cartwright, Magnum Books, 1976, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-86

Spoiler-free review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Good novel, poor romance

In a way, Kate Cartwright’s To See a Stranger is a fine novel. It’s well-written. It ticks most of the boxes. But it still disappointed me. Why? Because IMHO if a story is labeled a romance, there should be plenty of romance in it. Here there’s hardly any. So I almost didn’t write a review for this blog. But my definition of romance fiction isn’t everyone’s, so here goes.

First, the publishing background, which is sketchy. The paperback I read was issued by Magnum Books, an imprint of Playmore, Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp., both in New York. At least that’s what’s listed on the copyright page; some other titles in the series list Prestige Books as the publisher.

But there’s no publication date. Since this same page says the book is copyright 1976 by IPC Magazines, Ltd., To See a Stranger must have been originally published as part of the Woman’s Weekly Library series in the UK. My guess is the Magnum reprint was issued a year or two later.

About the author, Kate Cartwright, I have no information at all. Yes, I looked for it.

“I want to break free!”

So goes a classic rock song by Queen, and it fits how our heroine Roslyn Fenton feels as the novel opens. She’s had it with life in a provincial English village. Especially with two men; one is her control-freak father, with whom she still lives. The other is Evan Witham, the lover who got engaged to her, then suddenly and unceremoniously dumped her for another woman. Roslyn heads for the (fictitious) city of Martsworth, where she finds work as the secretary to an insurance agent.

But her job plays hardly any part in the story. What does is her charitable work at a counseling center, a clearinghouse for information for the poor and marginalized seeking help. It’s run by Robert Greysand, whose heart is in the right place. But he can be just as overbearing as the father Roslyn moved out on.

In helping the needy, she finds herself. Roslyn develops the strength to stand up on her own. She needs it when Evan gets second thoughts and tries to talk her into giving him another chance.

Old love vs. new love

It seems the author intended this novel to be a one woman/two men triangle romance. But it doesn’t work because most of the wordage deals with the heroine’s charity work. What romance there is doesn’t develop until the last quarter of the book. Way too late!

As if that’s not bad enough, there’s plenty of interaction, but no romantic chemistry between the hero and heroine. When their love finally happens, it seems perfunctory. The reader—well, this reader, anyhow—is left wondering what she sees in him, and vice versa. And why it took so long!

Bad timing?

There was a period in my life when I was in a situation comparable to Roslyn’s. I too rebelled against others directing my life. It took a lot of pain, worry, drama, and grief; but eventually I determined that the only person who’d direct my life would be me.

Had I read this book back then, it probably would’ve deeply resonated with me. I would’ve related to the heroine and her situation in a meaningful manner. Alas, that phase of my life was around forty years ago. The central issue of this novel is no longer an issue at all.

So the personal-growth theme failed to move me. All that was left was a sense of disappointment in a romance with too little romance.

Reviewed by: Mary Anne Landers

1 reply »

  1. HI, Mary Anne.

    Great review. It sounds like from your review that Ms. Cartwright was caught between a “women’s fiction” story about Roslyn’s growing and taking responsibility for her life and a romance novel, and the romantic elements fell by the wayside as a result.

    Roslyn seems like a heroine I would like-I like strong female characters in all of my books across all genres-but the lack of romance and chemistry between “hero” and “heroine” would cause me to skip past “To See a Stranger”.

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