5 stars

Category Romance Review: Lovers and Strangers (aka Hollywood Nights) by Candace Schuler

Lovers and Strangers, Candace Schuler, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Temptation #549

MILD SPOILERS 😉

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is of Lovers and Strangers, book #7 in the “Bachelor Arms” series by Candace Schuler. It’s a Harlequin Temptation from August 1995.

Series Overview

Like JoAnn Ross’ contributions to the “Bachelor Arms”  series, Ms. Schuler’s three books contain a mystery within a mystery. There is an overarching mystery that runs through all 11 books in the series. There is the mystery that is contained in Ms. Schuler’s books (Reviewer note: The versions of the three books I am reviewing are the ebook versions of the original books published from August-October 1995. It appears Ms. Schuler regained the rights to her work from Harlequin and republished the books in 2012/13 under a new series name: Hollywood Nights. Perhaps owing to that, supporting character names and the name of the building have been changed from the print version. However, the titles and the core Harlequin Temptation stories remain intact.)

Plot

The book begins in Los Angeles, 1970. Two brothers, Eric Shannon, 24, and his younger brother Jack, 18, are arguing over plans for a screenplay they’re collaborating on. (A major Hollywood studio wants to buy their work but also wants to make major changes to it. Eric is for the changes, Jack against). That very same night, Eric Shannon died. His death was ruled a suicide. 

Fast forward 25 years. At Flynn’s bar, near the Bachelor Arms complex, Jack, now 43 and the book’s hero, is rescuing waitress Faith McCray, the heroine of the book, from an overly “friendly” patron. Faith is 24 and has brown hair and hazel eyes. She’s originally from Pine Hollow, Georgia, and has a lot of emotional baggage. Jack later hires Faith to clean his home, as she is moonlighting as a maid. 

Jack, who has black hair and brown eyes, is a former Army war correspondent who later reported from the “hotspots” of the world. He’s a Los Angeles native, and he, too, has a lot of emotional baggage. As they spend more time together, we learn more about them. Faith plans to become a doctor, obstetrician to be precise. She is also seriously attracted to Jack, and he to her. However, Jack tries to fight his attraction to Faith for multiple reasons. Eventually, they give in to their mutual attraction and become lovers. 

After they become lovers, Jack does everything he can to try to sabotage his relationship with Faith. (This is due to his history, which is explained).

In the end, Faith and Jack begin to let go of the guilt that has consumed both of them all of their lives. Jack finishes the screenplay he and Eric started–with a major assist from Faith–and they find their Happily Ever After. 

Upside

I imagine that at least one New Adult author has read Lovers and Strangers and was inspired to become an author. This is basically a New Adult book, even though one of the characters is well outside the age range for those books. 

I’ll start with Faith, as she is a young woman who comes from a difficult, traumatic family environment.  She eviscerates herself internally over something that happened to her as a teenager. However, despite this, she maintains an innocent quality and is open to loving and being loved. 

The same cannot be said for Jack, who has closed himself off, believing that he will be safe from all emotional pain if he never opens himself to someone. Speaking from personal experience, that is not the case. Isolation is not safety. It simply makes a person alone, bitter, and lonely. Jack feels that is what he deserves for what he has done and what has happened to him. It takes a special woman-Faith McCray-to show him that things can be different if he just allows a little opening for love to come in. In the end, Jack is not completely open, but he is more open than he was at the beginning of the book. 

Ms. Schuler did an excellent job making me as a reader feel like I was watching these two tortured souls find each other, and find love in the process. I rooted for both Faith and Jack and was very happy when he finally agreed to let her in.

Downside

I’m not a fan of “age-gap” romances and there is a significant one here (Faith is 24, Jack is 41). Even though I have personal experience with age-gap relationships, it’s uncomfortable for me to read them in books. It reminds me so much of Harlequin Presents and other books where there are age gaps. It feels like a father-daughter relationship, which feels creepy rather than loving.

Slightly nitpicky on my part, but I really don’t like the new e-book covers for these books. The original Harlequin Temptation covers truly suited them, capturing the emotion and excitement of the books. The new e-book covers…do not. 

Sex

Lovers and Strangers has one of the best love scenes I’ve read in a romance novel. In the first scene, Ms. Schuler does a tremendous job relating both the esoterics of the act and the feelings Faith and Jack have for each other. It’s both beautiful and sexy. It’s one of three love scenes in the book. 

Violence

No on-screen violence, but there are references to violence that Jack has witnessed in his life. 

Reviewer Note

There are also drug use references early on in the book. 

Bottom Line

I don’t have a favorite books list, but if I did–and I may start one–Candace Schuler’s Lovers and Strangers would definitely be on it!  Readers who love books about the transformational power of love will find lots to love here. 4.95 stars. (The half-point markdown is for changing some supporting character names and locations and the e-book cover. If I were reading the original Harlequin Temptation paperback version with the original cover, I would have given it 5 stars unequivocally). 

Tropes

Age gap. Angsty romance. Contemporary romance. Los Angeles.

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5 replies »

  1. Hello Blue Falcon,

    Terrific review. This one has me very interested! You say that Schuler wrote one of the best love scenes you’ve come upon. That’s one of the fond thing I recall about her book Wildcat: the way the the two “enemies” became lovers, but their lovemaking wasn’t violent or purple, but passionate and endearing.

    In regards to the younger woman-older man aspect, Temptations usually approached this trope with more delicacy and sincerity than I saw in HPs where the older heroes rode rough-shod over the younger, more inexperienced heroines.

    Great summation of the book, I’m definitely putting this on my TBR list– the original copy it is. Boy, what a difference a cover makes!

    • HI, Jacqueline.

      Thank you for the compliment. You’re so correct about the love scene in “Lovers and Strangers”. I haven’t read Ms. Schuler’s “Wildcat”, but it seems like the love scenes in that book are like the ones in “Lovers and Strangers”, passionate and endearing. That’s a good way to describe the scenes.

      I was thinking when I was reading the book about the way the Temptation line handled age-gaps. I like the fact that at no point in the book was Jack domineering or brutal to Faith; he was more scared when he was around her. It was like “If you see the real me, you won’t like what you see and you won’t love me”. As the book went on, he realized that her light was what he needed to be whole.

      And yes, if you do get the book, I would highly recommend getting the paperback with the original artwork. It makes a world of difference.

  2. Thanks, Blue Falcon. I always enjoy your reviews, even if the book isn’t up my alley. I go for angsty romances, but not the “tortured souls” variety.

    It’s been my experience that in real life, people with mental health issues aren’t sexy. They aren’t open to love, or the kinds of relationships I want to read about. Hot sex won’t make it better. Nor will true love. They must heal themselves.

    But I realize lots of readers go for “love heals everything” romances. And “Lovers and Strangers” sounds like one of the better examples of romances that revolve around this trope.

    And don’t get me started on clumsy digital art covers!

  3. This was cut off at the end of the review, but I wanted to add these to my review of “Lovers and Strangers” as well:

    Tropes: Age gap. Angsty romance. Contemporary romance. Los Angeles.

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