Lovers and Strangers by Candace Schuler is a contemporary romance novel that explores an age-gap love story filled with emotional baggage and personal growth.
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, Sweet Savage Flame earns a small percentage from qualifying purchases.Bachelor Arms by Candace Schuler
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Temptation #495
Book Series: Bachelor Arms #7; Hollywood Nights #1
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon
The versions of the three books in the series I am reviewing are the ebook versions. It appears Ms. Schuler regained the rights to her work from Harlequin and republished the books from 2012 to 2013 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.
Age gap. Angsty romance. Contemporary romance. Los Angeles.
Like JoAnn Ross’ contributions to the “Bachelor Arms” series, Ms. Schuler’s three books contain a mystery within a mystery.
An overarching mystery runs through all 11 books in the series. Contained in Ms. Schuler’s books is another mystery.
The book begins in Los Angeles in 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 it and make major changes to their work. Eric is for the changes; Jack is against them.
That very same night, Eric Shannon dies. His death is ruled a suicide.
An Excellent Love Story
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 book’s heroine, 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—an obstetrician, to be precise. She is also seriously attracted to Jack, and he is to her.
“Nobody’s perfect, Jack. Nobody’s life is perfect. We’ve all said things we regret. Done things we’re horribly ashamed of. But we can’t go back and change it. All we can do is learn to live with what we’ve done, and try not to make the same mistakes in the future.”Lovers and Strangers by Candace Schuler
However, Jack tries to fight his attraction to Faith for multiple reasons. Eventually, they give in to their mutual attraction and become lovers.
After becoming lovers, Jack does everything he can 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 them all of their lives. Jack finishes the screenplay he and Eric started—with Faith’s major assistance—and they find their Happily Ever After.
I imagine that at least one New Adult author has read Lovers and Strangers and was inspired to become an author. This is 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 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 safe. 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 allows a little opening for love to come in.
In the end, Jack is not completely open, but he is more open than 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.
I’m not a fan of “age-gap” romances, and there is a significant one here of 17 years: Faith is 24, and Jack is 41.
Even though I have personal experience with age-gap relationships, it’s uncomfortable for me to read about 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.
It’s slightly nitpicky on my part, but I wouldn’t say I like these books’ new e-book covers. The original Harlequin Temptation covers truly suited them, capturing the emotion and excitement of the books. The new e-book covers do not.
Lovers and Strangers has one of the best love scenes I’ve read in a romance novel.
The first time the protagonists have sex, 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.
There are three love scenes in the book.
Sensuality is where Harlequin Temptations shine, and Lover and Strangers sizzles with extra spicy heat!
There is no on-screen violence, but there are references to violence that Jack has witnessed in his life.
There are also drug use references early on in the book.
Bottom Line on Lovers and Strangers
Readers who love books about the transformational power of love will find lots to love here.
I don’t have a “favorite books” list, but if I did—and I may start one—Candace Schuler’s Lovers and Strangers would be on it!
I rate this 4.95 stars for the digital version. The half-point markdown is for changing some supporting character names and locations and the e-book cover. (Although one version of the e-book cover is not as bad as the other one).
If I had read the original Harlequin Temptation paperback version with the original cover, I would have given this five stars unequivocally.
|Rating Report Card|
In the summer of 1970, four young men—Ethan Roberts, Zeke Blackstone, and brothers Eric and Jack Shannon—shared apartment 1G at the Wilshire Arms. One night during a wild party, Eric Shannon committed suicide.
Or so everyone thinks.
Although Jack Shannon was only 18 years old at the time, he has always felt responsible for his brother’s suicide. Unable to deal with his guilt, Jack spends the next 25 years as a rootless vagabond, reporting on war and disaster in all the hot spots of the world.
Now, world-weary and heart-sore, Jack makes a last-ditch effort to lay the ghost of his long-dead brother to rest by returning to the Wilshire Arms.
There, Jack meets Faith McCray. Newly arrived in L.A. from a small town in Georgia, Faith is everything Jack wants—and everything he thinks he doesn’t deserve.
But Faith isn’t quite as innocent and guileless as she seems. With ghosts of her own and a past she’d rather forget, nothing will dissuade her from tempting Jack to take what she offers.