Category Archives: Easy Eye

To see a Stranger

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

Yesterday's Love

Category Romance Review: Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning

Yesterday's Love
Yesterday’s Love, Marsha Manning, Magnum Books, 1969, cover artist unknown

#4286 Magnum Books Easy Eye

Spoiler-free review 🙂

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnum Books

Yesterday’s Love is a moving romance with a rather mysterious background. It’s part of the Magnum Books imprint of Prestige Books, Inc., a small New York paperback publisher active during the mid to late 1970s. The novel was originally published as a hardcover by Mills & Boon in 1969, under the title Yesterday’s Lover. But the copyright page of this edition doesn’t say when it was published. Nor can I find this info anywhere else.

The author, Marsha Manning, was a pen name of Hettie Grimstead. Or was Hettie Grimstead a pen name of Marsha Manning? If you know, drop me a line.

An Impossible Situation

Here’s the setup. Kerry Talbot, a London office worker for a large corporation, is in love with Philip Ingram, her boss. And he’s in love with her. The situation presents an obvious problem. But wait, there’s more. He’s married. An issue that troubles her far more than him.

What other people think of her doesn’t matter to Kerry, but what she thinks of herself does. Philip says he’ll seek a divorce. But promises aren’t good enough. Until he’s actually free, she determines to distance herself from him. Thus she accepts a transfer to Stockholm.

And what a new life awaits her! Kerry works in big business but lives in an apartment house full of offbeat, creative Bohemian types. Including painter Len Sandeman, who does her portrait and falls in love with her. But the feeling isn’t mutual. Len is a skillful painter, but as a lover, he’s a lout. One with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

In contrast, there’s the refined Axel Von Fersen. Kind and considerate, he’s every inch a gentleman. But he’s also Kerry’s boss and has a fiancée. He tries to hide his feelings, but eventually, it becomes clear he loves Kerry. The situation largely parallels the one she left behind.

But not entirely. Axel isn’t Philip. For once, a man can and will put Kerry’s happiness above his own. Can he persuade her to love him and forget Philip?

My Reactions

There’s more, but in order to avoid spoilers, I’ll stop here. Yesterday’s Love presents the heroine’s dilemma with skill, grace, and depth. There’s plenty of romantic drama, and all of it seems natural and real, without exaggeration or contrivance. The story remains engaging from beginning to end.

The author conveys well the emotions of the characters. The point of view is strictly limited to Kerry, but we can tell what the others are thinking and feeling. Even the minor characters come to life convincingly and memorably.

Equally compelling are the exterior descriptions. The settings, mostly in Stockholm and the Swedish island of Gotland, seem vividly real.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone in the mood for an emo romance. It’s available at the major websites that sell used books.

Reviewed by: Mary Anne Landers