Gallen Contemporary Romance #43801-8
SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊
4 1/2 Stars
Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers
A Category Romance on Steroids
Like big, dramatic contemporary romances set in glamorous, exciting milieus? With dynamic characters and lots of plot? Then I recommend Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie.
It was originally published in 1981 as part of the Richard Gallen imprint from Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The edition I read came from Paradise Press, a reprint house, in 1990. Can’t say I care much for the cover graphics of my copy. But the text itself—wow!
It does something unusual for a contemporary romance of any generation. Typically stories in this genre take place in “the eternal present.” There are no dates as in historical romances. It’s assumed that what’s going on can happen when the work is first published and any time thereafter.
Trouble is, the present ISN’T eternal. Things change. I imagine some readers (not including me) get put off when vintage-contemporary romances employ the fashions, pop culture, technology, and social attitudes of their times.
That’s not an issue here. Except for a few flashbacks, Alexie’s Sometimes a Stranger starts in 1970 and ends in 1979. With tweaks, it could take place nowadays. But in retrospect, the author was smart to lock the story into its timeframe.
Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Paradise Press, 1990 edition, cover artist unknown
Greeks Bearing Gifts
Andrea Carswell, an American travel journalist, goes to Athens to write about the splendors of Greece. And promptly falls in love with one. Alexander Deklos, the playboy heir of a powerful family in the shipping business. His uncle Spyros Demitriades runs the far-flung enterprise, Delphi, Limited. Alex is too busy having fun to take part in it.
He falls in love with Andrea as quickly as she does with him. Which throws a wrench into the plans of his mother, Olympia Deklos, to marry him to another child of a wealthy Greek family, Athena Lampos. Olympia’s marriage was arranged by her parents. Isn’t that good enough for Alex?
Well, no. He won’t give up Andrea for anything. But he does give up his carefree lifestyle. Alex becomes a major player on Team Delphi. Both choices come with consequences.
Life In the Fast Lane
Then stuff happens. Lots of stuff! To avoid spoilers, that’s as far as my summary will go. But here’s a hint. The plot covers jealousy, business intrigue, workaholism, medical crises, disaster, family feuds, secrets, revenge. Plus, a theme forbidden in today’s romance fiction. Infidelity.
But these disparate themes all work together to enrich the main one, the love between Andrea and Alex. It’s central to the story even when their relationship hits the rocks. Which it does with a force that can be measured on the Richter scale!
The author employs multiple points of view. But the most frequent POV character is Andrea. A woman who deeply feels every emotion. Which the author conveys with great sensitivity.
And Alex? He’s an alpha hero, all right. He displays that millennia-old failing of his fellow countrymen, hubris. He’s always right, even when he’s wrong!
Though the heroine remains sympathetic throughout the story, the hero is all over the good-bad spectrum. A paragon and a ruthless businessman. A family man and a libertine. A dream lover and a total ass.
Yet these extremes and everything in between are all phases of the same man. Such is the author’s skill that I can believe Alex as every one of them. And all are fascinating. Even when he’s at his worst, I understand why Andrea still loves him.
The settings are numerous. Mainly Athens, the Aegean island of Mykonos, London, and New York. These places seem real; reading about them is the next best thing to being there. But in a profound sense, the story unfolds in the hearts and minds of the main characters. Which IMHO is where any story should.
Dutch edition of Sometimes a Stranger, Zo Dichtbij en Toch Ver Weg (So Close and Yet Far Away), Phoenix, 1982, Franco Accornero cover art (front & back cover)
Sometimes a Stranger does almost everything right. Almost? Yes. A few aspects could be better.
The cast of characters is large, and some of their names sound similar to those of others. And can be in the wrong form given the characters’ ethnicities. For example, Alexander should be Alexandros. I know, that’s just a picky little detail.
More serious is this. A major plot thread, the heroine’s career, is handled poorly. Early on, Andrea gets into writing novels. But success comes too easily. And with a minimum of drama. That’s one of only two aspects of this book with insufficient drama.
The other is her family. Wisely, the author gives them less attention than Alex’s relatives. But they don’t warrant even that. They’re just not that interesting. And in the case of Noah Truesdale, Andrea’s grandfather, it’s hard to believe a powerful newspaper magnate can be such a nice guy. Though I must admit my idea of a man in his position was formed by watching “Citizen Kane”!
Alex’s kinfolk and their interactions make for fascinating reading. Andrea’s don’t. One of these families is dysfunctional. Guess which one.
But don’t let that stop you from reading this novel. And how I wish someone in Hollywood would buy it from a used-book website, find it as enthralling as I do, and turn it into a movie!