REVIEW: The Perfect Stranger by Alison Kent
Dear Ms Kent,
The Perfect Stranger certainly bolts out of the starting gate and rarely slows down much after that. By focusing only on the hero’s POV, you keep us, and the hero, in the dark for the first seven chapters as to what the hell is going on. I hate to say that even after you begin doling out clues and add the heroine’s POV, I was still a little muzzy on just what the motivation was for the villain and bewildered at the speed at which both hero and heroine ditch previously long held convictions when the plot called for it.
Jack Briggs wakes up with a killer hangover in a third world hell of a jail cell then gets dragged in to see the island’s twisted Commendante about a local girl he supposedly knocked up eight months ago. All he vaguely remembers is a work buddy’s bachelor party and sipping one tequila shot. Now he’s got a guy with a sick love for bamboo canes yelling at him that he’s headed off into the jungle of San Torisco to meet his new in-laws. WTF? After passing out a second time, he wakes in the back of a donkey cart, smelling much the worse for wear to discover that his “pregnant wife” is really a nun who’s determined to smuggle him past the local policia. WTF? A day later he’s still in the dark when they arrive at what is obviously a rebel hideout and the nun morphs again. This time she emerges as a hot woman co-leader of a mixed group of islanders determined to ease the suffering of the natives at the hands of their cruel dictator. And we and Jack are still in the dark as to why he’s there.
Jack figures his best chance of escaping this Merrie Band is to reel in his anger, give them a chance to explain and while he’s listening, he can try to figure out where on the island he is and the fastest route back to the engineering outfit he came to the island with in order to build roads. But fate sticks a spoke in that wheel in the form of a raid on the camp so he and Jillian Endicott, of the Boston Endicotts, are on the run again chasing after her co-leader and her nine year old son. In the next few days Jack will find out what made this woman turn her back on the privileged life she lead to come here and why it was so vital that he be kidnapped into helping them. Oh, and there’s lots of hawt sex.
From the way the book started, I figured that Jillian was the one who would have the most secrets throughout the story. And that our sympathy would more easily rest with Jack. And so it turned out. For the most part, Jack worked better for me. I understood him and at times Jillian made me want to slap her. But then I’m always a little leery of the ones who toss away a comfortable life and decide to Make a Statement by immersing themselves in guerrilla-esque struggles. And when that someone hauls her young child into this environment and decides to raise him there, well, I think she’s wacky. It didn’t matter to me that in the end Jillian has a sudden moment of epiphany after which she shakes her own head at what she did, I still wanted to slap her. “What the hell were you thinking?” I wanted to yell at her. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but admire the woman’s matter-of-fact way of going after some prime ass and telling Jack that she just wanted a passionate screw — or two or three — and would he oblige her. You go girl.
Jack has some anguish in his own past but it’s not until the end of the book that it comes back to affect the action. And then only until he has his own convenient moment of epiphany when suddenly what haunted him for years no longer does so in the blink of an eye. Seemingly. But what really has me shaking my head, besides the really inventive group orgy scene, is the reasoning behind the action of the villain. I don’t get it. Something about first sons and sacrifices and something to do with voodoo. Now I was thinking, “WTF?”
When I end a book with as many questions as I do in this one, when one of the main characters annoys me a lot and when there are sudden changes in characters after years of “carved in rock” feelings and beliefs, then it didn’t work as well as a great start made me hope for. C
Dear Ms. Kent:
I have to echo Jayne’s sentiments on this one. If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be confusing. I found the two characters, Jack and Jill, to be individually appealing but their motivations, the plot, the speed at which they fell in love, and the ensemble cast worked against a coherent narrative.
Jack is a pilot and works for Hank Smithson, a philanthropic version of Haliburton. Smithson’s team is in San Torisco to build a road which will hopefully help the villagers quality of life. He’s nearing the end of his one year commitment when he is kidnapped for his piloting skills. The kidnapper, Jillian Endicott, needs him to fly a special package out of San Torisco.
Jill’s love for the San Torisco has led her to work with the villagers for 10 years as part of the World Relief Team. Her work, however, has to take a back seat to her need to see a certain task accomplished. Jill’s a refreshing heroine. She’s unabashedly comfortable with her own sexuality. While she is at odds with her wealthy family, her daddy hate doesn’t cause her significant mental distress. She’s fairly competent although stingy with her information thereby creating alot of unnecessary danger but certainly serves to ratchet up the suspense.
The big problem is that as I read the book, I felt like I was the one who had been slipped the mickey and was muzzleheaded while reading the book. I couldn’t figure out the whys and wherefores of so many of the scenes, like the opening scene, or ones at the end when secondary characters and important motivations seemed to evaporate like mist defenseless against the sun. Further, Jack and Jill seemed to be coupling on the jungle floor at so many inappropriate times it was no wonder they were always in trouble.
There’s some likeability to Jack and even to Jill and there’s no denying the heated love scenes, but the lack of coherency made me wonder if too much got left on the editing floor. C
P.S. Jack and Jill. Sigh.