BLOG REVIEW: Stranger in the Night by Charlotte Lamb

27y.o. popular British actress is known for her cool professionalism.
She was more carefree and trusting years ago.
Her attraction to a charming stranger she met at a party when she was 18
ended in a night that changed her forever. 
She now devotes all her time to her career and avoids any romantic dealings with men.
She may go to social functions and vacations with her best friend
but it's only ever been platonic for her. 
He wants more but he accepts what he doesn't understand in order to keep their friendship.
The accidental meeting with the stranger she spent the night with 9 years ago shook their status quo.
She can no longer remain detached.
And her friend suspects that the other man is involved.
It drives him to act on his long-held unrequited feelings for her,

clarifying her feelings for the other man.
Which man does she allow in her life?
What happens to the man she doesn't choose?

Be warned that this Lamb book contains forced seduction and date-rape scenes. This book was written in 1980, part of an era in romance novels where forced seduction & rape of heroine were common.  At least the scenes were not explicitly detailed in this book but the point was apparent. The heroine was involved in sexual incidents that she didn't want. She made clear verbal and physical efforts to resist the sexual advances towards her and she was met with resistance. Twice, she was berated and called a "bitch" for saying "no". Her verbal limits were not enough and she had to physically resist to make her "no" firmer. Only once did it amount to rape. Other times they were interrupted or the man stopped. And a couple kissing scenes, heroine's resistance changed into willing submission. There's probably about 6 total kissing/sexual scenes in the book and Lamb portrayed them all differently.

Lamb's books often keeps me on my toes.  There's usually a twist or a touch of unpredictability in her stories. This book had me guessing as to the Hero's identity for a while. Hero was either the man who date-raped heroine or heroine's long-time friend. It wasn't until about 50% into the book that we got a better picture of who the Hero was.

     ---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------------

Date-rape guy (OM1):
When heroine was 18 and new in London, she met an older man at a New Year's Eve party her friend took her to. Her instant attraction to him and the amount of alcohol she drank made her susceptible to his charms, leading her to go to his apartment with him that night. The kissing led to more but her realization of what they were doing broke through her alcoholic fuzziness and she told him to stop. He heard her and got mad at her for teasing him and didn't stop. He affected her life greatly, especially when it came to her male relationships, the next 9 years.

Her best friend (OM2):
Heroine met her friend in drama school when she was 20. He asked her out on dates in the beginning but she turned him down. She only wanted his friendship so they became good friends through the years. They supported each other through their film and theatre careers. They often hung out together and were each others dates at parties and vacations, when he wasn't involved in his short-lived affairs. 

The Hero's identity became clearer when heroine meets OM1 again. Her reactions to kissing him and then later OM2 were both strong and only differentiated by its quality. Her responses to being with and kissing OM1 again were ones of distaste and disgust. Whatever attraction she had for him previously were now changed into revulsion and aggravation. Her responses to kissing OM2, on the other hand, surprised her because he'd kissed her a few times before and she'd only viewed him "asexual(ly)" like a brother-friend. Now his kisses and touches were making her very aware of him as a sexy man and making her body alive and sexually excited for the first time in 9 years. So, seeing OM1 again was the catalyst she needed to finally view OM2 as her romantic Hero.

Hero has been secretly in love with heroine for 7 years. He tried to get over her by dating & smexxing other women but none of them could substitute for her. He ended up missing her or thinking about her and needed his "fix" so would end up calling her or finding someway of seeing her again. He'd accepted that she would likely never reciprocate his love/desire for her and had settled for her friendship if that was the only way he could be with her. It was quite poignant and endearing of him to settle for that because he was so in love with her and had surrendered to that being his fate. So, his strong reaction to her visible reaction to OM1 pushed him to assert his desire for her. There was no excusing his forcible physical display of his desire for her but I did understand where he was coming from. And that forced seduction was the 80s romance-novel excuse of a trope of showing the hero's strong desire for the heroine. Seeing heroine finally thaw out emotionally and it involving another man set him on a tailspin of possessiveness and jealousy. His finding out about her rape experience with OM1 pushed his protectiveness of her and desire to love her with care. I wished with we got more of him in the story and his romance with heroine. But Lamb did do a sufficient job getting the point across about his long-held love for heroine and his frenzy in getting her to finally notice him as a man when she finally woke up emotionally and sexually. 

    ------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-----------------------------------------------------

The question of Hero's identity caused me to switch gears about heroine's feelings and the potential outcome of the romance.  Heroine's varied feelings and views about both men gradually untangled per each subsequent interactions with them and her evaluation of herself. Once her mind was made up, the romance quickly progressed and the other man faded away.

Heroine's character played a central part in the story. We saw her transform from a trusting and innocent 18y.o. new-adult to a controlled, wary, and sophisticated workaholic woman. Her rape experience changed her view of the world and she sublimated all that negative energy into obsession with her work as an actor. She rose to success in the film and theatre world and made it known that she did so only because of her talents & work ethic and not sexual favors. She became a hardened woman, numb to emotional closeness. She'd close herself off to the sexual part of herself so she was also sexually numb. Her sexual awareness with Hero came about quickly and flooded her, scaring her off. It didn't take her long to figure out what was going on with her and her maturity level made her rapid change of outlook and emotions believable. A big part of that was also Hero's confrontation of her mixed reactions and giving her time to sort things out. I liked her firm resolve so that, when she makes a decision, she gets things done. Thus, her and Hero's love confessions at the end was true to their character. I wish we got at least one sex scene instead of a closed-door hint that they're gonna get busy at the end. A peek at how heroine responds to lovemaking with Hero after her various forced-seduction experiences would've given their story a more complete resolution.

I moderately recommend this book.

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