Here we go with the cheesy romance novels.“Fathers & Other Strangers” is considered to be a “harlequin superromance.” That being on the cover alone is enough to make anyone groan at the idea of reading it. And yet, as soon as I picked it up, I was sucked into the world that Evelyn A. Crowe created on the pages. The whole story isn’t too long, and yes, it does have a lot of romance. But, it didn’t seem to be poorly written romance. Sure, there were plenty of clichés and predictable events, but I wouldn’t say that that makes this a terrible book.
Warning, spoilers ahead!
We’ve been told by countless English teachers that a good story should always begin with a good hook, right? Well, “Fathers & Other Strangers” certainly has that. When the book opens, you are introduced to Virginia Carney, who is running for her life along the highways of Texas. We learn that she is running from a car crash, for a reason the reader is unaware of. Right off the bat, the audience gets a good bit of mystery. It’s about then that she stumbles and falls into a vineyard owned by the main male in the story, Matt Bolt. Matt is an ex-cop who was shot and nearly killed during a case, and since then he has retired to working on the family vineyard. Already, our male lead sounds like a hunky dream straight out of a bad romance novel.
But that isn’t all. Matt has a kid that he has been estranged from for most of his life. After his ex-wife dies in a plane crash, the boy is left in his care, and he seems to despise the man he has to call his father. Our main male is a single father with a dark past who is just trying to figure out his son. Just dreamy, isn’t he?
Of course, once father and son discover Virginia in their vineyard, they rush to rescue her and an awkward bathing scene ensues when Matt discovers that Virginia has a bum ankle and can’t stand on her own. That scene alone is enough to warrant a chuckle from me. Of course, the guy who hadn’t been able to get it up very well because of a bullet to his thigh was now feeling those “familiar stirrings” for this woman. And of course, she got an eyeful of him too. Though, I must say, in reality, this is probably what would happen.
Virginia finally opens up to Matt about why she was running from the car crash. She was being relocated by FBI agents. Virginia was in a protective service because she outed a guy who was laundering money, and he had her husband and child blown up. The rest of the book is spent with Matt, Virginia, and Austin, Matt’s son, adjusting to living in the same place together, along with dealing with their suspicious neighbors, the feelings that Matt and Virginia develop for each other, and eventually, Virginia being confronted by the son of the man she is trying to get sent to prison.
None of this explains why I don’t believe that this was a terribly done romance book. While the romance part is completely predictable and more than a little ridiculous, I do thoroughly enjoy the plot. It isn’t just a simple issue with romance and tension between two characters thrown in. There are multiple conflicts which aren’t confusing and poorly done, and they don’t center around one character. Matt has his share of problems with his greedy half brother and his son, along with his wine business and his own internal struggle. Virginia has her internal struggle with the loss of her husband and child, along with the struggle to fit in and be accepted by the household she is in and the surrounding neighborhood. She then has to also deal with putting out fires between Austin and Matt, and Matt and his brother. In fact, she seems to be the mediator around the house. She resolves the fights that those around her are having, and she keeps the peace relatively well.
Even the romance aspect has its own conflicts that aren’t too terribly done. Virginia lost her husband while she was still very much in love with him, and she grieves over his loss. Yet, being around Matt confuses her because she does feel stirrings of feelings for him. Of course, she then feels terribly guilty about even thinking about another man, feeling that she was betraying her late husband. Naturally, this leads her to say things she doesn’t necessarily mean when she speaks to Matt, which causes plenty of hurt feelings and fights. So, they don’t just fall completely head over heels for each other right away, which I thought was a nice spin. At the end, they become a bit sappy and lovey-dovey, too much so for my taste. But hey, the end of the book needs to be happy and fully resolved, so I understand where that came from. I’m just not too thrilled with it.
All in all, the book was okay. I liked the writing style, and the plot was somewhat intricate, and I certainly didn’t fall asleep trying to read it. However, that will not change the fact that the romance was too strong for my taste, and I don’t feel it was too well done. If you’re one who enjoys to read romance novels, or even a nice mystery, then you may want to at least try this book out. It may not leave you stunned with brilliance, but it will at least entertain you for the time being.