Friday 25 March 2016
#CBR8 Book 28: "Beautiful Stranger" by Christina Lauren
Rating: 3.5 stars
Sara Dillon, Chloe Mills' best friend, dumps her cheating fiancee and relocates to New York when her BFF and her Beautiful Bastard of a boyfriend open a new set of offices there. Out celebrating Chloe's engagement, Sara meets a tall, sexy stranger in a nightclub and ends up hooking up with him, without even exchanging names. Turns out her sexy f*ck buddy is an old friend of Bennet's, Max Stella, and he can't get the alluring lady from the nightclub out of his mind. While Sara is actively avoiding a new relationship, she can't deny her strong attraction to Max and with every new meeting, she discovers new things about herself and what she gets off on (hint - it's mainly mild forms of exhibitionism, the thrill of nearly getting caught).
While Max has a past as a playboy of note, he's tantalised by Sara, especially her initial plan that they see each other just once a week, and then only for sex. He wants to take their relationship to the next level much quicker than her, but once he realises why she's so wary about long-term commitment, he's content to wait for her to return his feelings.
In this second book in the Beautiful series, you can already see Christina Lauren getting more skilled at writing, and including more to the story than just people yelling at each other or tearing each other's clothes off. I found the first book sadly lacking in most of the plot and character development, and Bennett and Chloe's hook-up MO didn't really thrill me all that much. There is more back story given to both Sara and Max in this book, and the reader is given an explanation as to why Sara might want to let herself go and have a purely physical relationship for a while, having been with the same man (who treated her badly) for far too long and finally breaking free.
Max is the contemporary romance version of a rake who's ready to be redeemed and he's all about respecting his lady love's wants and wishes. Even though he's emotionally at a place where he's ready to settle down, he's ready to wait until Sara returns his feelings. Of course, towards the end of the book, there is a big misunderstanding and some added complications thrown in the way of our lovers. It's one of my least favourite plot tropes (along with "I must push the people I love away from me to protect them!") and it is pretty much just a frustrating way for the authors to pad out the story for a bit until the couple can move on to their HEA.
In conclusion - Beautiful Stranger is better than the first book in the series (and the novella following it), but still not up to the quality of either of the four books in the Wild Seasons series, where I would suggest readers begin if they're interested in the work of Christina Lauren.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.