Sunday, 29 April 2007

Disturbing Stranger by Charlotte Lamb

This novel was published in 1978. During Ms Lamb’s quality period and it’s a pretty good effort.

I enjoyed reading through the courtship of 20 year old Laura and 36 year old business tycoon Randal. Even though she’s a virginal skank bitch and he’s a cunt.

But the real awful couple in this novel were Laura’s parents. Her mother was an emotional blackmailer who had basically turned her daughter into her carer and her father was an embezzler who asked his daughter to prostitute herself so he could avoid jail. I so wanted them both to DIE before Laura’s wedding to Randal.

Why do Laura and Randal fall in love? Well. She’s a beautiful natural platinum blonde. And he can arouse her desires. Fair enough. There’s the basis for a good 5-years of HEA. They met by chance when Laura was accompanying the tame boyfriend's friend around London and Randal was with a group of medical students doing crazy stunts like going up to two women and asking for a kiss.

And of course Laura’s trailing along a tame boyfriend, Tom. Who is the unofficial doctor to her mother. Laura has no friends (and not much education) what with always being at the beck and call of her ailing parent so at least she’s got some excuse for the way she treats Randal.

Laura always says no to Randal which he ignores. And she responds like a slut to his kisses and gropes. At one point Randal tells Laura he’d like to rape her and almost the very next paragraph he’s taking her to meet his own bed-ridden mother. ‘Will you marry me’ he asks Laura after a couple of months of respectable courtship. ‘I love Tom’ she tells him.

The problem is Laura’s father works for Randal’s company. And he’s been stealing lots of money. So he tells Laura to accept Randal’s proposal. ‘Otherwise I’ll go to jail’ he whines. Not for one minute does Laura find a single fault with this asshole of a parent. That annoyed the hell out of me. But she has no trouble in despising Randal.

So what happens is that Laura fixates on the purity of her love for Tom. To give the author her due there is never so much as a hint that Tom is in any way a sexual being. Only once does Laura try to kiss Tom but he freezes her off. Tom later says that he believed Randal would cherish and keep Laura safe. Stupid self-righteous martyr.

There’s a great tit for tat in Laura and Randal’s relationship. She contemplates her sexual power over him, he slaps her face, she wears a locket with Tom’s photo inside on her wedding day. Laura also wrings a couple of admissions of infatuation from Randal. So overall I’d say she wins in the bitch stakes.

Poor Laura’s so miserable on her wedding day. I laughed. All she had to do to avoid it was to tell her father ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ But of course she doesn’t. Laura is one of those romance women whose body is a separate entity from her mind…or so the author would have us believe. So the wedding night passes amazingly smoothly. But that’s the heroine all over. She tells herself she loathes her husband but gives him no trouble in bed.

It’s a 200 page novel and by page 120 Laura and Randal are well and truly man and wife. So where does the story go from here? We work towards the mutual declaration of love.

Well on their honeymoon in Venice she meets one of his ex-girlfriends, a rich widow and Laura admits to herself that she is jealous. Next minute she realizes she loves her husband. I didn’t get the reason why. No reason really other than sex and possessiveness. Two weeks honeymoon and then they’re back in London where it all goes wrong.

I think by now the author had run out of ideas. And the story ends weakly with the hero and heroine behaving in highly stereotyped ways.

For some reason Laura says no to her husband but as always he ignores her. So afterwards he feels guilt and stops sleeping with her. He’s also highly jealous of the former boyfriend Tom. Laura is by now pregnant and asks Tom to be her doctor. He refuses and tells her that he always loved her but doubted that she would be able to cope with his lifestyle once he achieved his ambition of working as a doctor in developing countries.

I actually thought this was a seriously deep insult to the heroine. She coped with running a household for an invalid mother, she coped with organising her own wedding, she coped with marriage to a demanding difficult man. Believe me she could cope with the four-star lifestyle that WHO personnel demand and get in recipient countries.

Tom would have been a much worse husband than Randal for Laura anyway. In the end his continual disapproval would have ground down her self-esteem. I hope one day she realises that fact. On the other hand Laura really will have to teach Randal to accept that ‘N.O’ means ‘NO.’

Anyway. Tom drives Laura to her home. She faints due to the pregnancy, the state of her marriage and the shock of Tom’s rejection. The husband returns just as the boyfriend is placing a weak Laura on her bed. (All the servants conveniently being out) Randal socks Tom who leaves. Randal agrees to give Laura a divorce (after about 2 months of marriage) so she can be happy in marrying Tom. She actually does tell him that Tom doesn’t want her. Then they tell each other they love one another. End of. Except that poor ol’ Randal will always be aware of his wife’s shirt-tail platonic love for Tom forever. That’s life. But not a HEA which is why a good HEA is very important. All in all. Three quite interesting interdependent people.

Finally. imo Laura can’t win. She attracts men who do not value her and was born into a dysfunctional family. She’ll just have to make the best she can of what fate has given her.

There are no explicit sex scenes in this novel but all the conflict made the relationship quite hot imo. But I so hated both sets of in-laws.

Genre; contemporary romance. Movie rating 15, blackmail, marital rape, criminality, relationship violence, grown-up themes.

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