Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: The Right Man by Anne Stuart

The Right Man Cover A brilliant, innovative, passionate love story!

The Right Man by Anne Stuart

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: July 15, 2011
Pages: 251 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Treasury-Harlequin American Romance 90s
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

There is a saying in the romance industry that few writers take chances. New writers can't, because they don't have enough "clout," and established writers won't because they don't want to "disappoint reader expectations." Luckily for fans of Anne Stuart, right from the first in her almost 30 years of writing romance, she has flown in the face of both these dictums, having made a career of doing the unexpected. And never more so than in The Right Man.

In fiction, whether popular or literary, one of the greatest gifts a writer can have is a distinctive voice, which becomes the author's trademark and is apparent from work to work. Even more wonderful than this, though, and as rare as rubies, is a writer so talented that she can vary her voice to suit the story. Anne Stuart proves herself to be such an exceptional artist in The Right Man.

I am not a particular fan of film and novelistic noir of the late 1940s and 1950s (and therefore no expert on the subject), but from the little I have watched of that art form, it is highly recognizable. I believe it was a touch of genius for Stuart to fall into this style or "voice" for writing the segments of this time travel set in 1949. The cryptic, highly structured noir style of dialogue, in particular, sets us firmly in the late 1940s, and lends itself to a concise and deliberate pacing that, while moving the book along rapidly (essential in a short book such as this), never seems too rushed. The noir voice as used here is also so highly visual, one can easily imagine the book being made into a film, with the original dialogue carried into a script intact. (Are you listening, Lifetime? )

The use of the wedding dress, which is the major plot device of the "Gowns of White" Harlequin series this book is part of, as a magical device for time travel, while not a wholly new technique in and of itself, is quite original in its execution. My three favorite aspects are these: the way the dress, like an enchanted cape from a fairy tale, never soils or wrinkles; the way the magic brought by the dress spills over into all the other major characters' perceptions, and the way we are never quite sure if the time travel really happens or is a case of mass hypnosis (though this possibility is pleasantly mystical in and of itself).

As wonderful as the magic and the noir voice are, they do not overwhelm that which is the ultimate reason fans read romance: the love relationship. In this book, we get not one, but two great pairs of lovers. The level of sexual tension and expressed passion between each duo is incendiary, and the resolution of the internal and external conflicts, both within the protagonists individually and within the two love relationships, is believable and satisfying.

All in all, this is not only one of the best romance novels I've read in the past few years, but, in my opinion, one of the best short contemporaries I've read in almost 20 years of enjoying this genre.

 

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