Christina Lauren’s Beautiful
Stranger, the follow-up to the popular Beautiful
Bastard, shakes off the fan fiction origins of its predecessor and creates
a fresh, fun spin-off. Beautiful Strangerfollows Sara, who readers may remember as Chloe’s co-worker and friend from Beautiful
Bastard, as she moves to New
York to escape after the end of a toxic relationship. But never fear, fans of Beautiful Bastard yearning for
more—Bennett and Chloe have moved to New York to open a new office of Ryan
Media Group and remain present in Sara’s story. There are a few tantalizing
glimpses of how their relationship has developed since the end of their story,
but for the most part this is Sara’s show.
Lauren’s decision to branch off from Chloe and Bennett
yields surprising results, and she delivers something altogether different than
her first novel. By focusing on Sara, Lauren creates an original new character
that hasn’t been seen much in the current crop of New Adult and Erotica title.
Despite being relatively inexperienced, Sara embarks on a sensual journey of
self-discovery without shame or self-doubt.
A good girl since birth, Sara’s newly single status forces
her to re-evaluate her life and leads her directly into contact with Max
Stella. A British venture capitalist the papers paint as New York’s ultimate
playboy, Max helps Sara to fulfill the fantasies she has never allowed herself
to admit to having.
If you’re tired of hearing about whips and chains, but enjoy
a romance with some edge, then this book could be for you. Sara and Max
experiment with photography and exhibitionism, but not at the cost of character
development. Indeed, their more adventurous moments are integrated seamlessly
into the novel’s plot. A visit to a voyeuristic club, for instance, leads to
one of the novel’s most powerful moments of intimacy between the characters.
Good erotica is a feedback loop where character development allows sex scenes
to be more meaningful and sex scenes allow for greater character development.
Lauren has pulled that delicate balance here.
like Beautiful Bastard, often takes
place in professional settings, which provides both an element of the forbidden
and allows its hero and heroine to showcase their individual talents and
intelligence. It is refreshing to see Max respond to Sara’s numerical acumen as
if it is an aphrodisiac, swooning at her ability to calculate how many days old
she is off the top of her head.
Stranger is a confection of an erotic romance—sweet, breezy, and
satisfying. Its fresh take on the sensuality-driven relationship between its
hero and heroine elevates it from simply fun to something altogether more
exciting. A gently innovative plot and well-developed characters blaze a trail
away from the well-trodden ground of BDSM and dominance, leaving me excited to
see what’s next from Christina Lauren.
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