When his family abandoned him at Eton, Benedict Hastings found an unexpected ally in his best friend’s sister. Her letters kept him going-until the day he had to leave everything behind. Years later, Benedict has seen his share of betrayal, but when treachery hits close to home, he turns to his old friend for safe haven.After five torturous years on the marriage circuit, Lady Evelyn Moore is finally free to live her life as she wishes. So when her brother shows up with a dashing stranger, she finds herself torn between her dreams . . . and newfound desires.Despite his determination to keep Evie at a distance, Benedict cannot deny the attraction that began with a secret correspondence. Yet as they begin to discover one another, the dangers of Benedict’s world find them, threatening their lives, their love, and everything they thought they could never have.
Rating: C (C+ for content and C for narration)
More Than a Stranger began very promisingly, with the hero and heroine falling into a correspondence when they are children (and I’m a sucker for a good “friends-to-lovers” story!). Lady Evelyn Moore is close to her brother, Richard, but when he goes off to Eton and forms a friendship with Benedict Hastings, Evie gets jealous. Upon receipt of yet another letter from Richard, which is full of “Hastings, this” and “Hastings, that”, eleven-year-old Evie has had enough and sets out to give the mysterious Hastings an epistolary dressing down.
He responds to her letter and thus a correspondence is born. The letters between the two in the prologue and at the beginning of each chapter are one of the highlights of the book and demonstrate that Ms. Knightley has a real talent for witty banter and engaging dialogue. Alison Larkin’s reading once again revealed her deft touch for comedic narration, and I settled in for an enjoyable listening experience.
Unfortunately however, I had listened to less than a quarter of the story before I began to get frustrated. We learn that Benedict had suddenly cut off all contact with Evie when he was eighteen and has had no contact with her for the past nine years. Neither she nor the reader/listener knows the reason for it and I discovered that I find this sort of plot development easier to cope with in print than I do in audio. There are hints that Benedict is in serious trouble, and as the story progresses, we discover that there are people looking for him who clearly do not wish him well. We are left in the dark as to why this is until well into the second half of the story.
Benedict and Evie have never met and when Benedict needs to hide out as a result of whatever trouble he’s in, he turns to his best friend for help. He journeys to Hertford Hall with Richard, not expecting the family to be in residence but their departure for London has been delayed. When he meets Evie for the first time, Benedict is almost dumbstruck but instead of telling her who he is, he gives her an assumed name, without really considering what he is doing. One lie leads to another, and another, and before long Benedict is digging himself bigger and bigger holes. Not only is that frustrating in terms of the storytelling, it doesn’t say much for Benedict’s character, or his competence. He’s been working as an agent for the Crown for the past eight or nine years, but if he’s so easily panicked into lying, I have to wonder whether he was cut out to be a spy!
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.