Rating: 4 stars
Rating: 4 stars
Marta Thinks: Anne Stuart has more than thirty years of experience within the romance genre and is the winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Clearly, she’s somewhat of an expert - and it shows. Her novel ‘Shadow Lover’ is a near-flawless adult romance, dealing dexterously a complicated relationship as well as dramatically mysterious family secrets.
In a small town, the gorgeous MacDowells are facing a familial loss, that of matriarch Sally MacDowell. But she refuses to pass away before witnessing the fulfillment of her dying wish: that of seeing her long-lost son, Alex. When Alex appears again, conveniently acquiring a hefty inheritance, Sally is thrilled and welcomes him with uncontained joy. Only Carolyn, foster daughter, knows that this isn’t the real Alex, not after what she witnessed eighteen years ago when he ran away. As she puts it: ‘Here were a million reasons why he could be Alex MacDowell, and only one reason why he couldn’t.’ What follows is a novel full of drama and intrigue, alongside snobbish secondary characters, all desperately greedy and arrogant, eager for a share of money.
What was refreshing about this plot was the heroine, Carolyn. She was surprisingly likable, a rarity when it comes to 90s romance stories. It’s easy to see things as she perceives them and behind that cool facade she has perfected so well, lies a girl who was in love with her adopted step-brother and who is hungry for Sally’s affection. Her reaction to Alex’s reappearance is perfectly reasonable and the various tests she poses in order to prove that the man is not Alex, show her determination and cleverness. Additionally, Anne Stuart is well known for producing well thought-out gamma heroes (described by a blogger as a man who - unlike alpha or beta heroes - is ‘one who is indifferent and is never possessive of the heroine...and who sometimes never admits their love until the very end of the novel...’). While that may not necessarily be the most flattering illustration of a character, I do believe it is extremely accurate. Alex - or at the very least, the man who claims he is Alex - doesn’t hide his desire for Carolyn, but neither does he see it as his duty to protect her or reassure her of his sentiments. This made him the perfect foil to Carolyn, and I believe made their relationship more credible as it gave them equal roles.
Ultimately, while this book may not be Anne Stuart’s most famous or best novel necessarily, I do think it is a good introduction into the romance genre, and gives a reader a good idea of what to expect if they are to read future books by the author.