Today I have a lovely Historic Romance that brings Japan to London. Please read on to see about this new release from author Amara Royce, Always a Stranger. Please be sure to check out the other tour stops to read excerpts and see what others thought. And don’t forget to enter the tour wide giveaway where you can win one of two Digital Copies of ALWAYS A STRANGER or $20.00 Amazon or B&N Gift Card.
I was intrigued by the premise: a Victorian-era setting against the Great Exhibition of 1851 in which a titled Lord involves himself with a Japanese Fan Dancer and the intrigue that comes with both the uniqueness of the relationship and the secrets held by Hanako. Royce presents a world that feels very real and is easy to imagine the wonders, as if seeing them for the first time as Londoner’s did. The Victorian era was beginning to exert influence on social and societal customs and with Albert’s insatiable fascination with new technologies and scientific advancement, a new era of industrial, scientific and exploratory discoveries are being integrated into the public eye. A scant ten years before Albert’s death and Victoria’s subsequent retirement from public life, the mood and curiosity of the public was insatiable.
Lord Skyler Ridgemont is in service to the crown, seeing to the contractual needs and intricacies of performances, and tying up the loose ends. While he is intrigued by the unique presence and approach of the Japanese woman, Hanako, he feels a connection that surprises him. Hanako finds him uniquely different, her vacillation between reticence and proper behavior mixing with a very forward display not acceptable in polite society at that time.
The story has several different sub-plot points that need to be worked through: the interracial relationship, Hanako’s inability to find a solid behavioral pattern that would not bring shame on Skyler, even as she won’t be accepted, and Hanako’s big secret. Each unfolds slowly, with plenty of back and forth and diversions of setting and place that help the reader to enjoy the scenery. While there is a romance, it’s very slow to develop and most of the story is consumed with the reveals from Hanako while Skyler is far more open and easy to know. I will say that the pacing is stronger in the earlier chapters of the book, while it never gains the level of fast moving, must turn the page, the steady unsteadiness of the pacing did allow time to revel in the descriptions and feel – although less emotionally visceral than I would have hoped,. Romance in this story did take a backseat for me to the luxe descriptions and scene setting.
Title: Always a Stranger
Author: Amara Royce
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
When two worlds collide, anything is possible. . .
An international affair, London's Great Exhibition has taken the city by storm. As its newest Royal Commissioner, Lord Skyler Ridgemont must ensure the performers are properly contracted. Among them is the delicate and graceful Hanako Sumaki. Draped in vivid silk robes, Hanako's exotic Japanese fan dance captivates Skyler--and he longs to learn more about her. . .
But Hanako's enigmatic employer keeps his exquisite charge very close. The consummate artist, she shows the handsome nobleman many faces, but never her true heart, which holds a desperate secret. When Skyler learns the real reason Hanako has been brought to London, he will risk his entire world to win her trust--and save her from losing both body and soul. It's a feat that will require the type of courage only love can give. . .
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.