Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Date of publication: July 11th, 2023
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Womens Fiction, Adult, Adult Fiction
Sadie Montogmery has had good breaks and bad breaks in her life, but as a struggling artist, all she needs is one lucky break. Things seem to be going her way when she lands one of the coveted finalist spots in a portrait competition. It happens to coincide with a surgery she needs to have. Minor, they say. Less than a week in the hospital they say. Nothing about you will change, they say. Upon recovery, it begins to dawn on Sadie that she can see everything around her, but she can no longer see faces.
Temporary, they say. Lots of people deal with this, they say. As she struggles to cope―and hang onto her artistic dreams―she finds solace in her fourteen-year-old dog, Peanut. Thankfully, she can still see animal faces. When Peanut gets sick, she rushes him to the emergency vet nearby. That’s when she meets veterinarian Dr. Addison. And she’s pleasantly surprised when he asks her on a date. But she doesn’t want anyone to know about her face blindness. Least of all Joe, her obnoxious neighbor who always wears a bowling jacket and seems to know everyone in the building. He’s always there at the most embarrassing but convenient times, and soon, they develop a sort of friendship. But could it be something more?
As Sadie tries to save her career, confront her haunting past, and handle falling in love with two different guys she realizes that happiness can be found in the places―and people― you least expect.
The first person I called after I found out I’d placed in the North American Portrait Society’s huge career-making yearly contest was my dad.Hello Stranger by Katherine Center
I am a vast Katherine Center fan. I have read almost all of her books and have loved them. So, when the publisher sent me an email inviting me to review Hello Stranger, I immediately accepted. And guess what? I loved it. I loved it so much that I gave it a rare 5-star review. This book did everything. It made me laugh and cry, and more importantly, it allowed me to connect with the characters.
Hello Stranger is a fast-paced book that takes place entirely in Houston, Texas. Almost all of Katherine Center’s takes place there, and I feel that she makes Houston an exciting place to live.
The plotline for Hello Stranger was unique. Before this book, I think I had only heard of face blindness mentioned on TV. And even then, I thought it was something the author made up. So, reading about it in this book (and googling it on my phone) made it fascinating.
Sadie is a struggling portrait artist living in a hovel on the roof of her best friend’s parent’s building. When a near accident reveals that she has a condition called cavernoma that requires immediate brain surgery, she declines. Earlier that day, Sadie had found out she had placed in a yearly contest that could be huge. But, given no choice (her mother died of the same thing), Sadie undergoes surgery only to discover that she has face blindness (prosopagnosia). To a portrait artist, this is career-ending, but Sadie decides to make the most of it. During this same time, she meets an enigmatic veterinarian when Peanut, her dog, suddenly gets sick. She also meets Joe, a resident in the building she lives in, who is happy to help Sadie when she needs it. Not disclosing her condition to them, Sadie starts dating and falling in love with both. With a deadline approaching and trying to choose between two men, Sadie must make a choice. Along the way, she also comes to terms with her estranged family and their choices. Can Sadie reconcile with her family? Who will she choose? Will she let Joe and the veterinarian know about her face blindness? And what about the contest? What sort of portrait will she paint?
The characters in Hello Stranger were well-written and wonderfully three-dimensional. Initially, I was not too fond of a couple of characters, but I liked them at the book’s end. The only character I consistently did not like was Parker. There was a particular sort of evilness to her, and it only amped up as the book went on.
- Sadie—I loved her. She was one of the more authentic characters I have read in a book. She made me laugh (I annoyed my husband with the giggling I was doing), and she made me cry. But mostly laugh. I loved how she adapted to face blindness and used it in her art. I also loved how she was with Joe. I understood why she was so upset with her family, too. If I had been treated that way (being sent away to a special school for something that wasn’t even her fault), I would have had zero contact with them. It showed how forgiving (well, in a way, forgiving) she was. And I got her frustration with Parker. I wanted to punch that woman’s face (and I am not a violent person). She did some and said some unforgivable things to Sadie throughout the book.
- Joe—Ok, so when I read that conversation that he was having about the overweight women who sat on his face and wouldn’t leave, I thought the same thing as Sadie. But, as I got to know him through the book, I started to like him. I thought he was good for Sadie. He even offered to help her with her portrait, which got pretty steamy for a minute. Then a lightbulb went off. I’m not going to say what, but I will say that it must have been confusing to him during a specific scene. I didn’t blame him for being angry.
Hello Stranger fits perfectly into the romance genre. I liked that the author took a more gradual approach to Sadie and Joe’s romance. There was no Instalove. Sadie didn’t like Joe because of the conversation I mentioned above. But, once the friendship turned to romance, it was awesome. What I also liked about this book is the author didn’t even mention that sex. Instead, the author had Sadie and Joe kiss a couple of times (and it was super hot), and the author kept it at that.
The storyline with Sadie, the contest, and her face blindness was well-written and well-researched. I loved seeing how Sadie tried to identify people (gait, hair, voice, personality). I also liked how the author incorporated it into the contest. I am not an artist (not even close to it) and had no clue how an artist with face blindness would use a grid to help paint people. But the author explained that (and I did a little research on my own).
The storyline with Sadie and her family was heartbreaking. It also made me extremely mad at her father and stepmother. I know her stepmother was trying to help during the book (and she did get brownie points for the dress) but believing Parker over Sadie was wrong. When overhearing what that witch said to her at the contest and what she did, I was furious for Sadie. I cried angry tears for her. Thankfully Sadie’s dad did hear and did try to set things right, but still. I had steam coming out of my ears. I hope Parker gets help (it sounds like she needs it).
The storyline with Sadie, Joe, and the veterinarian made me laugh. I figured everything out fairly early in the book. But it was fun to watch Sadie try to juggle two men. I winced during the breakup scene, and I felt so bad when Joe flipped out on Sadie. I 100% understood Joe’s anger and confusion (I would have been confused too). I did say (out loud), “This is why you tell people you have face blindness.”
The end of Hello Stranger was what I expected it to be. Sadie and Joe got their HEA. But, more importantly, other things were also on the way to being healed. I was sad when the book ended because I wanted to see where Joe and Sadie were in 5 years.
I recommend Hello Stranger to anyone over 16. There is no sex (a couple of kissing scenes), mild language, and very mild violence.
I want to thank Saint Martin’s Press and Katherine Center for allowing me to read and review Hello Stranger. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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