Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️+
Winter Renshaw is this author whose social media presence can seem quiet. Since her promotion isn’t a huge production, it is readers such as myself who work diligently to promote her upcoming books. We do this because her stories engage us, touch our souls, and take us on emotional journeys grounded in moments of big love. Her newest book, The Cruelest Stranger, is no different. The beauty of this book (and her other romances) lies in its character-heavy storyline. Each moment of this book leads us deeper and deeper into the evolution of a man shut off emotionally from his life. A strong, beautiful, wise heroine quietly influences him to embrace the truth of himself, and their budding love affair bleeds onto Renshaw’s written page. Every moment of The Cruelest Stranger attaches itself to your heart and bleeds its truth into this beautiful story.
For me, the essence of The Cruelest Story is the evolution of its hero, Bennett. As a romance reader, you know that nothing is ever as it seems deep beneath a grumpy, blustery (in this case, cruel) hero. And it’s the crumbling of the facade that gives the story its tension, its impact, and its depth. This is definitely the case with Renshaw’s book. From one moment to the next, your heart bleeds for Astaire, the heroine, as she endures his heinous personality. Yet, Renshaw develops this emotionally mature heroine who, while her feelings can be hurt at times, sees through him. She’s intuitive and wise because life has made her so. In creating the powerful, insightful Astaire, she’s able to break through the high walls of Bennett and the story’s impact becomes fully known. It’s in his brokenness that his humanity shines, and the reader finds herself in his story. Renshaw beautifully illustrates the power that a family has to harm and negatively impact a person in Bennett. Humanizing her hero is the ultimate power of The Cruelest Stranger.
This story also employs several plot twists. Each chapter reveals more of the hidden story. As the story progresses, you find yourself engrossed in Renshaw’s story, hoping that the various storylines will resolve themselves judiciously. Honestly, the tension of Astaire and Bennett’s coupling occurs earlier in the story as Bennet tries to maintain his barriers. Once Astaire sees Bennett’s reality, his truth, these two come together in a way that is mature. There is one major issue later in the story that seeks to derail them, but Bennett and Astaire quickly learn to respect each other, communicating through their troubles. I think that was one of the things I appreciated about Renshaw’s story. It’s quite often that a romance reader finds herself yelling at her Kindle as the hero and heroine deal in mixed signals and miscommunication. In The Cruelest Stranger, Astaire and Bennett act like adults. They work through the misunderstanding, finding their happy ending.
If I had any criticism of Renshaw’s book, it would be that Bennett’s admission that Astaire can understand him comes somewhat easily. I mean, this hero is not nice. Yes, he takes care of others, but his verbal abuse should have kept them apart a bit longer. At least, that is how I saw it. When he recognizes Astaire’s ability to see into his heart, Bennett falls deeply for her quickly. It’s both beautiful, but also feels a bit contrived. That being said, this is a minor thought. In the breadth of this story, it means nothing because this story is everything I love about Winter Renshaw’s romances.
Renshaw’s The Cruelest Stranger suggests that family can be built, that it doesn’t have to exist with the connection of DNA. Even more, accepting and receiving love can help us transcend the hurts of our past and the people who have injured us. We can simply be more. When you recognize your truth in the midst of the truth of Renshaw’s book, that’s where the strength of her authorship exists. When she puts her fingers to her computer and writes these beautiful character studies, as she has done for Bennett and Astaire, it makes it very easy to buy her books. Her book, The Cruelest Stranger, will easily capture a little bit of your heart.
In love and romance,