Kerry Houston was a top-notch software designer until the suggestive email she accidentally sent to the owner of the company got her fired and being mugged twice in her own neighborhood left her with severe agoraphobia. Now she lives and works in isolation as a tester of adult video games. When Kerry begins to fall for the handsome face and seductive voice of her video game guide, Jean, she thinks she really needs to find a way to get over her fear and get out more. Then Jean shows up in her bedroom one night, enticing her body and tantalizing her senses. Is she dreaming? Has she finally gone crazy? Or could Jean truly be as real as she is?
Stranger in Her Bed was a very different kind of romance. It embodies an almost surreal quality throughout most of the story, because the heroine isn't quite sure if she's dreaming or going crazy or what. The premise is very unique as well. Kerry is a software designer who was fired when she sent a suggestive email to an attractive man she met at her company's picnic, not knowing he was the owner of the company. Around that same time, she also developed a severe case of agoraphobia after being mugged twice in her own neighborhood. I could relate to Kerry's sentimental feelings for her grandparents' house, and how she was reluctant to move even though the area where it was located had seriously gone downhill and become unsafe. I could also sense her fear of going outside. As a result, she now lives a very isolated life locked up in her house, wearing several layers of clothing, and works at home as a video game tester.
Kerry's latest project involves testing an adult video game in which a man's voice tries to seduce her, based on her verbal responses to his questions and a heart-rate monitor. When the video game designers add a man's face to the game at her suggestion, she starts to fall in love with him. This is where the story starts to feel like a fantasy romance. I thought Kerry's reaction to the possibility that she was falling for her video game hunk who she dubbed Jean (she's huge Le Miserables fan) was pretty realistic. Intellectually, she knows he's not real and keeps trying to tell herself that, but I think all the loneliness and isolation made her more open to the idea that he might be. Then when he shows up in her bedroom one night in the flesh, seducing and pleasuring her, she first thinks she's dreaming and then, going crazy. As I said, it's a very unusual concept but a very intriguing one as well.
Jean truly is a fantasy lover. He tells Kerry that he's cursed and needs her to make him feel something he's never felt before in order to be free, yet at the same time, his sole mission seems to be reawakening Kerry to the things she's been missing in life. He always seems to know just the right things to do and say to put her at ease and make her feel better. In between Kerry's visits with Jean, we get to know a little bit about two other men who are connected to her. Kerry's former employer, Joe, feels terrible about what happened that caused her leave his company, but every time he's tried to call and apologize, she's hung up on him. He's crazy about her in more ways than one, so pretending to be "Phil," the human resources director, he keeps trying to entice her to take back her old job. Then there's Malcolm, the eccentric tenant who lives in Kerry's garage apartment. She finds him to be a little creepy and has him pegged as a wacky conspiracy theorist, until he brings her some little gifts and says something that brightens her day. I won't say anything else about the three men in Kerry's life, because I don't want to spoil the story. Suffice it to say that someone loves Kerry enough to go to great lengths to help her which was very sweet. I figured out pretty early in the story what was going on, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the journey.
Stranger in Her Bed was a unique and slightly off-beat romance that was a very pleasant read. Although it was published in an anthology that is billed as erotic, there is only one almost and one full love scene. The author's style of writing these scenes is more about feelings, sensations and setting a mood, rather than body parts or explicit language. There were times that I almost wanted the wording to be more straightforward, because it could be a tad confusing. Still, I can't deny the appeal. I've never read sensual scenes written like this before, which was yet another uncommon element. Since this was my first read by Suzanne Forster, I don't know if she writes like this all the time or specifically wrote this way to add to the dream-like quality of this particular story, but this sampling of her work whetted my appetite enough to want to find out. Stranger in Her Bed was first published in the anthology All Through the Night and was later reprinted in the anthology Kiss Me Again.
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