STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT ISBN No. 1-4208-5666-9)
Under the Covers
By: Mike Ashworth
Strangers in the Night
By Marilyn Spanier
When the idea of reviewing a romance novel in this article was first proposed, I was a bit daunted. I'll admit that up to this point I have never actually read a romance novel. With no experience to build a valid opinion, this posed a serious concern. In the end two factors made me decide to go forward with it. The first reason was that the novel, Strangers in the Night, is very unique in that it is a romance novel, whose protagonist is dealing with breast cancer. I may not have much experience with romance, but neither my family nor my workplace has been lucky enough to dodge this ailment. The second factor was that the author, Marilyn Spanier, is coming to Scranton and was open to discussing her novel with me (she is an actress, who will be performing in the Northeast Theatre's production of Over the River and Through the Woods from October 19th to the 23rd at the Jermyn Hotel in Scranton). The first question I had was: "Why did you decide to incorporate the topic of breast cancer into a romance novel?"
This is what she had to say: "I always enjoyed writing short stories in school, but I had never thought about writing a novel at that time. My mother-in-law is an avid reader of the romance genre and she suggested that I write one. At that time, however, I was not a romance reader. My mother-in-law continued to nudge me until I said, 'Okay, loan me some of your books and I'll see.' Well, I got hooked. I knew that I could write them and I enjoyed the happy and loving endings. As to the cancer, I was diagnosed with Stage ll breast cancer when I was very young. Not much older than my 24-year-old heroine, Kelly. When a woman goes through breast cancer there are so many frightening thoughts and emotions that play havoc with her mind. 'Will I survive? .... How long will I survive?.... Why me?.. . Will anyone find me attractive again?... Will my husband/boyfriend still find me attractive?... Will they still love me?' It is such a terrifying time and also a very emotional and sometimes irrational time. When going through my cancer, I was lucky! I had married a wonderful man who made me feel attractive even when I lost my hair. But at the time, I would have loved to have had a romance novel like mine to help me through that awful time -- to give me courage and strength and the knowledge that I can and will survive and have a great love life as well. So I felt a strong need to write this novel. I felt that women need to empower themselves and to know that they can survive and live long, happy lives even after a cancer diagnosis. "
It was more than enough motivation to give her book a chance. In reading it, I found that there are two aspects of this book. There are the fantasy aspects. These include the protagonist being a young woman who meets a charming, handsome artist in the glamorous arts district of Madrid, Spain. They fall for each other, they face some far-flung challenges and end up in a happy ending. And then there are the inspirational aspects. The protagonist could have let herself fall into despair and given up, and she could have never gone back to Spain after the cancer treatments. I'll admit that it's clear the romantic fantasy elements were never intended for me to be in the audience. I'm sorry to say that romance still won't be my favorite genre. However, I can truly appreciate the inspirational side to this book. I found that I felt for Kelly and wanted things to work out for her. So in the end, I have to say I would definitely recommend this one to the ladies, but I don't think it will gain too many converts from the gents.