THE STRANGER I MARRIED depicts two taming-the-rake routines, and it's clear Sylvia Day enjoys her heroes giving chase and pining quite a bit. The routine dealing with our main hero and heroine is mostly imbalanced and unjustified. I hated both lead characters (Gerard/Gray and Isabel) and the soapy plotting was so bad it needed a secondary pairing (Rhys and Abby) to fill the pages. For an erotica, the love scenes here are just plain. ASK FOR IT (**) is much better in that department. There's no doubt appearance plays a role in attraction, but I found Day's infatuation with superficial appearances even towards the end exhausting. If I didn't know any better, one big cock is as good as any other for Isabel. I had a hard time understanding why Isabel loves Grayson other than his size. I guess that's enough for Isabel. Grayson pines so much throughout the second half and voices so much tender drivel for Isabel's delight, I believed him I suppose. But she really doesn't do anything to earn all that pining because she never trusts him.
A prior pregnancy ending in death makes Grayson very fearful of losing Isabel to childbirth. Instead of Isabel staying and talking him through it, Day has Isabel's brother Rhys coach Grayson like some idiot (Grayson also fails to recognize Isabel's misgivings for making their marriage legit when it's so plainly obvious). Rhys explains that Grayson should take the risk of pregnancy and childbirth to keep Isabel. Day's heroine Isabel here mistrusts, seethes and curses Grayson throughout the novel and even runs from him after both admit their love for each other in the end. The answer to every heroine's problems: when things aren't going exactly the way you want it, CUT and RUN! Make the hero give chase, test him repeatedly, say and do nothing to show your affections. The denouement showcases Isabel at the height of her bitchiness when endless words of love, caring and giving fail to convince Isabel ("I pledge my troth to you, my wife. Not for my needs, but for yours..." blah, blah, blah. Later: "Will you let me in?" Isabel: "Why?" Grayson: "I want to give you all that I am to you. Including children..." blah, blah, blah. Isabel's answer: "I agree to talk. Nothing more." My thoughts: B---, !$#@$! Then from Grayson: More blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc. pining to prove himself; Grayson, along with having perfect abs, perfect butt, biceps, a monster cock, a title, and abundant wealth, is also a poet).
The entire story has Grayson needing to prove himself for Isabel and win her affections as if Isabel has been some chaste virgin her whole life. I found it repetitive and strenuous to read. There's nothing there, Isabel does little more than seethe and lambaste Grayson the entire book because she believes Grayson is exactly like her first husband who cheated on her. Isabel holds it against Grayson that years ago he was "cheating" on the woman ("Em") he professed to love (who was married) with another woman. Despite the fact that both the women went into the affair with Grayson eyes wide open and knew of his libertine ways. Despite the fact that Isabel has had many paramours herself between her first husband and Grayson. Why is it that Grayson has to constantly prove himself? Because Day has some perverted notion to reform him? But he was already reformed by the time he returns to Isabel after his hiatus. Isabel believes Grayson wants to sire a child off her and so Grayson assiduously spills his seed elsewhere to allay those concerns (every time). Many times Isabel thinks Grayson with other people and so Grayson must assuage her concerns there. Isabel never surrenders all of herself to Grayson because she believes him exactly like her cheating first husband. If anything, It was Isabel's mistrust and commitment issues that needed reforming. When the issue with children drives our lovers apart, it's again Grayson who needs to prove himself and chase Isabel. I'd love to see Grayson finally discover bliss with someone else after she drives him away. Screw Isabel if she doesn't know she has a good thing when she has it.
More than once, the book talks about how true love is about accepting the other person with their faults. I don't see any faults with Grayson: he's physically perfect, amply-endowed, titled, and wealthy. Arrogance, high-handedness and lascivious debauchery in heroes are actually celebrated in historical romances like they are in THE STRANGER I MARRIED (Rhys is a celebrated rake too). Hence, I don't consider these qualities all that bad since sexual experience in heroes is a prerequisite more than anything else. It's why readers of romance gravitate towards alpha heroes so much. While threatening Isabel's last paramour Hargreaves in the second half, Grayson (Gerard) thinks to himself that Isabel was not a fickle woman to leave Hargreaves for him. Which is bullshit because a muscled body, big cock and a quick recovery time in bed are pretty much all it takes for Isabel to submit to Grayson and ditch Hargreaves. I'd say that's pretty fickle. Sex is great [with Grayson] and she gets multiple orgasms for every one of Grayson's. That's nice, Grayson is your regular cartoon pimp complete with trimmings of a tortured love story from his past.
The plotting is mostly immature and soapy. Everyone in the book seeks a good fuck and lusts for the forbidden affair which appeals so much to women (Isabel, Grayson, Grayson's brother, Isabel's parents outside marriage, etc.). You have a marriage bargain that invites both spouses to sleep with everyone but each other. Neither recognize potential problems that could arise from such an arrangement. Then once Grayson decides he wants his wife for himself, you have these episodic jealousies and outings introduced by other characters. Twice, Isabel chances on Grayson and his former mistress Lady Stanhope (Barbara) in a compromising situation from which Isabel draws all the wrong conclusions and mistrusts Grayson even more. There's even a scorned mistress and an evil mother posing road blocks as they try to confound Grayson and Isabel's lusty relationship with misunderstandings and misconceptions. After all of Isabel's misconceptions and misunderstandings are out of the way, there's the children issue which rears its ugly head. First, it's hard to believe that Isabel would remain childless with so many men considering the time period's inadequate contraceptive methods. Second, if she wants children so much, just pick a guy to screw like she has previously and get a child off him! The book is so inane, it turns its attentions to a second pairing: Isabel's rakehell brother Rhys (aren't they all rakes?) and the virgin spinster Abby. Just so we have at least one pairing where there's a handsome rake deflowering the ordinary-of-appearance virgin.