I just got a three-star review of Never Love a Stranger from RT Bookclub. I've tried very hard to avoid giving away James' secret, but there it is, right in the second paragraph of the review: "James turns out to be a robot." Okay. Now you and everyone else in the world knows. My hero's a robot.
*Sigh* Spoilers happen, and it's hard to talk about this book in any depth without them. Let's forgive the reviewer for giving away James' secret and talk about the content of the review. Here's the last paragraph of the review, the only one that isn't simply an overview of the plot: "The attraction of Annie to James, the resulting sex and developing love present no problem from her point of view. Once the fact that James is a machine becomes clear, what, how and why he might feel love isn't as convincing. Here, the author fails to make clear the difference between machine and human-- the main issue that needed to be defined."
I emailed this review to DH, and he promptly wrote me back and said, "The whole point was that the machines were human in all that mattered." Yes, indeed, that was my point. I made it quite clear that the robots (or humanoids, as they're referred to in the book) are physically very different from humans, but that emotionally they have the same needs and desires. The similarities are more important than the differences, in my opinion. So I totally disagree that the difference between machine and human was "the main issue that needed to be defined."
That being said, I do think I understand what the reviewer is driving at when she wrote, "What, how and why (James) might feel love isn't as convincing." As I've said before, I wrote Stranger exclusively from the heroine's viewpoint. Why? Because if the whole plot revolves around the question of whether or not robots can be sentient, it's not really a question if some of the book is from the robot's point of view. IOW, if we can see the hero's thought processes, then he is by definition sentient, and the whole question is settled. What I wanted to do with Stranger was try to show James was sentient by his actions and words, without ever giving the reader access to his thoughts. This was definitely a challenge... it's not easy to make a character seem fully fleshed-out when none of the book occurs in his point of view.
Anyway, when you try something unusual you never know how readers are going to react. Overall, my readers seem to have enjoyed this book, but I expected at least a few to boggle at the robotic hero, so I'm not terribly distressed by this review. I would like to get a better review from RT at some point, though. My next RT review will be in the August issue... keep your fingers crossed for me:-).