A couple of people recommended Megan Hart, and Mandi suggested I start with Stranger. This book was an emotional roller coaster; I liked it.
The story opens with Grace, a funeral director, walking into a hotel bar to pick up a "stranger". She'd arranged through a service for someone to meet her and have sex, but she'd not met them before. Sam walks up and they banter back and forth and go upstairs to "conduct business". The next day when she checks her voice mail she realizes Sam was not the professional and she really did have sex with a stranger. Even so, she can't get him out of her mind.
She goes on with her day to day life, and a few days/weeks later a Jewish family wants to bury their father, so someone must sit with him all night. Grace lives on the third floor of the funeral home, and while she's watching a scary movie, forgets that someone is downstairs with the deceased. She hears noise, and goes down to investigate. To her utter surprise, it's Sam, sitting with his dead father. Thus begins an interesting relationship. Grace is attracted to Sam but she doesn't want a relationship - that's why she hires men to fulfill her needs. Sam is attracted to Grace and is persistent in trying to date her. His actions are almost like that of a boxer - getting in close to get her attention, then backing off so she loses some of her reluctance and thinks about dating him.
While this is going on, she does end up rescheduling with the professional, Jack. Jack is new at this job and Grace ends up giving him tips when they meet for appointments. Her times with Jack throughout the book are interesting - she likes to roleplay and it's different every time. I think she really does like Jack. It was interesting to watch Jack grow into himself and gain confidence with himself and his work. I really liked Jack's character. Her relationship with Sam as opposed to her "relationship" with Jack was eye-opening; you really got a good look into Grace's mindset - how she used these "rentboys" not only to de-stress but to hold up her protective emotional wall.
Ms. Hart really rounds out all her secondary characters well. As the mother of small children, I identified Grace's sister quite a bit; Grace's relationship with her father was difficult - he was retired but wanted to be involved with the business. One of the most surreal spots in the book was what happened after her father took her computer to check the funeral home's books and got more than he expected. Even Grace's employees' characters grew and changed as the story moved along.
It was intersting to read the different people who came into the funeral home. Their reactions to death were varied and Grace handled them all like a pro. There was one scene that had me almost in tears it was so moving. I wanted to hug Grace and tell her it would be okay. Even with that I really liked this book. The ending was sweet but not saccharine and you had to put your trustin Ms. Hart's writing that she would bring you to a satisfying ending, which she did. I absolutely recommend this book.