Review: An Improbable Pairing by Gary Dickson

An Improbable Pairing [January 8, 2019] by historical romance novelist Gary Dickson chronicles the enduring themes of a young man’s coming of age and the rebellious love with a mismatched European high society Countess. Set in the golden years of 1960s Paris, Geneva, Gstaad, and Cannes, An Improbable Pairing provides an inside look into the worlds of haute couture, three-star gourmet restaurants, and lavish hotel suites—the domains of rank and privilege. But society’s privileged resist when an interloper threatens to upset their cozy structure.
In September of 1963, Scott Stoddard, an American graduate student, is traveling to Switzerland when he meets the Countess de Rovere, a French divorcee—he is smitten, and she is intrigued. What begins as a little coquetry soon becomes a serious love affair, much to the consternation of the Countess’s ex-husband and mother, not to mention the Countess’s friends of European high society. A meeting of equals poses problems enough, but what about one between two people who seem to have so many differences? And when a man of traditional attitudes couples with an independent and self-confident woman, something’s got to give. It won’t be the countess. As their liaison transcends an affair that cannot be dismissed, they all agree that something must be done.
An Improbable Pairing proves that love will prevail even when family and society are against the couple’s will. “Those of us fortunate enough to have been in love or to be in love remember or know the intensity and deliciousness of being infatuated with another person,” says Dickson. “Troubles and cares melt away and being with that person of our desire overtakes all reason. A kind of trance develops where we see no wrong, disregard any blemish, deny any fault. This is the feeling I hope to invoke with readers of An Improbable Pairing.”

About the Author:

Gary Dickson is an inveterate traveler and a Francophile, sans merci. Educated in the United States and Switzerland in history, literature, and the classics, Gary lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Susie. Follow him on Goodreads, Instagram and Facebook.

My Review:

I was sucked in by the beauty of the cover of this book and by the title and synopsis, although from those I was also worried that the story would be predictable.

There are some very good parts in this book. The attention to atmosphere and details that create atmosphere and also the description of the clothes and rooms seemed very lavish and I loved that. But the conversation was stilted.

I did like Millie and she seemed likeable. I was disappointed that Scott, so soon after having met Millie and during a moment where they seemed relaxed together despite having only just met in the opulent surroundings of a cruise ship during its transatlantic crossing, seemed so interested in the Countess. He seemed the kind of guy who saw and appreciated people for who they were, not what they had, yet he seemed to also be thinking a lot about the Countess.

I felt that part came on too quickly for me, it was a conflict for the end of the first chapter. Although we get a good idea of what each character is thinking and when, I would have appreciated more dithering feelings from Scott, more uncertainty, about his feelings and more depth as to how meeting the two women affected him so we could feel for him.

But I felt like he was shutting the possibility of getting to know Millie out and too drawn by the Countess.

Question: I had to wonder, would he have been so drawn to the Countess had she not been a Countess and wealthy? He seemed like a likable guy, I wasn’t sure at times. Another predictable thing was- what a coincidence that he’d end up where the women were? But then again, this was a lead-in to them seeing each other again.

The references to Titanic and similar were mentioned too early on in the book, I thought and did not really need to be mentioned, as anyone who has seen Titanic (and I have, and differrent versions at that) will see the similarities without being told.

I did find myself going “who will he end up with?” but I was secretly hoping it was Millie and not the Countess, as the whole cruise, lowly student falling for the older woman has been done before but what kept me interested was the quick succinct pace of the writing and the effectiveness of the adjectives and words used in conjuring up images and descriptions.

I would have preferred the parts in brackets to have been left out of brackets as some was important information that deepened the thought process Scott or whoever was thinking was having, yet I felt like I would have liked to have felt like I knew the characters more. So, in summary, great cover and descriptions but unengaging conversation and lack of emotions that made some parts seem to plod along.

Thanks to Gary Dickson and Smith Publicity for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 3 stars.


An Improbable Pairing is now available on Amazon and other retailers.
Q&A with World Traveler and Novelist Gary Dickson


Question: What do you want readers to take away from Scott and Desirée’s connection and relationship in the story?


Gary Dickson: I want readers to understand and remember the architecture of the relationship between Scott and the Countess, Desirée. While built on the chemistry of attraction and love, it is buttressed by affection, intelligence and humor. To be in love is often chemistry, but to stay in love the relationship must be of such importance that the couple is willing to make the necessary modifications to their pre-conceived desires and attitudes in order for their love to survive and blossom.


Q: What makes An Improbable Pairing so different from other historical romance novels?


Dickson: Most historical fiction is heavy with obvious research piling on specifics sometimes not pertinent to the story. In the case of An Improbably Pairing, no research was necessary since the scenes and the culture of this period are so very familiar to me. As a result, the descriptions have the authenticity of first-hand experience rather than a ponderous factual approach. This story is light-hearted, fast-paced yet packed with accurate detail, as one reviewer remarked, “an almost cinematic description.”


Q: Do you have additional stories or books you are working on?


Dickson: Yes, many in the works! I have already written a sequel but with an espionage and thriller flavor called A Spy with Scruples, a continuation of the Scott and Desirée story. I also have an idea for a sequel to this novel, which is a continuation of the spy motif that takes place in Switzerland, New York, and Palm Beach, FL. I have also completed another novel, a melange of a fantasy, a mystery, and a romance within the speculative fiction genre. Additionally, I have written and will shortly publish a book of poetry, La Poesie De Bonne Bouffe/The Poetry of Good Eats. A series of 25 poems in French with English translations, celebrating French food specialties, a French and English recipe for each, and an acknowledgement page which details the places I’ve frequented and learned about these delicacies.

See this video about the book





Author: Katherine

Hi, I'm Katherine! I'm 36 years old and I've loved the written word all my life. I decided to create a dedicated book blog to share my NetGalley reviews with the world. I read anything that interests me. One of my favourite genres is fiction, although I also love true love stories and non-fiction. Fantasy and scifi are also genres that I choose when reading. In fact, I have been a complete Trekkie since I was 11 years old, I don't let anything spoil my joy of reading, and despite living with the disabilities of cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus that I was born with, I always find adaptive ways to allow me to enjoy my books. I absolutely love my Kindle reading app on my iPad and iPhone! When I am not listening to a Kindle e-book, I can be found writing my own books and I hope to one day be a published author. One of my other talents is that I am bilingual in English and Spanish. I have a weakness for marshmallows, and a love of cats and horses.

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