Monday, January 18, 2010

DIK 2010 Reading Challenge Review: Lisa Kleypas- Smooth Talking Stranger

PhotobucketIt was very fortunate and convenient that one of the first books I got for the new year was one of the 188 books on
DIK's 2010 Reading Challenge list since I realized I was now in the middle of January with no idea what I was going to read.  Thanks DIK for having a wonderful and varied list to work with.
Onto the review:
Smooth Talking Stranger was good.  It wasn't great.  It wasn't particularly original but it was good.  To be honest it felt a lot like a Nora Roberts or SEP novel.  I love those two authors but somehow Lisa Kleypas misses the mark for me.  I think it was too much modern man for me.  Let me explain.

Smooth Talking Stranger revolves around Ella Varner.  She is a steady, moderately successful writer and an attractive woman.  She grew up in a dysfunctional family with a narcissistic mom and needy sister. She has overcome her past but is estranged from her family. She is in a solid, easy relationship with Dane.  He is a metrosexual man intent on saving the world one solar panel at a time. 
One day she gets a call from her mom to come to Houston.  Something urgent has occurred.  When Ella gets there she discovers the emergency in the form of the baby her sister had the week before and abandoned to her messed up mom so she could go to a rehab/spa to get her head on straight.  Of course mom, who still thinks she is 30, refuses to care for the infant claiming "it" will cramp her style.  She demands that Ella assume responsibility for the child and find out what happened with her sister.  Ella, who is a classic co-dependent, resents her mother dumping another responsibility on her, agrees to take care of the baby until she talks to her sister Tara.  Of course Tara is as self absorbed as her mother and manipulates Ella to take responsibility for Luke, the baby, while she gets therapy in Mexico. Yes, Ella agrees.  No, Dane the boyfriend, isn't ok with bringing a baby back to their place but he is ok with supporting her decision to stay and help her family.  He reasonably explains babies aren't part of their relationship.  Ella reasonably let's him off the hook and decides to stay in Houston with the baby. She is going to ensure this baby gets the care she didn't get from her mother.  Ella decides on behalf of her sister to find the father and get him involved even if it is only in the form of financial support.

Enter Jack Travis.  He is an ultra weathly, successful, handsome, single and never settled down suspect.  Ella confronts him in his office building.  Yes, I said his office building which he conveniently has apartments.  She demands he has a paternity test based on nothing more than gossip from a cousin saying Tara and he were together around the time she would have gotten pregnant.  He informs Ella they didn't sleep together but after some interesting dialogue agrees to have a paternity test to save him the hassle of lawyers or press.  He offers her the use of one of the apartments in the building while she waits for her sister's return. He gets in exchange a dinner with Ella.  He helps her put up the new crib.  Hello?  Why is he being so nice? Yes, there are sparks but really?  He isn't one bit pissed for being wrongfully accused?  He is not a normal man.

I am sure you already have a good idea what happens in the rest of the story.  Jack really isn't the father but helps out Ella anyway.  The real father is not a good guy but sister Tara isn't willing to accept that or accept responsibility for her son.  Ella and Dane don't survive the tumult of the situation but remain good and supportive friends.  Jack becomes possessive of Ella and is jealous of Dane.  Happy ending when Ella gets it all including the baby.  (Personally, getting a 6 month old baby as a wedding gift isn't my idea of fun.)

Like I said at the beginning the book was good.  There was some really cute scenes like when Jack gets Ella to eat steak after she has been living as a vegan for a year.  There are several sections of witty dialogue but where Nora Roberts gets so passionate about her characters and SEP has me giggling and laughing out loud at her characters Ms. Kleypas just doesn't quite take it all the way.  Smooth Talking Stranger stopped just shy of being a great book.  Ultimately, everyone was just too nice.  Jack tried to be a chauvinist but he was too kind.  Dane tried to be a self absorbed do gooder but he cared too much about Ella.  Ella tried to be a tough, do the right thing kind of woman but she was too much a people pleaser.  It was all very predictable.

In the end nothing was resolved. Oh, Ella got Jack and the baby but there was no real resolution between the sisters, the mom or for that matter with Ella herself. 

I will read another Kleypas since I have only read one other and it was a historical but she isn't an author I will be scrounging the shelves for to see what she has done next.


Mame Burkett said...

FYI: This book is on Katy's section of the DIK book list

Tracy said...

Mame - thanks so much for the review. This book was a little different for me as I loved it. Yes, there probably would have been a few things that I would have changed overall but those didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.

If you haven't read them yet Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil (Kleypas's other contemps) were really good as well.

Mame Burkett said...

Thanks for your comments Tracy. I was stopped by 2 friends at work after posting this review and they both told me I must have been in a bad mood when I read this book. LOLOL They both told me to pick up Sugar Daddy and I will have a change of heart. I promised I would and post my findings here. So stay tuned