Monday, March 30, 2009
Review: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
Ella Varner lives in her stable little bubble, avoiding her self-centered mother and wayward sister at all costs. After growing up under the unfit guidance of her mother, Ella feels that distance between the two most unstable people in her life is what's best. She has a job that she loves as an advice columnist, a boyfriend that is just as wary of commitment as she is, and she's seemingly happy. When her mother calls her, breaking the news that Ella's sister Tara has had a baby and abandoned him, Ella's safety net is pulled out from under her. She has no choice but to drop everything and rush to her mother's side in hopes that she will be able to quickly work out the problem.
Ella arrives to find her mother up in arms over the baby that Tara abandoned. Ella's mother is insistent that Ella take the newborn, Luke, off her hands and with no other choice, Ella does. From what she's able to find out, her sister has checked into a mental rehab clinic in an attempt to get her life back on track. Ella decides that while her sister is there that she will find out who Luke's father is. A phone call to a cousin sets Ella on the path of Jack Travis, a very eligible Houston bachelor and ladies man. She, with Luke in tow, travels to Houston, finds Jack Travis, and breaks the news of his parenthood to him. But Jack insists that he can not be Luke's father. Ella is persistent though and they set up a paternity test, that never happens because Ella receives a call from her sister letting her know that she never slept with Jack and that he can't be Luke's father. She begs Ella to leave the paternity issue alone and assures her that she will be back for Luke after she's more stable.
Ella is left to care for the baby on her own, but is still determined to find his father. She continues the search with the assistance of Jack Travis, who is insistent on helping her find Luke's father, he does everything in his power to see that she does. As Ella settles into life with an infant, Jack is there every step of the way. A connection is formed between the straight forward, Jack and commitment phobic, Ella, but their takes on relationships might be too different for them to ever really be together.
Smooth Talking Stranger was a book that I read in a 24 hour period. As soon as I started, I was glued to the pages, anxious to find out how things would work out. Like Lisa Kleypas' previous contemporaries, I immediately took to the characters and their struggles. I felt for Ella and her damaging childhood and Jack was a classic Kleypas hero; strong, caring, and full of sex appeal. I was a little wary going in to the book, because I knew a baby would be involved. I'm usually not one for books that involve babies and kids, as they always seem to take away from the story or become annoying. I didn't have a problem with baby Luke in Smooth Talking Stranger. In fact, the infants presence made for a better story.
I do have a couple of minor complaints, though. The first being how easy it was to figure out who Luke's father really was. I'm not sure if the "reveal" was meant to be so easy, but I'm leaning towards not since I figured it out way before Ella did. There is also the issue of Joe Travis, youngest Travis brother. I had hoped to find out more about him, and though he is involved in a major part of the story, he remained a shadowy character to me.
Aside from those small problems, Smooth Talking Stranger was a really good book. It's full of emotional punch and laugh-out-loud moments. Something that I really enjoyed about this book over the first two contemporaries is that the Jack and Ella spend majority of the story together. Those who have read Sugar Daddy or Blue-Eyed Devil know that the H&H were separated for most of the book, so having Ella and Jack in close proximity was a definite plus. As a whole, I really enjoyed the story and I think that any one who has loved Ms. Kleypas' previous contemporaries will fully enjoy this one as well. Grade A-.
Review based on advanced copy. Smooth Talking Stranger hits stores stores tomorrow, March 31. Read and excerpt here, visit Lisa Kleypas's site here.