Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: Smooth Talking Stranger [2009]

Smooth Talking Stranger is the third book in a series about the Travis siblings by Lisa Kleypas. While another book in the series, Blue Eyed Devil, was mentioned once as a potential 50 Shades readalike, Smooth Talking Stranger was mentioned about 25% of the time in the sources I consulted. I listened to the audio version of this book, and found it quite addictive. It ended up being one of my favorites of the books I read for this project. Some spoilers below.
Jack Travis is a millionaire playboy who is rarely seen with the same woman twice. When Ella Varner appears in his office with a baby she claims is his, he's taken aback . . . and intrigued. Although he claims he hasn't slept with Ella's sister, Tara, he is willing to go through DNA testing. In the meantime, relationship advice columnist Ella is finding her carefully ordered life turned upside down by the nephew that has been thrust upon her by her brittle, uncaring mother and rehab-bound sister. At the beginning of the story, Ella is in a relationship with a man who doesn't believe in marriage or commitment, and she has come to espouse those ideals as well. When Jack challenges her preconceived notions, she finds it hard to ignore the points he makes, even as she stubbornly tries to maintain her independence.

Grade: A

There's so much to like in this well-rounded book, in which women have conversations with each other that aren't about men, there are some truly unlikable people but no true villains, and a baby is a plot device but isn't just used and then never seen again. Luke requires housing, feeding, and energy from both Ella and Jack, and he ends up feeling like more than a convenient trope. The progression of Jack and Ella's relationship was very well-developed, and included a lot of moments among his and her family members that made it seem much more grounded in reality than many of the books I've been reading recently.

As for its similarity to 50 Shades, Jack is definitely a dominant male, and the setting is, once again, among the  one percent. Unlike the James books, however, Ella is the one with the traumatic past (trigger warning for attempted rape, as is true of many of these books), although like Eva of the Crossfire trilogy she has taken steps to care for herself and move forward. If someone came to the reference desk and asked me for a good contemporary romance, I wouldn't hesitate to hand this one over, 50 Shades or no 50 Shades.

Book Review Index

No comments: