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.
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.
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