“I had always gone in the other direction, toward men like Dane who made you kill your own spiders
and carry your own suitcase.That was exactly what I wanted. And yet someone like Jack Travis,
unimpeachably male, so damn sure of himself, held a secret, nearly fetishistic allure to me.“
Jesus, GOD, YES! Lisa Kleypas, you just get me. You marry suitcase guy and secretly hope he will carry heavy things for you anyway, not because you can’t, but because you are lazy. You read romance novels for fetishistic allure guy.
Ella Varner is the product of a repeatedly broken home and, far worse, of a narcissistic and manipulative mother. Through time and counseling she has built a healthy life for herself. The same cannot be said for her mother or younger sister. When Ella’s sister leaves her one-week-old baby with their mother, Ella is summoned from Austin to Houston to help sort out the mess. Ella drops everything, including her long-term, vegan, environmental activist live-in boyfriend, to go and help out. This turns into a three-month sojourn while Ella’s sister receives psychological counselling.
But enough about the maguffin and on to the main event of any Lisa Kleypas romance: Jack Travis is Ella’s first candidate for the child’s father despite his protestations that he a. “always holsters his gun” and b. insists the he did not have sex with Ella’s sister. He is quickly dismissed as a candidate, but sticks around anyway because of his interest in Ella. Jack is a self-made man and the son of a billionaire. He’s tall, dark, handsome, friendly, helpful, possessive in a secretly attractive way, smart, sexy, supportive, wry, a good listener, seductive, mature, chivalrous, manly, mellifluous-voiced, physically fit, generous, emotionally available, funny, polite, mad for Ella, and willing to take on a newborn. I’ve never said this about a romance novel hero before, but this guy is too good to be true. Jack is too perfect*. He’s certainly a very comforting fantasy. Who wouldn’t want Captain Perfect to show up in your life while you are in a crisis, worship the ground you walk on, and provide the moral support you need? It would have been fine if the final timeline had worked differently, or if the do-gooder boyfriend was not painted as an unsympathetic jerk, or if I could believe for one second that someone unexpectedly and without any experience taking care of a newborn baby could have the time or inclination to fall in love with anything other than the notion of a full night’s sleep.
Smooth Talking Stranger features the trademark Lisa Kleypas smolder. Her heroine is independent, self-sufficient, and kind. One certainly can’t fault her for falling for the hero. The problem is that the point of a romance novel is not that there is a perfect man, it’s that two people find something more in each other or fit together in a way unique to their personalities. Succumbing to the magnificence of the ultimate man misses the point.
This was my first Lisa Kleypas contemporary romance, but not my last. I have read almost all of her historical romance catalogue including The Wallflowers series and The Hathaways. I cannot recommend her highly enough. Start with Dreaming of You or The Devil in Winter. Both are classics of the genre.
*As opposed to Outlander’s Jamie Fraser who is just perfect enough.
The (Shameful) Tally 2013
This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.