Trashy Read #4: Smooth Talking Stranger, by Lisa Kleypas
This week, I went back to contemporary romance, the only kind of romance I'd even consider reading before I finished the super-awesome Lord of Scoundrels a couple weeks ago. Ironically, the author I read, Lisa Kleypas, is actually new to the contemporary romance genre. She made her name with historical romances (which I've never read, but might consider doing now), and this is only her third contemporary. Smooth Talking Stranger ended up being one of the breeziest romances I've ever read. There's certainly some trauma going on internally for the narrator/heroine Ella Varner, but the writing is casual and easy, and I finished the book in no time. And even though I liked the book, it was a lot lighter than I tend to like my trashy romances.
The book starts off with Ella suddenly being stuck with the newborn son of her wayward sister, Tara. The girls grew up with a shitty mom and probably some hefty therapy bills, so Ella is determined to make things better for baby Luke (who is appropriately adorable but still as sleepless and floppy as all newborns). She tries to find the father while supporting Tara's decision to go to a mental-health resort. At first, it appears the father is multi-millionaire playboy Jack Travis (hello, cliches!), but that's not the case. Nevermind, though. Jack magically makes things all better, and Ella eventually leaves her cause-loving (and in my opinion, insufferably turdish) boyfriend for him. Some wee bit of plotted drama happens towards the end, but obviously everyone gets their happy, healthy, wealthy ending.
So, by now, you've figured out that I like a fair dose of angst in my romances. So while Ella's past is tragic and her family extremely F-ed up, I never really felt particularly sorry for the characters. Ella might not have Travis-family levels of money, but she's financially secure enough, and besides, Jack ends up paying for everything anyway. I liked this book; don't get me wrong. I liked the unusualness of a first-person narrator in a romance, and Ella is surprisingly likeable and understandable. But Jack, while certainly hot and charming and sweet and blah blah blah, is kind of boring. He doesn't have hang-ups, really, besides a slight case of womanizing that isn't nearly as damning as, say, Dain from Lord of Scoundrels. And then all that money! I couldn't help but mentally flinch any time some unnecessary spending of wealth was shown. Poolside misting machines! Backyard sand imported from Hawaii! How the F am I supposed to find the kind of people who buy these things likeable? Blerg.
So anyway, Smooth Talking Stranger was pretty good. Kleypas's writing is clean and simple, and I liked being inside the heroine's head at all times. Also, this book has a fair amount of what my college roommate and I like to call "Cute Dad Syndrome," meaning there's a hot dude sweetly interacting with a child. It's a sturdy, well-done book with a nice emotional payoff that comes from more than just the hero/heroine's story (baby Luke could be called Ella's hero in this book too, I think). But as someone who's broke and in debt and was a hard-core socialist in high school, I couldn't keep from seeing dollar signs through the entire book. And that's not what I want from a contemporary romance.
On a side note, I've got a big ol' list of historical romances on my must-read list, so prepare to see some of those soon. Oh, Lord of Scoundrels, what have you done to me?!?!