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    Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
  • Author:
  • Published: Mar 25th, 2009

kleypas_stranger.jpgReviewed by Kati Dancy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
5+ stars

To say that I love Lisa Kleypas as an author is an understatement. She has a virtually unparalleled knack for writing deeply emotional novels that feature smart and likeable heroines and heroes who sweep a girl right off of her feet. Her latest novel, Smooth Talking Stranger is no exception. We’ve known Jack Travis for a couple of years now, and every time we’ve met him he’s been with a different woman. He’s a handsome, easy going, Texas playboy who has enjoyed his life and the myriad women in it. What we never realized in the past was that he has a deep reserve of generosity and a truly nurturing spirit.

Ella Varner is shocked to receive a frantic phone call from her mother informing her that her wayward younger sister, Tara, has just abandoned her newborn infant, Luke, at her mom’s house. Ella hasn’t spoken to her mother or sister for years, so her mother’s demand that Ella come and pick up the baby immediately is absolutely out of left field. Ella has been happily living with her long-time boyfriend, Dane, in Houston, making her living as the advice columnist, Miss Independent. She doles out sensible and occasionally tough to hear advice to her avid readers. But, Ella has always been a caregiver and so despite Dane’s entreaties that she not go, she hops in the car and heads over to her mother’s house in Houston. When Ella arrives, her mother informs her immediately that she must take custody of Luke, since her mom’s boyfriend thinks she’s much younger than she really is and she can’t have him knowing she’s (whispered) a grandmother. Ella and Dane have already agreed that they are not going to have children. In fact, Dane has been adamant about it. So she knows that she most certainly cannot go home to Dallas with Luke. After a horrible first night with her newborn nephew, Ella resolves that she must seek out the baby’s father. After doing some digging, she finds that Tara was involved around the time of the baby’s conception with millionaire playboy, Jack Travis. Ella packs the baby up and heads over to Jack’s place of work to confront him and let him know that he *will* be helping to support his son.

For his part, Jack knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this baby is not his. But he agrees to take a paternity test, mostly because he respects Ella for doing all she can to help Tara and take care of the baby. The more he gets to know Ella, the more fascinated he is by her resolve, her loyalty and her determination that her sister’s baby will be loved. He begins to help her in little ways, arranging for a hotel room for her to stay in, then helping her find short-term housing, and getting a meeting with a high powered person in Houston who might know something about Tara’s whereabouts. And with every small assistance that he provides to Ella, she is wooed. She finds herself turning to Jack for help, and being drawn more and more into his circle. Soon, she realizes that Jack wants more from her than just to help her. She is terrified of him, knowing that her attraction to him is potent and could lead to pain for her in the future. She tries to hold him at arm’s length, citing her relationship with Dane, the baby, and every other excuse she can think of. Then she decides that maybe she will have a short term fling with him, but she certainly is not going to get serious, and more than that, he will not win her heart. She doesn’t count on Jack’s deep resolve to have more than that from her.

What to say about this book? It was a sublime reading experience for me. When I read last year’s Blue Eyed Devil, I cried over Haven’s heartbreaking and difficult journey. When I read Sugar Daddy, I was wowed by Liberty’s horrible youth and her determination to raise her sister. But when I read Smooth Talking Stranger, what struck me most was how perfect Jack and Ella are for each other. They complement each other, her challenging his inbred arrogance, and him pushing her to tamp down on her independence and rely on someone else to help. The sparks and chemistry and incendiary when they are together. Both are incredibly likeable and seem more like real people than characters in a novel. And I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the last time a romance hero has swept me off my feet the way Jack Travis did. Honestly, if I were to tick off all of the things I wanted in a hero, Jack would fit the bill perfectly. It is his care-giving nature that made him so compelling. Jack has easily taken his place in my top five favorite romance heroes of all time, and has surpassed any other Lisa Kleypas hero as my absolute favorite. Smooth Talking Stranger will take its proud place on my keeper shelf and will become one of my go to comfort reads. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend time with Jack Travis?

14 Responses to “Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas”

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  1. LeeAnn
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 12:59 pm

    Wow Kati what a great review!! I can’t wait to read this one.


  2. Marie
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 1:13 pm

    So happy this book comes out next week! Thanks for the awesome review


  3. Kim
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 1:38 pm

    The review is great. I liked Gage and Hardy and now you say that Jack is even better.


  4. Kati
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 1:59 pm

    Thanks guys! I shipped off my Advanced Reader Copy to Marisa today, and I already feel bereft. I can’t wait to get my hands on it next week just so I have it to ooh and aah over again.

    I hope each of you end up enjoying it as much as I did.


  5. Buffie
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 3:22 pm

    Fabulous review Kati! I have been waiting to read this one. I’ll be looking forward to getting my hands on it!


  6. Maria Lokken
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 4:04 pm

    Well, you’ve wet my appetite Kati. Thanks!


  7. Andrea
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 4:10 pm

    Fab review, Kati! I’m counting down the hours for this one!


  8. Marisa
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 4:35 pm

    Kati – you are so right, Lisa does have a way with writing emotional novels. She is able to create characters that speak to you in a deeply emotional way. There are no doubts when it comes to her characters, you immediately care for them and want to know more about them. Her ability to capture the essence of a feeling and portray it through words always astounds me. I’m so looking forward to this one. Like you, Sugar Daddy and Blue Eyed Devil were those rare books that left me completely satisfied and still wanting more.

    Thanks for the great review.


  9. PJ
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 6:10 pm

    Thanks, Kati! Can’t wait to get my hands on this one! :)


  10. orannia
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 6:32 pm

    Thank you so much Kati! I love how Lisa Kleypas takes her characters (and the reader) on such an emotional rollercoaster of a journey with her books. I can’t wait to read this!


  11. Stacy ~
    on Mar 25th, 2009
    @ 9:42 pm

    I can agree 200% with Kati that Jack is one helluva a hero, and definitely in my top 5. It wasn’t my favorite contemporary by her, though I’d probably give it 4 1/2 stars. Without going into detail, it was the heroine who lost out on the other 1/2 star, yet she did end up redeeming herself to me about 3/4 of the way through. Still, it’s an amazing book (hello? it’s a Kleyas), and Jack was incredibly amazing, just in case you missed that part ;)


  12. Gannon
    on Mar 26th, 2009
    @ 10:11 am

    *sigh* Jack sounds like my kind of hero. :) What a wonderful review, Kati! I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this one! Can’t wait for next week!!


  13. pambook
    on Mar 26th, 2009
    @ 3:20 pm

    Great review. I’ve been anxious to read Jack’s story, will be in the mail to me this week.


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