Whitaker's Reviews > Smooth Talking Stranger

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
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bookshelves: but-is-it-art, z_2010-read

"This was the perfect weekend antidote after a crappy week at the office." -- GR Reviewer talking about a romance novel

Romance novels are the comfort food of reading. We all have our own types of comfort food. For some it's fried noodles, for others it's ice cream. (For Australians, it's , but let's not go there.)

Whatever your comfort food of choice, chances are it'll have certain characteristics: it's familiar, reminiscent of childhood and security, and deeply deeply reassuring on some primal level.

By the same token, well-written romance novels will meet these same needs. They are familiar: we all know the plot, the question is how well the author checks into the obligatory pit-stops. They are reminiscent of childhood and security: romance novels are the modern woman's fairy tale complete with Prince Charming. And somehow, out of the mass of romance novels out there, the author has to make her heroine sufficiently alive to capture attention and yet sufficiently stock to allow reader identification.

I decided to read this book (picked out from the "best romances" list on GR) after a somewhat lively exchange on romance novels. It has been a very very long time since I've read one of these things, and so I thought I should test out my valiant defence of their honour. So, how did this book fare?

Here we have an update of the very traditional Cinderella story. Our heroine is even named "Ella". She comes complete with evil stepmother (in the guise of her narcissistic, toxic mother) and evil stepsister (in the guise of her beautiful sister who dumps her squalling baby on her and flees to a psychiatric clinic for three months' R&R). Ella is initially given to understand that the baby's father is one Jack Travis, middle son of Texan billionaire Churchill Travis. Ella goes to confront Jack and sparks fly.

Of course, it turns out that our Prince Charming is not the baby's real father. We are not in Beauty and Beast after all. He does, however, turn out to be a real Prince Charming. He is, evidently, tall and handsome. Very rich to boot, but on his own steam and not with daddy's money. He also has a chiseled body and a six-pack to die for, notwithstanding his very healthy appetite. This is the modern Prince Charming, however, so he drives a hybrid car, is gentlemanly--he immediately backs off from kissing Ella when she tells him rather pantingly to stop--and supports women's rights, despite being a very alpha male. He is also very good with babies, and kindly offers to house Ella at his sister's empty apartment while she sorts out her own sister's life.

So far so good. Where the novel lost me, however, was when Prince Charming turned out to be too too perfect. In addition to all the above characteristics, he is also so devastatingly erotic that the second time Ella gives in to his kiss, he brings her to orgasm just by kissing her while the two remain fully clothed. At that point, I laughed helplessly for a whole five minutes before being able to resume reading, albeit with some very aching stomach muscles. When they finally have sex, he is not only incredible in bed, but he wants to cuddle after sex. He also gets up to give the baby its bottle while Ella sleeps. Whatever one might say about this Prince Charming, he is not a human male but an alien from Krypton or from some other galaxy.

Ella is both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The product of a very dysfunctional childhood, she immediately earns our sympathy and kudos when we learn that as a child she protected her sister from rape from one of her mother's innumerable boyfriends by stabbing his hand with a pair of scissors. Our modern princess is quite able to slay her own dragons thank you very much. Her traumatic childhood has, however, left her somewhat indifferent to relationships--a protective measure to stop herself from being hurt. Tellingly, the author refers to her as being like someone asleep or cut-off several times. It takes her Prince Charming's kiss to of course start the process of waking her up.

The novel is well-plotted. The baby is the McGuffin that serves to bring the couple together, but that story segues nicely into other complications tied in more closely to our heroine's own character flaw (her protective shell) and her character arc (how she overcomes her need for self-protection). It also sets up the final crisis quite nicely when Ella's sister comes to take the baby away, and overcome by the loss Ella retreats into her shell once more.

What, in the end, put the ultimate seal of "satisfying" on this novel was a scene coming in the first half of the book when Ella comes back from grocery shopping, hot and bothered, dressed only in jeans and a cotton t-shirt with no make-up, pushing a fussing baby in a stroller with one hand and grappling with grocery bags in the other. She bumps into Jack leaving the apartment building with a slinky, size-zero supermodel type draped on his arm. Notwithstanding Ella's disheveled state, Jack handsomely delays his date to take time to help Ella with her shopping bags. Later that night, after the date, Jack returns to help Ella fix up a baby cot with his power tools. For real suburban moms, frazzled and exhausted from looking after the kids, the fantasy of being far more desirable in that state than some skanky hawt supermodel dressed in barely nothing must surely strike some deeply satisfying chords.

For me, comfort food is waffles with ice cream. After a crappy day, waffles with ice cream is guaranteed to make me feel better. So, out of a maximum of five, this novel rated:

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Reading Progress

November 19, 2010 – Started Reading
November 21, 2010 – Shelved
November 21, 2010 – Shelved as: but-is-it-art
November 21, 2010 – Finished Reading
May 29, 2011 – Shelved as: z_2010-read

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Scribble (last edited Nov 22, 2010 05:25AM) (new)

Scribble Orca I'm supposed to be on sabbatical. I checked in and this is the first review I picked. After the second kiss!?!?!?!??! JEESSHH! That's what I'm doing wrong? Apart from cracking up so much in the middle of the...ahem...riveting action.

Right. Calm again. Clicked 'like'. But I'll give the 4 waffles-smothered-in-chocolate-sauce-and-ice-cream a miss. Gotta work on that 6-pack to die for, obviously. Unless Dr Rayner writes me one.

message 2: by Whitaker (new) - added it

Whitaker LOL!

message 3: by Mon (new)

Mon wait, guys don't like to cuddle after sex? I swear my boyfriend likes it more than I do

message 4: by notgettingenough (last edited Nov 23, 2010 05:09AM) (new)

notgettingenough We all have our own types of comfort food. For some it's fried noodles, for others it's ice cream. (For Australians, it's marmite, but let's not go there.)

Marmite. MARMITE!!!! Whitaker, young man, go and wash your mouth out with soap and water right now. RIGHT NOW.

Vegemite. It is completely different. Honestly. This happened to me the other day. Somebody sent me an email to ask if I'd arrived okay and I wrote back:

Not really. They fucking confiscated my vegemite at the airport. I wept. (DON’T LAUGH) The poor guy must have been a bit taken aback. I can’t help thinking it would have made a good ad for vegemite. I didn’t seem to have the wherewithall to explain to the guy that it was the symbolism rather than the act itself...It was either the last straw or a terrible omen, depending on what direction you think I am moving in.

Since I wrote that, I have organised a supply of vegemite which is being flown in from Australia, so I'm happy again.

Anyway, it's a great review, but you can see I can't vote for it. Sorry.

message 5: by DoctorM (new)

DoctorM well, nothing is s horrible as cheese-fried beets...or the chocolate mayo the Flemish put on bread (yes, it looks exactly like what you think)

message 6: by Whitaker (last edited Nov 23, 2010 07:40PM) (new) - added it

Whitaker @Mon: Boggle! (Actually, that might be a great idea for a poll.)

@NGE: Oh yeah, you're right. It is vegemite. Oh dear, I've libeled Marmite, which is marginally tastier. If I go correct it, will you vote for me now?

@DoctorM: Cheese-fried beets?????? Is this some kind of new torture method????

notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "

@NGE: Oh yeah, you're right. It is vegemite. Oh dear, I've libeled Marmite, which is marginally tastier. If I go correct it, will you vote for me now? ..."

That picture, Whitaker. It fills my eyes with sentimental tears. I have voted, even though you couldn't resist having the final word about Marmite.

Until this, that is.

I didn't realise until I did some research a few months ago, that Marmite in Australia, which tastes disgusting, comes from NZ, has been produced there for a hundred years under licence, but they have made their own version and it sucks. I hear, however, that English Marmite tastes completely different from NZ Marmite and might actually be edible. I hear. I haven't actually done the taste test yet.

notgettingenough PS: You know. You could just pop a picture of a jar of Vegemite in all your reviews, I'd vote all the time, and I wouldn't even have to read...

Oh, ummm. Sorry. Of course I'd still read....

message 9: by Whitaker (new) - added it

Whitaker notgettingenough wrote: "PS: You know. You could just pop a picture of a jar of Vegemite in all your reviews, I'd vote all the time, and I wouldn't even have to read...

Oh, ummm. Sorry. Of course I'd still read...."

You know, I just might do that....

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