Sunday, February 24, 2013
Sweet Talking Susan Mallery
Do you have people you turn to for book recommendations?
I certainly do and among them is my lovely Romance Bandits friend Anna Sugden who seems to have very similar taste to me.
One of her favorite authors is Susan Mallery. But silly me, I didn't pick up on this recommendation until I was trawling through the to-be-read pile and came across these two books.
Well, what a discovery! I can see why Susan Mallery's so popular with readers. Wonderful contemporary romance.
Sadly, one of the books I found had been in the TBR pile since 2001 (gives you an idea of the scale of the TBR pile) and is now out of print. But if you happen to see MARRIED FOR A MONTH around the place, grab it. It's a fun read with a reunion/secret baby plot about two psychologists determined to prove that their theory for lasting love is the right one. A particular treat in MARRIED FOR A MONTH is a geek/sexpot romance that is hugely enjoyable - that's a theme I really enjoy. Susan Elizabeth Phillips often features awkward, nerdy, but smart and sweet guy with much more worldly woman and those stories are always great.
I picked up the book you can still buy, SWEET TALK, at the 2010 Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando. It's the first of a trilogy featuring the three Keyes sisters who own a bakery in Seattle. The other two books are SWEET SPOT and SWEET TROUBLE.
When her youngest sister Jesse calls out of the blue asking her to go back to Seattle to look after her twin sister Nicole who has undergone surgery, Claire leaps at the chance to re-connect with the family who have given her the cold shoulder for so many years. She knows it's not going to be easy - her twin Nicole harbors bitter hostility toward her and blames her for the death of their mother in a car accident.
Claire's right. It's not easy. But she hangs in there, through thick and thin, determined to re-establish her closeness with her twin. Jesse is even more problematic - she and Nicole have fallen out which is why Jesse can't look after Nicole in her hour of need.
Through the miserable, difficult weeks, Claire gradually finds compensations for coming back to Seattle. There's her growing self-confidence as she undertakes a whole range of 'normal' activities outside her rarefied world like driving a car and working in the bakery. There's also handsome building contractor Wyatt Knight (White Knight? More nominative determinism?) and his lovely Deaf daughter Amy. Wyatt is at first suspicious of Claire and her motives, thanks to Nicole's stories about her sister. But he can't deny their immediate attraction and it's so enjoyable watching him slowly falling in love with the last person he ever thought he'd want in his life.
This story definitely falls into the 'sweet' category - that title is no mistake. The characters are nice people who you'd happily spend time with (even Nicole who is very prickly at the start warms up as the book progresses). There are some lovely scenes of reconciliation and forgiveness. Claire, as you've probably gathered, never gives up which puts you very much on her side and it's lovely watching her stretch her wings while still remaining true to herself. Wyatt is a great hero, smart and perceptive but still a real guy. The secondary characters like Amy and the people in the bakery give this story great texture.
I think for me the best part of the book is Claire. Susan Mallery does a beautiful job of conveying quite how at sea Claire is in the normal world, however much of a genius she is in front of a piano. There are touching scenes of Claire's vulnerability and uncertainty as she struggles to deal with the challenges of her sister's hostility and everyday living. There are also some great funny bits - a couple of the scenes in the bakery will have you laughing out loud.
So all round, this was a fun, touching read about family and finding love where you least expect it. Just perfect for the Holidays. Although it's not set at Christmas, there's a Christmas feel of hope renewed and love rediscovered here that will leave you with a smile on your face.
So have you read Susan Mallery? Any recommendations? I've got a lot of catching up to do! Do you have a favorite contemporary romance writer? I must say I can never go past Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I think she's just phenomenal. What about you?