Smooth Talking Stranger - Lisa Kleypas - 2009

So this is the third, and I suppose final novel (there's a third Travis brother, but no book is planned) in what Kleypas has deemed her "Texas Trilogy." The first is "Sugar Daddy" a novel I love, the second is "Blue-Eyed Devil" which I don't love, but enjoyed enough, and while nothing touches "Sugar Daddy", "Smooth Talking Stranger" came pretty damn close. As I've previously stated, I can't really enjoy SEP or Judith McNaught novels too much these days, the uber-rich have long since lost their appeal, however, Lisa Kleypas pairs the filthy rich Travis family with the down-to-earth to downright poor love interests that it balances out for me. The hero this time around is middle brother and real estate developer, Jack Travis. Those who have read the prior novels know him as a playboy with a famous case of "sleep inertia" which translates to "hungover." Seems as the though Jack has grown up a bit with his story, and falls fast and hard for single mom (of sorts) Ella Varner.
Ella is a vegan (by boyfriend) feminist still dealing with her messed up childhood. Her father abandoned the family, and her mom makes Joan Crawford look like mother of the year. Candy Varner has done a number on both her daughters, so when younger sister, Tara leaves her week-old infant son, Luke in her mother's care, Ella is once again recruited to clean up the mess. Where does Jack Travis fit in all this? Well, he's been mentioned as a possible father, and Ella confronts him for paternity test. Not exactly grounds for great romance, but Kleypas' makes it work. The chemistry snaps like firecrackers, and conversation is a form of foreplay for these two. Jack is not anything like a man Ella thinks she wants.
She repeatedly says she doesn't believe in marriage, and strives to be Miss Indepentdent in life and in print. Her job is an advice columnist in a magazine called "Vibe" (one of the little nagging problems I had with this book - does she mean the magazine that already exists or a made up women's mag??) and she tries to have all the answers, for everone including herself. She has a live-in boyfriend who is safe, meaning he doesn't push beyond her self-constructed walls. She leans on him as an excuse too many times, and it starts to get annoying, but you can see it's a defense mechanism and get past it. Jack bursts into her life, and she is not very happy about it, at first anyway. Jack is domineering and possessive, not at all like the boyfriend, Dane. He's never too much though, never seems like the alpha male heroes I can't stand. He's a good guy, he's the steady one who knows his heart, you gotta love that. This book is pretty darn steamy; a few too many love scenes if you ask me, but the sex is part of intimacy and this book is about Ella's journey beyond her fears. A journey I heartily enjoyed, and finished in one day, practically in one sitting. I hear Kleypas has more contemporaries planned, but these will be straight up romance, no more first-person POV, and feature more working class characters. I can't wait.