Cinderella For a Night


Dream Groom


Living On the Edge

The Marcelli Bride

Prince Charming, M. D.
Prodigal Son

Quinn's Woman

The Rancher Next Door

The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride


The Summer House

Sweet Success


The Wedding Ring Promise

Wife in Disguise

Wild West Wife

Sweet Talk
by Susan Mallery
(HQN, $ 6.99, PG-13)  ISBN 0373-77297-1
Sisters often have complicated relationships and Susan Mallery has three sisters in her new “Sweet” trilogy.  Sweet Talk is the first entry and features Claire Keyes, one of the fraternal twins and a child prodigy turned famous concert pianist.  At age six, Claire reached up and started playing the piano.  Her grandmother whisked her away and shortly thereafter, her mother joined her.  Claire endured years of practice and performing.  When her mother died in a car accident, twelve-year-old Claire was devastated by the loss.  She was equally devastated when her father turned her over to her manager and her twin told her she hated her for killing their mother.  Her music literally became her life.

Claire is now twenty-eight and recently started having panic attacks before her performances.  During her most recent performance (and luckily final one of the season) she collapsed on stage suffering from the anxiety attack. 

Nicole, her twin, is having some problems too.  Left at home while Claire was sent away, Nicole always felt cheated of her mother’s time.  She grew to resent Claire.  When she ended up taking care of her younger sister Jesse, and finding herself “saddled” with the job of working in the family bakery, Nicole continued her feelings of self-pity.  She has rejected all Claire’s attempts at reconciliation.  Now Nicole has to have surgery and needs help.  To top it off, she is extremely angry at Jesse and has kicked her husband out of the house when she discovered the two of them together in what appeared to be a compromising situation.

Jesse calls Claire, telling her Nicole needs help and Claire uses it as an excuse to get away from her life for awhile and hopefully rebuild her relationship with Nicole.  Along the way, she grows up and finds her self-confidence.  She also finds Wyatt Knight, the stepbrother of Nicole’s husband.  Wyatt has an eight year old daughter who is hearing impaired.  He has been raising Amy on his own because her mother left them when Amy was just a baby.  He is protective of Amy and has convinced himself he cannot have a long term relationship without ruining it.

When Wyatt and Claire meet, they discover they have electricity.  But with Wyatt being leery and Claire being scared (and a virgin to boot), the road to their happy ever after is anything but smooth.

Sweet Talk has some fine moments.  Claire’s first day in the bakery is a hoot and Wyatt’s reactions are sometimes very endearing.  Amy’s disability is handled honestly, yet at times, she is the sentimental vise that pulls the heartstrings.  This is demonstrated in scenes like the one at the school when Claire agrees to perform and uses Amy to ground her so she doesn’t have a panic attack.  Claire’s growth in figuring out her strengths and her weaknesses is a strong part of the story.  It is fun to see her stand her ground more and more as the story progresses.  Wyatt is a fairly predictable macho type guy who thinks he knows his mind until presented with a woman who doesn’t fit his mold.  His more warm moments are really warm and he is a nice guy overall, making him a hero to root for.

On the downside, Claire and Nicole spent way too much time hating and arguing when they should have been communicating.  This negative interaction gets old after awhile.  Nicole admitting she was acting like a witch does not endear her and Jesse has too many untold secrets to really get a sense of her character.  It is amazing they talk to each other at all given the hurtful and often nasty fighting they do.

There are a lot of loose ends left that I assume will be solved in Nicole’s story due out in August and Jesse’s story in September.  While this novel stands alone, it is definitely filled with the back story needed to set up the whole trilogy.  I found this a bit distracting and it did lessen my enjoyment.  More distracting however, is the fact that Wyatt and Claire spend a lot of time apart talking to others about their concerns and the interactions with just the two of them makes a very small part of the story. 

If you are interested in starting a trilogy about a dysfunctional yet intriguing family and are looking for a nice romance too, then Sweet Talk will hit the spot for you.  It was enjoyable enough that I will look for the next installment to see what happens.  

--Shirley Lyons

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