Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-5745-5
Contemporary Romance, 2004
Serena Hamilton, single mother in smalltown besieged by every conceivable problems these heroines can face, decides to have That One Night with a passing stranger, Hunter Fletcher, who is of course an action hero (CIA agent) with a battered childhood and commitment issues. After these two ships overloaded with ancient baggage creak and groan as they wheeze and shag their way past wonderful orgasms (her late husband, of course, failed to give her the jollies) into the predictable morning-after regrets, it’s deal or fold time for these two.
Well, of course she’ll get pregnant. Of course he’ll feel warm and melting inside when he realizes that she comes with a ready-made family to teach him the meaning of love. Of course he has a secret related to her late husband that gets revealed at a most predictable pinnacle in the story. Conversations are predictable to the point that the author telegraphs the entire scene away with the moment one of her characters open their mouth. These characters behave predictably to predictable issues, in this case predictable and admirable and halfway intelligent don’t always necessarily go together.
A strange thing happened though as I’m yawning my way through the book: it takes me a long time to warm up to these very familiar characters, but by the time I close the book, I realize that Hunter is a pretty attractive tormented hero who has gotten under my skin a little more than I realize. But he’s quite flat on the whole.
This one is well-written. It is an intimate story with minimum external conflicts or secondary characters cluttering the emotional bond between Serena and Hunter. I really want to like this book. Unfortunately, everything about it is so familiar with very little effort made to make things even a little fresh that I can never fully lose myself into the story. Scenes and conversations in this book begin to echo in my head as I turn the pages, making me feel as if I’m being haunted by shades of romance novels from the past like a midlife crisis hot flash episode. With characterization in this book being so over-the-top tortured yet so predictable, Smooth Talkin’ Stranger just doesn’t cut it with me.