Sweet Talkin' Lover

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

I throughly enjoyed this book! Caila & Wyatt were just perfect for each other. They start at odds as Caila comes to town to evaluate and possibly close down the packing plant that 1/3 of the town is employed. Wyatt is the mayor of this said town & is nicknamed Mayor McHottie. These two chemistry leaps off the pages! It was heartwarming with a side of steamy! I highly recommend this adorable interracial romance! I’m ready for the next one!
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This is a very fresh take on the small town romance! I love that it has the added dimension of what it's like for a black woman with power to show up in a mostly white small town. There was so much richness to Caila's character, from her deep friendships, to her family, to the way she's processing big change in her life. I'm always wanting romance novels to have really fun, memorable scenes between the two main characters, and this one really did, involving pinball, which I just LOVED.

My one quibble with this is that it shows a very real situation, when giant corporations set up shop in a small town and then basically hold the town hostage. We know that because this is a romance that things will turn out well for everyone. The author finds a very clever solution to the conundrum in this book, and it was pretty satisfying, but I wonder what it would be like to read about when capitalism wreaks havoc on a small town and something new and not in service to capitalism prevails.
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I enjoyed Caila and Wyatt's slow developing interracial romance, as she learns that big-city business isn't everything and he expands his small-town sensibilities. Since this is the start of a series,I am looking forward to each of the longtime women friends pursuing their own happy endings.
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I throughly enjoyed sinking into the world Livesay created - the core female friend group is a favorite set-up of mine, and Caila and her friends are the perfect example of why - all distinct personalities but with the kind of strong, loving connection built by years of caring for each other. 
Caila's resistance to the myriad ways her life is changing against her wishes causes her to build very understandable walls, which she won't let fall even for the charms of the small town where "Mayor McHottie" Wyatt lives. Wyatt lives a life for others - fulfilling responsibilities and meeting expectations no matter how much of himself he has to side-line to do so. He thinks Caila is a threat to everything he holds dear, but doesn't suspect she could blow up his own well-constructed facade of Guy Who Is Always At Your Service.
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An excellent start to what promises to be a fun new series! 

Sweet Talkin’ Lover is book one in Tracey Livesay’s New Girls Trip series and which means that it carries the weight of building the series’ world...but in true Livesay fashion it does so in matching kickass heels and designer handbag! 

Caila has decided she is going to “make it” on her own to fulfill the dreams she shared with her father and grandfather but were cut short.  Wyatt comes from a family that is the equivalent of the Kennedys but he has the soul of an artist.  On paper they seem like opposites attract and when they first meet they are adversaries  but as they get to know one another admits some witty banter and seriously hot looks they realize they are more alike and their perfect for each other. 

Livesay does such an amazing job of exploring interracial relationships from both the outside and the inside while not shying away from pointing out social truths about race.  And yet her works never feel heavy and still have some serious heat, chemistry, dirty talk, positive self images, and kickass black girl magic heroines! 

I can’t wait for the next Girls Trip book! 

I received a complimentary review copy of this book but all opinions are own.
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Didn't mean to request. I was confused about how to listen to the audio excerpt feature and sent a request accidentally.
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This was a challenging review to write, and I’m still thinking about why. I like the bones of this story a lot. I genuinely like the book as well, just not quite as much. Caila, the main protagonist of Tracey Livesay’s Sweet Talkin’ Lover, is a shark, an ambitious, workaholic city slicker dispatched to small Virginia town to investigate a factory her company would like to cut ties with as part of a pending acquisition. It should be straightforward— she’s completed similar assignments several times before — but meeting Wyatt, widely known as Mayor McHottie to his great chagrin, complicates things. They’re immediate adversaries and immediately drawn together as Wyatt tries to protect his town and the livelihoods of a third of its people from this potentially devastating event. 
 
A Trope-tastic Confluence of Circumstances
The setup is familiar, like a Hallmark movie but with ethnic diversity and sex. Sounds promising! The book is actually full of tropes popular with readers of contemporary romantic comedy, all of which present the opportunity for internal angst as well as external conflict:
* Forced proximity -- Caila is stranded in town for weeks and she sort of has to work together with the mayor to get the information she needs.
* Enemies to lovers-- Caila and Wyatt’s positions and goals make them adversaries from the start.
* Insta-lust which is really love. Both have intense physical reactions to each other at first meeting.
* Unlikely Couple— love across social boundaries, specifically race and class is a perennially popular topic. Caila is a beautiful, elite educated Black marketing executive from a middle-class background whereas Wyatt is the handsome playboy heir to a very old and very White wealthy Virginia family. It may sound old fashioned, but the interracial relationship is still a taboo/source of angst for couples to overcome according to the genre. Despite being increasingly common, given Meghan Markle’s reception in England, never ending racial controversies in Virginia and elsewhere, and the research and reported experiences of multiracial families, the presumption that crossing racial boundaries can cause friction in relationships is sadly also not a stretch in real life.
* Workaholic city slicker in a small town--Not just any city slicker or fish out of water. Caila is a dangerous city slicker who threatens the town's way of life.
 
The book is not subtle about these tropes. Caila is explicitly described as a city-slicker at one point when Wyatt accuses his grandfather of objecting to him spending time with Caila because she's Black. The exchange between Wyatt and his grandfather is seen from Wyatt’s point of view:
 
“I’m not racist, I’m a realist. Her being black is a factor, but no, that’s not why I consider her inappropriate for you.” Bullshit. “You need to think about your position in this town. Ms. Harris is from the city. She’s here temporarily to do a job and then she’ll leave.” They could assert their city-slicker rationale as loud as they wanted, but everyone at that table knew what their primary complaint was."
 
It may be formulaic, but that’s fine. It’s a draw for genre readers who know what they like and want more. What matters to me is what the book does with its premise, whether the writing elevates the material and makes it special. These characters and that context have tremendous potential— we’re dealing with race, class, and capitalism, and the outsider wielding power here on behalf of a corporation is a Black woman. That’s interesting. The execution is where Sweet Talkin' Lover came up short for me— the story sometimes skims the surface of the issues and conflicts it raises, and the primary main character felt thinly drawn. The paragraph above represents a large chunk of what the book has to say about race and class difference, which is not much. It's not a falsely color-blind representation. Just a critical one that leaves loose threads. 
 
Similarly, the main characters don’t feel quite fully fleshed out, and their actions don't always add up. The first problem is the extended stay. Caila is in town because the factory's numbers aren't good and they've been deteriorating for years. Rather than cooperate and provide Caila with the information needs, Wyatt contrives to have her stay in the town for two weeks to do what? So he can turn things around how? Charm her into keeping the factory going against her company's interests despite the adverse financials based on affinity, the strength of his personality, her soft spot for the locals? That might happen (in Romancelandia), but it’s not much of a plan for a dynamic mayor to stake everyone’s livelihoods on, and seems doomed from the start as his friends point out when Wyatt describes the factory’s dire situation: “What you’re saying will be just as true in two weeks as it is right now. What’s the point of lying to her and making her stay here longer?” That is a very good question.
 
Caila’s recent difficulties at work also play a part in keeping her exiled on main street long enough to fall in love with Wyatt. Part of the reason she's in Virginia is that she’s been making mistakes ever since recent the death of a family member and those missteps threaten to sabotage her prospects at the company even with a sympathetic fellow African American woman as her mentor and boss. The Bradleton Virginia factory assignment gives Caila a chance to take a step back and get her act together. But Caila’s downward career slide from star executive to problem child is swift, vague and happens almost entirely off the page. Even the eventual personal backstory, the reason Caila is closed off and fiercely guarded, is pretty thin when revealed. If Sweet Talkin’ Lover had fleshed out Caila’s character first, then maybe it would have had latitude to portray her cockup more vividly. That could have helped sell the idea that her boss was sincerely picking up on something being wrong with Caila and wanting to make it better when she effectively banished her to the wilds of Virginia.
 
Instead, as written, the boss's edict that Caila stay in town until she finalizes the report is solely engineered to bolster her forced close proximity to Wyatt. It seems a stretch that she should order her to stay in town to collect financial records that could be sent electronically. Or, from Caila’s perspective, that she would stay in town rather than near to it when she could go and come back even if returning to Chicago isn’t an option in her precarious position.  
 
This forced proximity scenario is problematic for the characters in another way—in addition to shaky logic, it relies on deception and that undermines the consensual nature of the Caila and Wyatt’s relationship. More than that, it undermines the characters. Based on her profile, Caila is nothing if not a smart and practical woman. In fact, these are supposed to be two very sophisticated people. But we don’t see them being particularly smart. So that feels a bit weak.
 
Setting the contrived collaboration aside, my core complaint remains: Caila’s behavior and motivations are fuzzy. I feel like this is where further development could have helped. The most important thing we know about Caila is that she has a wonderful circle of girlfriends and she's career-driven, even in comparison to her high-powered circle of friends. So she's got a great job but tends to neglect everything in her life, especially her family, in favor of work. In the opening scenes she’s on vacation somewhere in the Caribbean but ignoring her friends to take work calls. That’s fine, but it’s a cliché we’ve seen in every Hallmark movie about a female executive, not a uniquely defining feature. 
 
After that, we also see Caila being immediately frosty to many of the people in the town she’s temporarily relocated to for work. Caila's behavior feels kind of inexplicable because it's at odds with the demands of the position to which she's devoted. Polite charm would be more appropriate, so what is she doing? She should be smart and persuasive— slick rather than salty— but that is not in evidence when she arrives in Bradleton. Caila's hostility serves as a tool of conflict rather than making sense for the character. And really what is it that immediately draws Wyatt to her? There’s a sense that something is compelling Caila to act as she does, and in theory there’s some foundation to that, some backstory, which, when we get to the bottom of it, explains things. Except, when her family history is divulged there’s not a lot there, not enough to support the way the history impacts current relationships. The emotional logic just didn’t compute. 
 
Wyatt's character fares a bit better. He’s sweet, and loyal and gentlemanly in a progressive, non-alpha way, and he has a secret artistic vocation that adds depth.
 
The Bottom Line
When I read romance I expect to fall a little in love with the characters as they fall in love which each other, to see and appreciate what’s special and be charmed by them. There’s not enough of that here, especially with regards to Caila, until perhaps very close to the end when the conflict comes to a head. Beyond that, the haughty workaholic city girl is a cliché and a retro one at that. It relies on the lingering idea that working women just need to get back to nature and basics. Regardless of her accomplishments and friends what she needs is the love of a good man. There’s been quite a cultural backlash against this staple of the romance genre so why revive it without developing it more?  
 
That said, Wyatt and Caila grew on me as a couple by the end. So Sweet Talkin’ Lover is both an entertaining romance and a bit of a missed opportunity, like reading the second draft of a really promising story. For me the social observation and character development weren’t quite strong enough to sustain this familiar journey.
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Sweet Talkin' Lover is my first experience with Tracey Livesay's work and based on my enjoyment of this book I plan to seek out more of her titles. 

At its heart, Sweet Talkin' Lover is like a Hallmark movie with swearing and sex and I like Hallmark movies, so that is a compliment. 

Caila Harris is a ladder climbing businesswoman employed by a cosmetics company whose life has hit a bit of a rough patch. Wyatt Bradley is the latest member of his family to be mayor of the small Virginia town where Caila has been assigned to find reason for her company to ditch the factory where their products are made to save money. Let the enemies to lovers trope begin!

The characters and dialogue of this book are incredibly engaging and though this is a tale as old as time, Livesay has made it fresh with quirky townspeople and lead characters who are stand up and compassionate people.
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I've been waiting for Tracey Livesay to come out with more books since I enjoyed her last series a lot. This new one is a small-town romance with a mayor hero and a corporate executive heroine. There was a great deal to like about it: the insta-lust between the two protagonists was spicy and fun, since they're also on the opposite sides of a potential factory closure (she's sent basically to shut the place down after missteps at her job in Chicago). The people in the town were drawn in a nuanced way, and I especially enjoyed watching the heroine navigate being hero-worshipped a bit by a local girl who sees her as a role model which is mirrored a bit by her relationship to her boss (all three are Black women). 

All in all, it was a quick, low-angst read perfect to dive into as a lovely escape. 

I was given an Advance Reader's Copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I love the premise behind this series, and I completely and utterly loved this small town romance! The characters and storyline were perfection! Can’t wait for more!
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3.5 stars

You know how in those Lifetime or Hallmark Christmas movies the plot is basically that the heroine is a big city gal who has a big city job and finds herself in a charming small town where in one way or another she has to close down or sell off or in some way destroy one of the town's long time institutions?  Yeah, that is this story in a nutshell, only it doesn't take place during Christmas time.

Caila Harris is your original work-a-holic.  For ten years she has worked for a beauty products company climbing the ladder, forsaking a personal life, and being the perfect corporate employee.  She has her three best BFFs, but that is pretty much it.  She isn't close to her family and has no love life.  She is just one rung from a major promotion and she'll be set.  But one mistake at a company party and all that is in jeopardy.  To salvage her career dreams she is sent to a small town to evaluate a factory that packs some of the products.  The factory has been losing money, it seems like open and shut case and something a student fresh out of business school would normally be sent to do, so Caila knows that she is pretty much on a shit detail.

Wyatt Bradley is the Mayor of said small town that was named after his family.  He is handsome, pedigreed and rich.  And did I say handsome.  Apparently he is so handsome that his milkshake brings all the girls to the yard.  But he is also devoted to his town and the factory is the number one employer in the town.  If it closes it would catastrophic to their local economy. So he is on a mission to save it by hook or by crook.

The two meet and in tried and true romance fashion they get hot for each other while trying to meet their own individual goals.  Wyatt is desperate to save his town and Caila is desperate to save her job.

What I liked:
 - I liked that not only are we told that Caila was a workaholic, we were showed it too. There was a a fair amount of page time given to show us Caila's work and how important it was to her.  So it wasn't all just background and set up.  We got to see how Caila's work was important

- A reminder that you are never as important to your work environment as you think you might be.  Especially if you are a woman.  I think the author was spot on in her characterization that even ten years of superb performance and success can't survive one small, not even work related mistake.  Women and especially women of color, are not give the luxury of even one mistake.  

- The girlfriend trip in the beginning was fun.  It is obviously series/sequel set up to get introduced right away to the other women who will be characters in the next books.  All the personalities were different enough and fun enough that they seemed appealing.  I liked the camaraderie established especially through their funny reminisces. 

- The chemistry between Caila and Wyatt was undeniable and the sex scenes were really nicely hot.

- Overall the individual characters were lively and interesting, including the different supporting characters around town,.

What didn't work so well for me:
- This is a well used plot.  To make it sing you kinda have to do something different with it.  As it is, I could see all the plot points well before they unfolded.  It is a case of, 'oh this is gonna happen next' and each time I was right.  Nothing came out of left field, nothing swerved to make the plot more interesting.  The strength of the book is mostly in the characters.

- Insta love.  The hero is an avowed love 'em and leave 'em type.  He never gets serious with a woman.  But he is mad in love with the heroine after one week.  Yeah this all takes place in the course of, like, a week. 

So overall a nice, pleasant read with good characters, a central romance that is chemical enough to satisfy,  but hampered a bit by a by-the-numbers plot.

This is an honest review based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
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Having read and enjoyed previous books by Livesay I was eager to read the start of her new series. At the start of this book I was afraid I wasn't going to like it at all. The opening with Cailah and her friends was more confusing, when I couldn't immediately keep them all straight, than a successful introduction to lay the groundwork for the next books in the series. The work and family drama all seemed overly contrived and the way Wade was characterized at first was off putting.  As the story progressed and Cailah and  Wade spent more time with each other I was reminded why I am a fan of Livesay. The quieter moments they spent away from over the top family drama and scheming thwarted past dates told a story about two characters forging a real connection with each other and enable me to feel connected to them in turn. I loved the two of them together which kept me quickly turning the pages. 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The writing was descriptive yet easy to read, however, everything from the sassy girl talk to the boys' banter seemed contrived and wooden. Both Caila and Wyatt did a great deal of thinking but not a whole lot of talking. This made it difficult to connect with the characters as I did not catch any spark between the pair. In this instance, I believe that my personal preferences in writing styles hindered my enjoyment of the book rather than the book itself.

Thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins Publishers, and Tracey Livesay for an ARC of 'Sweet Talkin' Lover' in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.
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