Dear Ms. Mallery:
The benefit of reading books out of order is you don’t get all that messy character build up. Yes, that is a bit tongue in cheek, but the truth is, if I had read Sweet Talk first, I don’t know if I would have liked Sweet Spot as much (again with the virtually meaningless titles).
Nicole, the heroine and oldest sister of the Keyes trio, appeared in Sweet Talk and was pretty mean. The things that she told her sister Claire (I wish you had died instead of our mother) might have been honest, but were super painful for Claire to hear and for me to read. Nicole is fairly intractable and has an always right demeanor (those two traits are reportedly commonly found together in the homo sapien species according to a MTV study called Real World: Bakery).
Yet for all Nicole’s faults, I found her to be very likeable. Nicole’s fraternal twin, Claire, left the family at age 6 which was a loss that Nicole never really got over. This loss was compounded by the fact that her mother left the family to shepherd Claire through her career. Nicole was left with a disinterested father and a younger sister at the age of 12.
Recently Nicole’s life is going through major upheaval. Her sister Claire has come back and is getting married to her best friend, Wyatt. Nicole’s youngest sister was caught nude, in Nicole’s bedroom, with Nicole’s husband’s hand on her breast. And they were kissing. Plus, Nicole is recovering from knee surgery. She’s due to have something good happen in her life.
Instead, she gets Hawk. Hawk is a former pro football player turned high school football coach who left the NFL when his wife became stricken with cancer. She died and Hawk was left to be a single parent to his beautiful young daughter who has blossomed into a seventeen year old on the cusp of adulthood.
Hawk becomes part of her life when she threatens to send his star quarterback to jail for trying to steal doughnuts from the Keys’ Bakery which Nicole owns and runs. He likes what he sees and tries to make a play for her which Nicole promptly shoots down. This, of course, whets his competitive appetite. Hawk’s courtship of Nicole is different. He invites her to football games and film days, and post football pizza parties.
Like many Mallery heroes, Hawk is a serial monogamist who has no plans of ever settling down again. With Hawk, it’s a bit less of a conscious decision, but his actions, the very way he lives his life, shows women that it’s Hawk, his daughter and his dead wife and there isn’t room for anyone else. Nicole is smarting from the betrayal of her husband and doesn’t want to get involved with someone who puts their own needs first.
Nicole forces Hawk to come to the realization that his cheery attitude is reinforced by being the center of attention. When Nicole refuses to play the role of adoring girlfriend, Hawk’s suaveness looks a bit tough around the edges. One problem, though, is that Nicole has very little character development and while the story wasn’t set up to necessarily require her to change, it made the story less compelling.
There’s a lovely secondary plot involving Nicole taking in the star quarterback and housing him. It was like her second chance at parenting. I probably liked Rauol, the kid, better than Hawk most of the time. B-