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REVIEW: Sweet Trouble by Susan Mallery

Dear Ms. Mallery:

book review When I was a kid, my brothers got the Boys’ Life magazine and on the back of the magazine, next to the Sea Monkeys advertisement (Oh, how I wanted that!) was the ubiquitous Charles Atlas 97 pound weakling ad. It was a cartoon that showed some guy getting sand kicked in his face and then, after enduring the Charles Atlas body building program (not help in a bottle like today’s advertisements), the 97 pound weakling gets revenge on the bully and ends up with the beautous beach babe.

Sweet Trouble reminded me of that ad, only the once nerdy hero transforms from a weakling into a suave sophisticate whose clothes, demeanor, and checkbook balance befits that of a Harlequin Presents hero. Matthew Fenner had fallen in love with a wild, outrageous girl who he had perceived to be outside his grasp. Indeed, his fears were confirmed when Fenner finds out that his love, Jesse Keyes had cheated on him and was pregnant with another man’s child. It was enough to transform the geek boy into Bond boy. Handsome, deadly, and not very nice, except in bed with the chicks.

“They’re calling you a ruthless bastard,” Diane said as she scanned the article in the business magazine. “You must be happy.”
Matthew Fenner looked at his secretary, but didn’t speak. Eventually she glanced up and smiled.
“You like being called a ruthless bastard,” she reminded him.
“I like respect,” he corrected.
“Or fear.”
He nodded. “Fear works.”

Jesse is back in his life, however, explaining that the child is really his and now Matthew has to learn how to be a dad and not fall for Jesse. In fact, this time, he’ll make Jesse fall for him and crush her like a bug so she’ll know the pain that he went through. Jesse wants to make amends but she’s not quite sure what she did wrong. Sure, she was caught in a compromising position with her sister’s husband but the truth is that she never cheated (not really even though she was caught with her shirt off and the guy’s hand on her breasts) and the four year old son deserves to know his dad.

The challenge that this books presents is to make the reader cheer for two not very likeable characters. On the one hand, the reader is treated to Matthew’s goal of treating Jesse cruelly and on the other hand, we are given a half hearted attempt of Jesse’s in becoming a responsible adult. She never really takes responsibility for her actions four years ago and Matthew is determined to find Jesse in the wrong for every action including keeping the child from him for four years even after he slammed the door in her face when she declared the child was his.

One part I did like was Matthew’s struggle with finding out he was a dad. He didn’t know what to do as a parent, didn’t know how to connect. He wasn’t even sure if he liked Gabe, his purported son. That part of the story was very genuine. It’s not to say that the rest of the story was moving. It was written in such a way to manipulate the reader into feeling a lot of anger toward Matthew and sympathy toward Jesse. This was we could forgive Jesse her past indiscretions and immaturities and revise our opinion of Matthew as a nerdy geek. After all, a nerdy geek isn’t as sexy as a rich man bent on using every weapon in his vast arsenal to enact emotionally devastating revenge upon a woman.

I liked even less the transformation of Matthew from the 97 pound nerd to the macho alpha male. It was as if the reader wouldn’t be capable of appreciating a fellow who thought with his big head instead of his little head which isn’t so far away from the wallet head. I cared for Matthew and I had a hard time rooting for Jesse. Their pasts were too conveniently cleaned up to make way for the more traditional hero and heroines. Jesse’s inability to really own up to her past, and to blame much of her situation on others, made her much less of a sympathetic character. It was convenient for her to always be right in order to make her appealing to the reader, but I felt that was really contrived.

This was the weakest entry in the Keyes’ sisters trilogy and it’s disappointing to end the series on such a low note. C

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Catherine
    Sep 09, 2008 @ 17:44:35

    Lol, I remember ads like that! My cousin was smaller and skinny and desperate to put on weight and muscle. It never worked… 11 years later and he’s still skinny. He’s just a lot taller now.

    On to the book… I haven’t read it yet (and don’t really know if I want to), but I’m curious about the past indiscretion. How did she explain away some other guy’s hand on her boob? How did she explain it to her sister???

  2. Elly Soar
    Sep 09, 2008 @ 17:54:21

    See I can buy this sort of plot in an HP cuz I always picture them in a sort of alternate universe british commonwealth where there is no such thing as paternity tests or lawsuits or the morning after pill…but in a regular, modern contemporary, I get really really frustrated with this sort of plot. Why can’t these heroines stick up for themselves and assert the truth when somoene thinks they are cheating? Why can’t they file paternity suits? Or did she not know what they thought of her? And in that case, why on Earth did she accept the hero walking out on her when she was pregnant anyway? I’m all about fidelity but I would be more interested if the heroine actually had cheated on him in this book and realized her mistake…

  3. AnimeJune
    Sep 09, 2008 @ 19:16:04

    I despised this book as well, but for different reasons.

    I actually didn’t dwell too much on the geek-to-hero transformation – I was too busy being absolutely appalled at Matthew’s motivations and actions. He spends seventy percent of the novel not as a wounded former lover, but as a vindictive, malicious, callous, and manipulative monster. In any other decent book he would have been the villain who gets his faced bashed in and the tires on his fancy BMW slashed while Jesse and the real hero drove off into the sunset.

    I actually related to Jesse fairly well. That’s what kept me with the Keyes trilogy, because even with Sweet Talk’s crazy-sister-bitching and Sweet Spot’s magical pregnancies, I could relate to all of the sisters and thought that their flaws and human elements were engagingly written.

    Her vulnerability only made Matt’s behaviour towards her more abusive. I’ve never disliked a hero more. He slams the door in her face when she tells him she’s pregnant (after he calls her a whore), but spends most of the book in self-righteous anger that Jesse didn’t try harder to tell him, and blames her for his lack of relationship with his son. Gee, how romantic.

    **Mild Spoilers Ahead, although, really, this book was so wretched I’m warning everyone I know off it** Elly, what happened to Jesse is that she was taken advantage of and caught in a position where there was really no evidence one way or the other, with only hearsay to go on, and because of her wildchild past she wasn’t believed. It makes more sense if you’ve read the previous books, where it showed there were a lot of other factors that resulted in her running off. Also, in the previous book (Sweet Spot), Matt actually told Jesse that he didn’t CARE if the child was his because he didn’t want anything to do with her, including a child.

    But this book had really ugly connotations concerning Jesse’s responsibility to tell Matt about her child, even after he openly rejected both her and the child (stating he didn’t care if it was his or not).

  4. Leeann Burke
    Sep 10, 2008 @ 13:16:07

    I truly enjoyed this series. However what I had issues with was Nicole’s (middle sister) constant anger. It became a little too much by the third book (this one) and I truly started to not like her.

    I have to confess I wanted to know more about Raoul in the third book since he became a part of the family in the second one. I sure hope he gets his own story soon.

  5. limecello
    Sep 10, 2008 @ 23:05:43

    I agree with Leeann about Raoul. I love me some Raoul. I’m also not quite sure what I think about this book – I liked it more than you did, Jane, but I think the thing (problem?) was that… well I expected a lot of it. I figured explaining away Jesse’s past/brattiness would be rather lackluster, and after the first chapter, knew Matt was going to suck as a human. Still, I loved the scene with him and Gabe at the aquarium. Maybe I brushed over/ignored too much – but I really liked the secondary characters, and that helped a lot.
    I think the thing with Matt is that Jesse “broke” him, when she told him she was pregnant and left, while he thought she had slept with (Drew?) – still, that didn’t really convince me either. Ah well. [This is why when I first heard about the series I was rather “meh” – but I enjoyed the first two books a lot.]

  6. Christina T.
    Sep 11, 2008 @ 11:33:52

    I really liked the series. I tend to agree that Nicoles anger was a bitmuch in book 3. I mean really she does not care for the husband at all and you would have thought Hawk would have calmed her down some?! \

    Also it swould be nice for Raul to have his own story!! I would also read brittany’s.

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