Dear Ms. Kleypas:
Your last few books haven’t worked well for me, but when I heard you’d finally be writing Joe Travis’s story, I was delighted. Your Travis series is one of my very favorites in contemporary romance, and the hero of Smooth Talking Stranger, Jack Travis, is my all time favorite romance hero. I love your ability to write a Caregiving Alpha, and couldn’t wait to see what you had in store for Joe.
Avery Crosslin is an event planner. She and her sister, Sophia, have built a dynamic, interesting business, where they navigate the ins and outs of Texas high society and have made a real name for themselves handling intricate events. At one such event, she mistakes a man with an expensive looking camera as the wedding photographer, but discovers instead that he is Joe Travis, youngest of oil magnate Churchill Travis’s boys. Joe is gorgeous, smart and clearly very interested in Avery. But Avery comes from a family decimated by her father’s serial monogamy and carries a boatload of baggage around. She’s focused on building her business and though she and Joe have a flirtation that ends in a one night stand, she’s very clear with him that she wants nothing more.
Joe’s brothers are both happily married with children, and until he meets Avery, he’s quite happy being a confirmed bachelor. But something about this take-charge woman, who has no idea of her appeal clearly fascinates him. He won’t take Avery’s attempts at brush-offs, and manages to push her to get to know him better. What he discovers is that Avery is fully take-charge in her professional life, and mostly uncertain about her private life. Joe invites her to join him at a job taking photos for an animal shelter. She lays eyes on a bedraggled, pathetic chihuahua and somehow ends up adopting it, further confirming Joe’s suspicions that she’s got that warm gooey inside. But as they get further involved, Joe discovers that Avery has big opportunities in her career that might impede their relationship. He knows she cares about him, but is unsure whether she’ll make their growing feelings for each other a priority.
This is tough for me to write, but this book did very little for me. Where the first three books really fulfilled my “Big Sigh” factor on the romantic scale, this one barely made me exhale. The romance feels very much like an after-thought with Avery’s personal and professional lives outside of Joe taking the front seat. When she finally decides to commit to her relationship with Joe, I had no emotional investment in the outcome. I felt that you didn’t do the work of raising the stakes between the lead characters enough for me to feel satisfied by their happily ever after. It’s a tremendous disappointment to me, because each book in this series has been a home-run for me. I wish that I could offer a wholehearted recommendation, but if this had been the first Travis book I’d read, it would likely be my last. I miss your warm, decadent, high emotional romances, and unfortunately Brown Eyed Girl barely registered on the romance scale for me. I graded this book slightly up, because if you’re looking for a decent chick-lit book, this might fit the bill. But as a romance novel, unfortunately it missed the mark. Final grade: C-.