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Sweet Talk    by Susan Mallory order for
Sweet Talk
by Susan Mallory
Order:  USA  Can
Harlequin, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Susan Mallory begins a brand new three book series featuring the Keyes sisters - fraternal twins Claire and Nicole and their younger sibling Jesse. At the age of three, Claire Keyes is declared a piano prodigy and whisked away from everything she knows and loves and groomed into becoming a world-renowned concert pianist. As her mother oversees her career and it finds its wings, contact with her father and sisters takes a backseat to her studies and appearances. When her mother is killed in a car crash, the estrangement becomes absolute, especially once Nicole declares she wants nothing more to do with the 'rich and famous' sister who'd gotten their mother killed.

Ten years pass before Claire hears from her family again, despite her numerous attempts to make contact. When she receives a call from sister Jesse saying Nicole is being admitted to hospital for surgery and needs someone to look after her, Claire doesn't hesitate. She drops everything and heads home. She soon discovers that Nicole wasn't the only one who hated her - apparently she made sure that everyone close to her knew just how useless her rich and famous sister was, including Nicole's best friend, single dad, Wyatt Knight. Hurt, yet determined to help her sister and change everyone's opinion of her, Claire wades into the fray and forces Nicole to set aside her skewed assumptions about Claire's celebrity lifestyle as well as facing the ugly family truths that have kept them apart for so many years.

Mallory examines some very real emotional and family dysfunction in Sweet Talk. Unfortunately the author tackles a few too many of them at once and then tries tying them up too quickly and too neatly to be altogether believable. Nicole suffers from deep-seated and legitimate anger, abandonment and betrayal issues. Yet despite her eventual attempts to see the big picture and realise that it was her parents' decisions regarding Claire's career that ultimately impacted all three siblings' lives, not just Nicole's, she comes across as shrewish and unlikeable throughout most of the story. Claire as well is a bit too naïve about life and love to be credible, despite a regimented lifestyle that allowed her to do nothing but practice, attend functions and perform. To add to this rather uneven story, the author includes various overdone clichés in an effort to create a believable romance between Wyatt and Claire.

Sweet Talk sets an interesting stage for Mallory's latest series featuring three estranged sisters who have claim to a long established Seattle bakery. As a whole though, the characters and the storyline are not as engaging as some of the author's previous romances.

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