Nobody Does It Better

The Wallflower

Talk to Me by Jan Freed
(HSR #858, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-70858-0
Jan Freed has become an auto-buy for me, ever since I read her wonderful book about a young woman who hides out by returning to high school. The Wallflower sure got contemporary high school life right! (I say that as the mother of a junior.) Now, Freed brings her keen observation and her delightful wit to another reality of modern life: the fact that men and women donít speak the same language.

There have been scads of scholarly articles and numerous lengthy tomes in the past decade or so which purport to show the how and why of this gender communication gap. But I donít know as how Iíve ever read anything which so succinctly (and entertainingly) clarifies the whole issue as Talk to Me.

When Kara Taylor takes her grandmother to the Houston appearance of a popular tabloid talk show, she has no idea that it will change her life. She could never have imagined that her ex-husband, Travis Malloy, would be in the audience. Or that they would get involved in a spirited debate about marital communication and the lack thereof. Or that a local TV producer, looking for a new concept, would conclude that the two of them would make perfect hosts for a local show. But thatís what happens.

Nor would Kara even have considered the whole idea were it not for the fact that she is struggling to keep the familyís lingerie business afloat and her grandmother in the family home. She needs the money. So she heads out to Lake Kimberly, the site of the best and worst year of her life to try to talk Travis into cooperating.

Travis is as astounded by Kara at this turn of events. But his fishing club could use some work and his fatherís store could use some publicity. So the two find themselves facing an audience for the new show, Hear He, Hear She.

Nine years earlier, on the evening of the first anniversary, Kara had left their rustic cabin and returned to Houston. An MBA with a business to save and a bass fisherman just didnít seem to have enough in common to make the marriage work. And both were bringing lots of baggage to the relationship, baggage they never talked about. They hadnít talked or communicated since that evening, but neither had gotten over the other. Now, they are going to be forced to talk.

ďSecond chance at loveĒ stories are always popular and this is a very good one. Kara and Travis loved each other passionately, but both were too young, too immature and too insecure to be honest. Freed carefully uncovers their pasts so that we sympathize with both and root for them enthusiastically this time around.

Freed also provides a fun cast of secondary characters: Lisa, Karaís best friend; her grandmother and her elderly swain; the other Malloy brothers (with stories of their own in the offing. Yippee!); Travisí father and the woman who loves him in silence; the TV producer who starts the whole thing; and even Vinnie from New Jersey, who travels all the way to Texas for a date with the Mystery Woman. (Seems that one way Kara was trying to save the family business was by developing a catalog which sold fantasy lingerie. Since she couldnít afford to hire a model, she did the posing herself, with her face mysteriously hidden.)

Of course, what Freed does best is incredibly witty dialogue. The exchanges between Kara and Travis, both in public and in private, are a delight to read. They are also as wise as they are witty, pointing up cleverly the many ways that men and women can misunderstand each other and the unfortunate consequences of such misunderstandings.

Freed may do marvelous dialogue, but she also creates compelling and interesting characters. She has a unique and entertaining voice. And her plots arenít bad either! In short, Jan Freed is a multi-talented author who writes some of the best category romances around. Talk to Me can only add to her growing reputation.

--Jean Mason

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