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Sweet Talk
by Julie Garwood
(Dutton, $26.95, R)  ISBN 978-0-52595-286-2 
Is anyone else sick of the phrase "his kiss was the most (fill in your own lame adjective here) experience of her life?”  Where have these women been all of their own adult lives?  Sure, Julie Garwood, it's a romantic suspense — but where's the suspense?  The "mystery" portion of her latest, Sweet Talk, had slightly more suspense than the boring romance between uber-alpha male Special Agent Grayson Kincaid and cancer-survivor-turned-IRS-special-counsel Olivia MacKenzie, but not by much.  Probably you'd be more surprised by the goings-on in a Harlequin historical.

The daughter of two influential and rich parents who wrote her off when she fell ill as a child, Olivia's climbed her way to her position in the world and, in one of the few surprises to Sweet Talk, wanted the job at the IRS, whose resources she hoped to utilize to bring down her father's long-time Ponzi scheme.  However, with talk of budget cuts and without her family's money behind her, Olivia is playing it safe and job-hunting.  In a job interview gone horribly wrong, she unknowingly interrupts an FBI sting against her potential employer.

Enter Grayson Kincaid, Special Agent, wannabe architect, rich boy, know-it-all, and recently custodial guardian of his nephew, Henry.  Drawn immediately to Olivia (of course, she's beautiful, which he points out in numerous conversation ad nauseum), he takes her under his ... uh, wing.  Shortly, however, it becomes clear that Olivia's past, her present, and her long-term goals are somehow tied to that ill-fated sting, and then Grayson's case suddenly involves his girlfriend.  They ride that roller-coaster for a few chapters, nonetheless managing to see one another frequently enough to make a person gag.

If I read this correctly—and, one might wonder, how can you not?—the plotline is supposed to circle around Olivia's investigation into her father's illegal practices and the innate goodness to her that is forcing her to turn traitor against her dysfunctional family.  Unfortunately, unnecessary details, predictability, and Olivia's nauseating relationship with her protector really get in the way of any little thing that might have been exciting. 

Ultimately readable because there is nothing out-and-out offensive about it, Sweet Talk is nonetheless something that anyone who is not a diehard Julie Garwood fan should leave on the shelf unless they are on a desert island with only Sweet Talk and Last of the Mohicans to choose from.

--Sarrah Knight

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