If you've ever watched one of those Hallmark movies and wished it was not quite as saccharine, had more kissing, and was generally... better? This is for you.
I adored Sweet Talkin' Lover. There's one of those enemies-to-lovers setups wherein Caila is sent to a small town to "evaluate" (shut down) a cosmetics plant and the mayor is out to prove to her that the town and plant are worth saving. They both do a little bit of lying to each other - she tells him she's there to evaluate and not just to shut down the plant and he tells her that the man with access to the plant financials is out of town for two weeks. Meanwhile, Wyatt brings her around town to meet people and attend events like the Harvest Festival and to generally make her like the town so much that she'll somehow change the mind of the corporate bigwigs that sent her there in the first place.
Except it's not all fluff like a Hallmark movie, and that grounds the book and elevates the emotional stakes. Caila's father-figure, her grandfather, passes away in the opening scene of the book, while Caila and her girlfriends are on their annual vacation together. [Side note - I believe each of these women will get their own book which is great because I loved their group dynamic. Lots of laughs and giving each other shit.] After her grandfather's death, Caila doesn't really process things and her job performance suffers. An ambitious woman determined to climb the career ladder, she's now grieving and trying to regain her reputation at work. Additionally, when Caila was younger her father died and her family moved to a small town, upending her life. She doesn't want to ever return to a town that showcases it's "Southern Heritage" and casts her in roles she never asked for, but here she is, back in one of those towns. This is not a book about racism, but neither does Livesay ignore it.
Wyatt is the white scion of the family that the town is named for. His mother and grandfather have his whole future mapped out... and it does not involve Caila. (They are Not Great.) And even if they make it work, Caila's job is in Chicago, so how can they make a relationship last without either of them losing the career they love?
Though they're immediately attracted to each other, Caila and Wyatt's relationship builds slowly, organically. They have some arguments, they have some fun dates, and they figure out how to be together in the end, despite all odds. I enjoyed Livesay's last series with Avon, but I think she's really hit her stride with this novel. I laughed, I smiled, I stayed up too late reading. I also liked how Livesay tied everything up in the end, not requiring either of them to sacrifice their goals. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Content Warnings: Past: death of a parent, death of a grandparent, racism, Wyatt's father left the family when he was young
Suzanne read this audiobook via her Scribd subscription.