August 8, 2013

Review: His Uptown Girl by Liz Talley

After reading Wendy’s review, the first thing I did was buy the book. The way she described both the story and her reaction to it, made it impossible for me to resist reading it. The novel turned out to be as good as she said, and although there were some things I didn’t love, I’m glad I read it.

Eleanor is a 39-year-old widow struggling to put her life back together. Her cheating husband was murdered by his mistress (who then committed suicide) leaving Eleanor immerse in a political scandal. Her daughter is almost out of control and her judgmental mother-in-law is a constant headache. But at least she has her store. The problem is that a club is about to open in her neighborhood and she’s worried that it will bring nothing but constant trouble and annoyances, which is why Eleanor is actively trying to prevent the club from ever opening. So it’s quite humiliating when the hunky stranger she awkwardly tries to seduce turns out to be the owner of the club.

Dez is a successful musician who left New Orleans (and his career) behind after Hurricane Katrina. He tried to build a life outside the city, but after many unhappy years and an unsuccessful engagement, he realized that happiness was back home.

When Dez and Eleanor meet, he’s very attracted to her, but she’s too concerned with the fact that she’s almost ten years older than he is. So between their professional enmity and her baggage, a relationship between them is more than a little complicated.

The romance in this book is fantastic. Eleanor and Dez are mature, self-aware people who have been deeply hurt, yet they use those past experiences and hurts for their personal growth instead of as excuses to justify being emotionally stunted. Dez in particular kept surprising me with his straightforward and honest attitude. Eleanor had some issues to work with, but their pairing worked and made absolute sense to me.

The dialogue was wonderful and filled with emotion. I loved every interaction between the leads and how each conversation moved the plot and the romance forward. The book had the right amount of angst to make it poignant without feeling manipulative, and I was involved in the story from beginning to end.

That been said, there are two issues that keep the book from being a 5-star read. The first one is that Eleanor kept referring to Dez as her “Aztec prince”:
"The man resembled an Aztec prince. Like his honeyed skin should be twined in gold and turquoise, bedecked in a feathered headdress. And a loincloth. He’d be breathtaking in a loincloth."
Later on:
'The Aztec sex god turned his head and nodded toward the car. “You gonna move?”'
And around the middle mark:
"With close-cropped dark hair, smooth honey skin and deep gray eyes. Broad shoulders, lean hips and not a wrinkle on him anywhere. Her Aztec prince."
Those parts were jarring and problematic. Race, class and their age difference are issues that Eleanor must deal with, and she seemed to be a conscious person, so it was disturbing to see her exoticize (and fetishize) the hero’s looks. Nothing in the narrative dispels the idea that doing this is wrong. In fact, she does it again near the end of the book:
"Again, she was reminded of an Aztec warrior, golden and splendid."
I had mixed feelings about the secondary character, Tre. He’s a young black man living in poverty and struggling to take care of his brother and niece (who is a toddler with developmental issues due to neglect). He’s a talented musician who gave up his dream in order to take care of his family and now works as a delivery boy in Eleanor’s store. Just when the possibility of joining a gang begins to tempt him, he gets saved by Eleanor and Dez who recognize his talent and offers him a job at the club. Dez is of mixed race, so it’s not entirely a “white character saves the black character” type of resolution, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. However, he does have an important role in the story, his character is fully developed and he even gets a love interest. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I can’t ignore my reaction. I would like to know other readers’ opinions on the subject, though.

As much as I enjoyed the romance, the story has problematic aspects that I can’t ignore, so although I do recommend the book, I do it with trepidation, because some parts are, or could be, potentially offensive.

Review by Brie
Grade: 3.5
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon

After enduring the destruction of her antique store and a sex scandal involving her late husband, Eleanor Theriot has spent years licking her wounds and raising her daughter, ignoring the woman beneath the cashmere sweater set in favor of playing it safe. 
Knowing she must reclaim herself and step out of her comfort zone, Eleanor doesn’t expect the first guy she flirts with in twenty years to make her knees weak.
But he so does…
Jazz pianist Dez Batiste is back in New Orleans ready to face his past and reclaim the future he’d left behind in the flood waters of Katrina. Opening an Uptown jazz club soothes the loss of his former dream, and when Eleanor steps into his path, igniting a different passion within him, he knows coming home was the best thing he’s done in years. Too bad Eleanor and her merchants’ association is intent on keeping his new club out of the historic building on Magazine Street. 
But when desire sizzles and Dez proves himself to be a good neighbor in times of trouble, Eleanor must rethink everything about her benign life and dare to claim passion with a younger man. And when Eleanor’s daughter comes home from college and casts her eye on Dez and her prejudiced mother-in-law plays hardball with the family, Eleanor has to put on her big girl panties and fight for her happiness. Add in a nineteen year old street kid with a secret and a viral music video and you have the makings of tumultuous journey to love.
His Uptown Girl (Harlequin Superromance) by Liz Talley
Harlequin Superromance. June 1, 2013.


  1. I'll be honest - the Aztec thing flew right over my head.

    For me the biggest stumbling block was Tre. At first. In the end I fell on the side of not finding it offensive, and I really came to appreciate that aspect of the story. He was fully developed (not a caricature), he did play more than a token role in the story (I found it to be a pretty meaty secondary storyline - even considering this was a SuperRomance!) and I LOVED that the author didn't fall into the trap I thought she was going to - that is pairing Tre up with Eleanor's daughter ::shudder:: Very early on, I really thought that might happen - and uh, just no.

    1. Thank God he didn't end up with the daughter! I was afraid of that, and I'm so, so glad the author didn't go that way. I agree that he's a fully developed character and I enjoyed his subplot as much as the main romance. I just wish his "salvation" had come from a different source. I guess that resolution was needed to tie both plots together, but don't think it was needed.

      Oh, and I'm glad that not all the black women in the book were awful or unable to take care of people, because that would have been bad. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm overreacting, but it did rub me the wrong way.

  2. Brie and Wendy -

    I wanted to thank you both for reviewing this book. Honestly, it did not get many reviews and the sales have not been spectacular...perhaps stemming from the subject matter? (though I hate to think that). I had hoped because it was a bit out of the box for a Superromance, it would get more review and discussion. Didn't happen. Which is a shame because a discussion of minority characters' roles in romance would be nice - whether one agrees or disagrees with the way they are written. So I do appreciate your willingness to read and give honest reaction. I learn so much about myself from reader's reactions, and that helps me become a better (more aware) writer.

    1. Thanks, Liz!

      I'm looking forward to reading the next book ;-)


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