Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"The Flirt" by Kathleen Tessaro

"I'm going to seduce you." Tantalizing words written on an ivory card. It is the first clue that will lead an intrigued and intriguing London lady on an odyssey of sensual experience designed to awaken her romantic nature. Out-of-work actor Hughie Venable-Smythe has found a profitable new outlet for his talents. He is hired, often by distraught husbands, to flirt with wives who are feeling neglected in their relationships. His current seductive campaign is focused on Olivia, the spouse of a narcissistic billionaire, and the lady is responding quite nicely to the cream-colored missives he secretly leaves for her. So nicely, in fact, that Hughie decides to employ a similar technique - and shockingly similar messages - in his pursuit of his own heart's desire: the aloof and charming lingerie designer, Leticia. But the canny, professional flirt's brazen anonymous intrusions into the lives of two women are about to set in motion a series of remarkable events that no one could have anticipated - setting the stage for shocking revelations about love, friendship, and domestic bliss.

Tessaro is the author of two previous books, "Elegance" and "Innocence", both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. This one sounded good, too, so I finally got around to reserving it a few weeks ago. And it is good, but it's not exactly what the back of the book leads you to believe...

Hugie is an out-of-work actor, but when we first meet him, he's looking for a job. He's also flirting with a coffee-shop waitress, trying to get her to put his coffee on account, seeing as how he's left his AMEX card at home (a very old line that he's worked to death, but the waitress has a soft spot in her heart for him, usually paying for his coffee herself). He answers an ad in the paper, and thus is hired on to learn the art of flirting. We follow him on this journey, and at no time would I really call him a "professional" at this new endeavor; he fails much more than he succeeds, and indeed, it's these failures that cause the "series of remarkable events".

There's a rather large cast of characters, but Tessaro does an excellent job of developing each one. I never felt like anyone got slighted as far as their story went, and the different plot lines dovetailed nicely. The only complaint I really have is the twist that occurs close to the end of the book involving Hughie; I can't say any more for fear of giving it away, but I found myself thinking it was a little too staged and preposterous. Still, this is a nice work, a little more serious than your usual Chick Lit offering.

Look for Tessaro's next book, "The Debutante", in stores this October.


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