Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood
Published by Penguin August 2012
When FBI agent Grayson Kincaid first encounters Olivia MacKenzie, she makes quite an impression.
The beautiful, tough young attorney has stumbled into the middle of an FBI sting operation and reduced it to chaos. Months of surveillance and careful planning down the drain, Kincaid's partner is furious and lets Olivia know that she's ticked off the wrong guy. After all, he's FBI.
But Olivia isn't intimidated by his partner's bullying because she's something even scarier...she's IRS.
And working for the IRS is no picnic. She's on the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, one that threatens to ruin the lives of naive and unsuspecting victims, and one she has personal reasons to be angry about. But after she asks the wrong people questions, her life is suddenly endangered. She's accustomed to looking out for others who are weak, but being vulnerable herself makes her realize she needs help. In desperation, she calls Grayson Kinkaid.
Together they join forces to fight corruption, but Olivia is also fighting the immediate and intense attraction she feels for Agent Kincaid, and that may be a battle she is bound to lose.
Olivia MacKenzie has come through a lot, childhood cancer with an experimental cocktail of drugs that put her in remission but at a great cost. Three friends, a kind oncologist,and her Aunt Emily got her through as her parents and sister were, literally and figuratively, distant. Now, the job she loves with the IRS is rumored to be on the chopping block in the next round of layoffs. This leads her to an interview which does not go well...to say the least. After a torn blouse, throwing a punch at the man interviewing her, and being punched herself, she is rudely informed by a disgruntled agent that she has ruined an FBI sting operation and to watch her back as the FBI is not an enemy she wants to make. Olivia is not easily cowed to the amusement and admiration of the other agent on sight, Grayson Kinkaid.
Grayson Kinkaid was a harder character to connect with at first. He made it clear that he found Olivia attractive and he was not above using his need to question her in connection with his case to finagle more face-to-face time with her but then he would disappear for days, weeks, and at one point for months at a time. Yes, he is busy and we find out that he has some compelling reasons for being out of reach and yet I didn't buy why he couldn't call, text, or e-mail. It just did not make sense for him to be completely incommunicado.
Meanwhile, Olivia is battling a lot of family issues that seemed pretty extreme. She is convinced her father is cheating a lot of innocent people who trust him with their investments, her mother is devoted to her father to the exclusion of all else, and her sister is completely consumed with, well, making Olivia's life miserable through annoying phone calls, but beyond that, I am not sure what her sister does. Supposedly she runs a successful internet business with her husband, George, but she never came across as particularly responsible or businesslike. Oh, and George? He has problems of his own to deal with.
I liked both Olivia and Grayson. Grayson takes care of Olivia in many ways, from hiring bodyguards to carrying around an extra inhaler for Olivia's asthma. Olivia, for her part, does not insist on putting herself in TSTL situations but instead, listens to Grayson's concerns and does her part to stay safe and protected...at least most of the time. And the few times she skirted the edges of his "rules" she did so after thinking through the consequences and evaluating the dangers to herself and others.
The situation with her family complicates Grayson's need to keep her safe as it only increases the number of people who might be willing to put Olivia in harm's way. Another plot involving the increasing illness of one of Olivia's childhood friends added to the tension as all of the various threads of the story twisted together in a way that the last third of the book just flew by. While this is not my favorite book by Julia Garwood, it was enjoyable and I am hoping that the other three "pipsqueaks" get their own stories. One of them seemed to be setting off some sparks with Grayson's partner Ronin who I very much enjoyed.
This book rates a 3.5/5.