Careless Whispers is a nice, slow-burn romance that focuses on two smart people who gradually learn that they’re much more than who they seem to be at first blush. Business rivals to friends to lovers is the formula, and the formula works like gangbusters.
Stone-cold tobacco and holding company heiress and businesswoman Elaina “Evil Eyes” Robidoux is cold and ruthless in the business world, but her personal life is stained by the cool and rigid way in which she has been raised. She has fallen back into bed with Robert, the One Who Got Away, only to learn he was trying to use her for money and dumps him immediately. Their relationship had fallen apart when they were younger after a moment of passion with another man resulted in a shotgun wedding. A miscarriage and a divorce ensued, leaving Elaina alone and something of a scandal to her closely knit perfectionist political family, which only gets worse when her ex marries her sister and her father becomes engaged to his mistress. So yep. Elaina has lousy luck with men and her family.
Project director Alex Tyson has attended Elaina’s brother’s political fundraiser at the family manse as part of a business engagement, and would rather be anywhere else. He and Elaina haven’t gotten along since she tried to fire him, and she tries it again after Alex accuses her of benefitting from nepotism and being uncaring toward her employees. Instead, Elaina’s controlling father Grant fires her and keeps Alex on the project. Grant continues to suggest that Alex take over Elaina’s job, but he admires and respects her too much, and has no interest in doing a job he doesn’t feel suited for. After a heart attack and bypass surgery, he’s come to understand what he truly values in life.
Furious, Elaina decides to start up her own business, and sets about trying to achieve her goals. She knows her father wants to get into the hemp business, and cutting him off at the knees feels like a fine form of revenge. She spends more time with Alex in order to get things moving, and they become closer. But Grant’s machinations and their own frailties might tear them apart for good.
One feels great sympathy for Elaina and Alex; they have both been extremely ambitious and paid the price for cutting others out of their lives in favor of business matters. They’re never pitiable and it’s easy to root hard for their upcoming happily ever after.
Each of them has learned a different lesson from the trauma they endured. Elaina’s was to knuckle down and try harder, Alex’s to search for what makes him truly happy, and that happiness is not tied to the business world. They have a lot in common, and their chemistry is spicy and engrossing. My only wish is that Elaina’s alcoholism might have been explored more; the way it’s treated in the story isn’t superficial, but it could’ve used more time to bloom.
The big fly in the ointment is Grant, who is one of the worst fathers I have ever read about in romancelandia, barring those who are actually physically and sexually abusive. He’s a controlling monster who would gladly trample his kid’s hopes and dreams for a dollar, and doesn’t care a wit that he’s hurting Elaina. Williams does try to leaven his behavior, and after a while it’s easy to see why Elaina has familial pride coursing through her veins, but I still wanted to punch Grant on her behalf. Elaina and her siblings do turn the tables on him, but I’m curious to see how an even bigger comeuppance might be delivered unto him in the next book in the series.
Careless Whispers is perfect for any romance lover looking for something more adult, with a twist of soapy family and business drama. It’s romantic, grown-up and smart about its characters and how they navigate their world and manage to find love.