Book of the Week: Careless Whispers by Synithia Williams


[CW: miscarriage, wealthy tobacco company]

Parenting has such an impact on how a child grows up into the adult the world sees. One child in this story was brought up to be tough as all heck and giving no way to any softness, and the other child was brought up in a loving family where all feelings were allowed to have free rein. Both adults are driven to succeed, but for one adult, there is never any other way of life, whereas the other one has realized that a fast-paced life is not all that it is cracked up to be. 

Elaina Robidoux was trained from birth to one day assume control of Robidoux Tobacco and Robidoux Holdings. From leading boardroom meetings of directors to orchestrating her politician brother’s events, from being a socialite to a ruthless businesswoman, Elaina does it all. Growing up, she had been starved of love and acceptance by her parents, and in her adulthood, she finds herself seeking connections that ultimately fail to give her the love she is attempting to find. As a result, she considers herself unlovable and incapable of loving, pathetic and lonely. She is tired of being strong all the time, but being strong is all she knows. 

Alex Tyson has joined his large family in Jackson Falls in a bid to slow down his life. His pedal-to-the-metal way of life leads to him having a heart attack at a very young age. It serves as a wake-up call that his life in New York City is killing him. So he packs everything up and heads south to Jackson Falls to become head of research and development at Robidoux Holdings.

Unfortunately for Alex, he proceeds to clash with Elaina on a regular basis. While not as stressful as his previous job, he would like his job to be easier and for their hostility to simmer down. In one ill-thought-out instance, he tells her like it is, and her father, the head of the company, overhears and is only all too eager to fire her and appoint him in her stead.  

Reader, I closed my eyes. How are these two to proceed from this moment to a loving relationship? But Williams proved herself to be a skilled raconteur and made me believe in their happy ever after.

Elaina has sharp corners to her personality which form a perfect foil to Adam’s understanding and acceptance of who she is. Elaina just doesn’t trust Adam’s goodness and intentions. To protect her heart from hurt, she pushes Adam initially to keep their intimacy at a no-strings relationship. Adam is willing to not rush her. In fact, he wants to put the brakes on his feelings as well. He is drawn to driven women, but it is brought home to him that Elaina may be like his failed relationship in NYC, and she may not have good intentions towards him. Every instinct Alex has is screaming to deny this, but he decides to heed good advice and take it slow.

Thus, we see two protagonists coming at their relationship wary of getting in over their heads. But in slowing down their physical intimacy, their fledgling emotional intimacy has a chance to grow and become stalwart into a forever love. Williams’ twist in the story with her heroine as the prickly one and her hero as the accommodating one makes for very interesting read. 

Enemies to lovers is a favorite trope of contemporary romance writers these days. Some books fly and some books don’t. However, in Careless Whispers, you can be assured that Williams’ skill as a writer makes you believe in her protagonists’ ability to overcome their differences and love deeply. 

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