His Uptown Girl
By Liz Talley
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Eleanor Theriot, owner of the Queen’s Box, an antiques shop, in New Orleans, has spent much of her life trying to be what other people expected her to be. Five years after she was widowed when her husband was murdered by his mistress, Eleanor is ready not just to get on with her life but to create a different, freer life, one that allows her to be who she is—just as soon as she discovers who that is. With forty just around the corner, she needs to begin the journey, and the hot, multiracial pianist Dez Batiste who can increase her heart rate with a look may be just the companion she needs.
Once a jazz pianist and composer on the cusp of fame, Dez Batiste has lost his music since Katrina. After trying and failing at a “normal” life, he has returned to New Orleans to open an upscale jazz club. The owners of businesses surrounding the site he has chosen aren’t sure a jazz club like the Blue Rondo is a good fit for their family-friendly neighborhood. Dez needs to convince them they are wrong, but he’d like to convince elegant Eleanor Theriot, president of the Magazine Street Merchants Association of much more. All the signs tell him she is interested if only she can move past her hang-ups over her being nearly nine years older than he and their vastly different lifestyles.
With a mix of eagerness and trepidation, and over the objections of her college-freshman daughter, her conservative parents, and her snobby bitch former mother-in-law, Eleanor welcomes Dez into her bed and into her life. Their mutually exclusive friends with benefits relationship is soon complicated by feelings they are both reluctant to put a name to. Relationships are not static, and Eleanor will have to decide whether the love she can have with Dez really can cast out her fears.
Liz Talley gives readers a look at post-Katrina New Orleans and the cultural mix of that colorful city. In addition to the complicated and sizzling romance between Eleanor and Dez, secondary threads point to the sharp contrast between the city’s privileged young whose greatest concern is owning another designer bag and the kids who grow up amid poverty and violence struggling to survive and dreaming of escape. The issues are large ones, perhaps too large for a romance with a word limit, but it’s exciting to see an author pushing boundaries. I might have wished for more depth at times, but I always found these characters and their story fully engaging. Talley goes back to New Orleans with her October 2013 Harlequin Superromance, His Brown-Eyed Girl. It’s on my TBR list.
Talley adds religion and politics to the ingredients that make up His Uptown Girl, topics some consider have no place in romance? Where do you stand on this issue?