Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Emma Lee Jayne’s Smart Mouth revisits the academic world of her first SmartyPants Romance tome, Heart Smart. Following Gwen, one of the doctoral students working in Dr. Max Ramsey’s laboratory, we are treated to a bit of a second chance romance between her and the former boy bander, Tomas Mendoza, who just so happens to be the twin brother of her best friend, maybe former best friend, James.
There is so much to love about Smart Mouth, namely the focus on achieving women in the world of STEM and the debilitating nature of anxiety. You might think these walk hand-in-hand through this story; instead, each of Jayne’s characters, Gwen and Tom, characterize these plights.
Much like in her first book, Gwen in all her brilliance is fairly awkward in her relationships. She’s had a long-standing friendship with James, albeit, in the aftermath of his marriage, their friendship has cooled. It has been almost a decade since Tom first laid eyes on Gwen, falling madly in love with her at first sight. Unfortunately, it appears to be unrequited, or so it seems.
Gwen and Tom’s journey is a bungled one, fraught with the pitfalls of Tom’s anxiety and Gwen’s insecurity about herself in relationships. As these two reunite and Tom offers to help Gwen with the predicament of meeting men, these two fall into a world of misunderstandings and confusion. What’s clear, though, is their chemistry. Jayne crafts this dance between the two, one wanting more but thinking the other couldn’t possibly want the same. It’s delightfully choreographed intent on raising the anticipation of Jayne’s readers. When they finally connect physically, it’s combustible, ignited by years of denied feelings. The aftermath isn’t pretty, though. It takes much of the book for Gwen to accept that Tom could ever truly love her, given his notoriety.
Tom is loveable, however, and Jayne makes it clear that he has pined for Gwen over the years. In fact, for me, Tom saves the book. Gwen has a tendency to be short-sighted. For someone so intelligent (a plus for her characterization), she lacks insight. Thankfully, Tom is resilient and tenacious. Add in the guys from his former boy band who act as his found family, and he’s the best part of this story.
Besides the characterizations of Tom and Gwen, Jayne takes the space to focus on anxiety. Tom’s anxiety has been debilitating in the past, but Jayne points to therapy and mindfulness as the means to ameliorate his panic attacks. That she places this experience on the most “successful” of the two makes for a greater impact in the story. The intentionality of this provides the insight that anyone can be victimized by anxiety.
And in an interesting manner, Emma Lee Jayne ends Smart Mouth rather poetically, no promises of extended epilogues or happily ever afters. It’s assumed, but it reads like a “happy for now” type of ending. I rather liked that part of the story, even though I can be a lover of extended endings. All in all, I enjoyed reading Smart Mouth. There is a simplicity to this story that drives you forward. Obviously, you hope that Gwen and Tom will find their happy ending, but their journey intrigues you all the same.
In love and romance,