Saturday, February 10, 2007

Natural Born Charmer, Susan Elizabeth Phillips

- I GOT CHARMED, and SEP was soooooo charming!

Thursday night found me with my friend Robin, heading to Richmond for a Susan Elizabeth Phillips booksigning for her newest release, Natural Born Charmer. This is the last book in the Chicago Stars series, and I had been anxiously awaiting Thursday night for almost 2 months. I was NOT disappointed! Ms. Phillips was so vivacious, so interesting, and so FUN, that I don't know how the night could have been any better. She gave background info, answered questions, held a trivia contest (and YES, *I* was a winner, and was "Charmed"!!), and even read from the book. And of course, through it all, she shared her trademark humor with us. It was wonderful! Pictured above right is me with Ms. Phillips. On the left is Ms. Phillips after signing books. Those books, by the by, were ALL for me. Well, actually only one of them is mine. The rest of them are for friends and OUR WINNER - Theresa. Theresa, your book will be waiting for you when you get back to the States! Enough about that stuff. Let me tell you, briefly, about this book. And if you want to order it or read a sneak peek, simply click the link.

Natural Born Charmer concludes the Chicago Stars series, and centers around the now more mature quarterback, Dean Robillard. You may remember Dean from Match Me If You Can. In NBC, he's a little older and a little wiser, but still just as sexy.

Dean finds himself thrown together with Blue Bailey, gypsy extraordinaire. When Dean sees Blue wandering down the side of a lonely Colorado road in, of all things, a beaver costume, he can't help but stop and offer her his help. A few thousand miles and an outfit change later, they end up at Dean's vacation home in Tennessee. While fighting a very strong mutual attraction, they find themselves in the center of a crumbling family, and a town struggling to hang on.

There are always wonderful secondary characters in Ms. Phillips' book, and this one is no exception. From April, who is trying to earn forgiveness for past sins; to Jack, who is forced to face his past mistakes; to Nita, who hates everyone; to Riley, who just wants somebody to love, these folks grab your heart and don't let go.

Here is where this review takes a different turn. Normally, I'd tell you all of the things that I liked about this book, and all of the things that I thought could have been better. But allow me to be honest here, ok? We're talking about Susan Elizabeth Phillips. There is a reason that she inspires such intense fan- girl- squee- moments in readers and writers alike. She's incomparable. Now hear me out.

I've read just about everything that this woman has written, including a few books that are fairly difficult to find. I will admit that I've liked everything that she's written. However, I recently read one of her older books and couldn't review it. It wasn't that it was bad, because it wasn't. It was just that it was much older, and really not of the same "technical" caliber as her newer books.

I pick books because they look interesting to me. I pick books because someone I trust tells me the book is decent. And yes, I pick books because I'd read just about anything, including a grocery list, from some very tried and true authors. SEP is a definite grocery lister for me. Even more than the fact that her books are now superb though, I like seeing how far she has come as a writer. Her early stories were scintillating and engaging. They were funny and entertaining. They made me laugh and cry. But let's face it - she's like a fine wine - she's gotten better with age. Natural Born Charmer is proof of that.

I can't find technical fault with this book. It is about as close to perfect as you can get. I enjoyed the story, it pulled me straight in, and made me forget that I was supposed to be reviewing the book. It's not that I lost objectivity. It's just that for a few hours, I was inside that small Tennessee town, following Blue and Dean around, rooting for them, cheering with them, holding my breath when things got tense, letting out breath when things got steamy. I was part of the landscape.

To say that I enjoyed this book would be gross understatement. That would be like saying that Ms. Phillips knows how to write. DUH! Was it my favorite SEP? Honestly, I don't know if I could pick a favorite if you paid me, but this one would be a fair bet for second place. That's not a mark against it, you understand. In the SEP lineup, This Heart of Mine and First Lady are at the top. I go in for those gut-wrenching, pull your still beating heart out of your chest and stomp on it, 9 hankies needed stories. Not everyone likes those, but I really do. Some of you like the funnier, breezier stories, like Ain't She Sweet or Fancy Pants. I enjoy those as well. Natural Born Charmer will captivate both camps with its wit, heart, and well - charm. There's something to be said for a book that makes you snort while tears are creeping out of the corners of your eyes. This is one of those books.

All in all, Ms. Phillips has delivered another smash hit, in my opinion. This book offers up a cast of lovable, memorable characters, in some over-the-top situations that could be taken straight from the front pages of the tabloids. The themes of abandonment, self-realization and redemption will strike a chord with many people, and the snappy dialogue is sure to result in more than a few guffaws.

Check out Ms. Phillips website to see if she'll be signing books anywhere near you. Even if you have to drive a few hours to see her, it would be time well spent. Frankly, the only thing that kept me from driving down to North Carolina to see her again was that I had to be back in Richmond with my family today. Her signings are a blast! But of course, since it's really all about the books here, I have to tell you that Natural Born Charmer is sure to be another smash hit, and that's just fine with me!

Keep turning those pages!


1 comment:

Laura Florand said...

I saw her in Raleigh yesterday. Her signings really are worth making. She is wonderful.