Saturday, December 15, 2012

Call Me Irresistible

Call Me Irresistible (Wynette, Texas #6)Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meg Koranda arrives in the small town of Wynette, Texas, just in time to fulfill her role as Maid of Honor in her best friend's wedding. Lucy is marrying Ted Beaudine, the town darling and the Most Perfect Man on Earth. Everyone loves him. Everyone. Even sunbeams seem to follow him around! Meg is the only person who finds him irritating, and who likewise irritates him. What Meg quickly realizes is that the match isn't as ideal as it should be, and Lucy is intimidated by her fiance's perfection. When she voices her reservations, she starts a chain of events no one sees coming, and suddenly she finds herself the most hated person in town. Unfortunately for Meg, she lacks the money to leave, so for once in her unfocused life she is forced to find reserves of resourcefulness and determination she didn't know she had in order to survive and overcome the obstacles and complications now blocking her path.

I put this book on hold based on an interesting blurb I found on a list of this year's Top 10 Romance Novels. (Put out by the publisher? I don't remember which list it was.) I was expecting it to be a good story, based on its presence on that list, but I was not prepared to be so drawn in by the story and the complexity of the character development. Then I discovered it was book #6 in a series with at least 7 volumes so far--happy day! I've gone on to read #7 (even better than #6!), and I plan to go back and read the earlier novels as well. What a delight to find a new-to-me author who writes with such depth, humor, and compassion for the follies and foibles of her characters.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways. Some sex scenes and swearing.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Great Escape

The Great Escape (Wynette, Texas, #7)The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To call The Great Escape a romance is technically accurate but so inadequate. It's really a character-driven novel of three couples struggling with identity and history, trying to figure out what they want and who they want to be.

The book opens as Lucy panics and flees her own wedding to The Ideal Man, Ted Beaudine. His perfection has tipped her over the edge into the rebellion she never experienced as a teenager, and she escapes Texas with Panda, a biker who isn't quite what he seems. Panda tries to shock Lucy into returning to Ted--or at least to her family--and he is surprised and dismayed when his efforts fail. He decided long ago he was unworthy of and too dangerous for family life, and Lucy's presence is an unwelcome reminder of what he cannot have. Unfortunately for him, Lucy can't yet bear the thought of returning to her old life as the prim and proper lobbyist daughter of the former president of the United States, instead seeking solace in her new identity as Viper until she can figure out who and what to become now.

Couple number two features depressed and penniless Bree West, whose cheating husband dumped her for a nineteen-year-old office temp, and gregarious real estate salesman Mike Moody, whom Bree has detested since childhood and blames for destroying her chance at happiness with her first love, David. Bree returned to Charity Island after inheriting the guardianship of David's twelve-year-old son, Toby, who happens to idolize Big Mike, and she's grappling with her new realities of poverty and parenthood.

Couple number three consists of famous TV fitness guru Temple Renshaw and the love of her life, Max, whom she deems unsuitable. Temple is known for her harsh onscreen methods of coercing contestants into losing weight on her reality show "Fat Island," and she is no less critical when it comes to herself and shedding the pounds she gained in her despair over giving up Max. She hires Panda to keep her hidden from the paparazzi and prevent her from getting her hands on contraband like chocolate or muffins. But no matter how thin she gets, it's never enough.

Healing occurs slowly as their lives intersect on a small island in Lake Michigan.

I absolutely love this novel. It's the seventh in a series, following Call Me Irresistible, which I picked up because it was on a Top 10 list. Ms. Phillips is now one of my favorite authors. Her characters are real and flawed. They are people you might actually meet or already know. They struggle with PTSD, abuse, societal and familial pressures, sexual identity, body image, and low self-esteem. They crave a sense of purpose and seek to make a positive difference in the world. I'm glad to have met them.

For readers' advisors: character doorway. There are a few sex scenes and some swearing.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (Charley Davidson, #4)Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Private investigator Charley Davidson hasn't left her apartment building in the two months since she was tortured by the man Reyes Farrow, her supernatural boyfriend, had been jailed a decade ago for murdering. Turns out he wasn't all that dead, so Reyes has been released from prison, while Charley is stuck in a self-imposed one. But a girl's gotta pay her bills eventually, and Charley owes a lot of money to the home shopping channels on television, so she takes the case of a young woman convinced someone has been tormenting her since childhood and is now trying to kill her. Her investigations keep being interrupted, however, by demon attacks, bank robberies, and family interventions. Charley needs to figure out--and fast--what other abilities come with her birthright as the grim reaper, or soon the bad guys might not be the only ones dying.

As always, Darynda Jones' books are a fast-paced, hilarious romp from beginning to end. This one has a bit less sexual content, though, since Charley and Reyes are furious with each other through much of the novel. My only complaint is that I now have to wait for months until the fifth book is released and I can find out what happens next!

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, character is secondary. There is plenty of swearing and sexual references, so don't suggest this series for people who want "clean reads." Fans of Janet Evanovich's zany Stephanie Plum series will usually love it, though.

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