Heaven, TX, Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I have decided not to care about spoilers in my reviews due to one simple fact: I cannot write one I like without any. So here we go.

Once again SEP reveals what her characters are, on a surface level, on the first few pages. She calls Bobby Tom (our hero) “pro footballs most visible glamour boy”, and then adds some depth to him by rounding it up with a usual thereismoretohimthanmeetstheeye. She also sets him in his proper place in time, forced into retirement at 33 and starting an acting career. Our heroine (Gracie) is a complete 180, a direct opposition to our hero. SEP shows it in her own hilarious way the first time they meet during the party that must have come from a very wry imagination (if an imagination can be wry). Gracie has an open nature, that coupled with 30yearoldvirgin innocence makes for great entertainment. And she is supposed to try to control him. The setting calls for a LOL.

The way SEP describes both of her main characters works as a clue into the way we (and the world) are supposed to look at them. For Bobby Tom she uses sparkling larger than life words, while Gracie comes across as just average (or blah). Bobby Tom seems to be a jock with money, looks and brains, and Gracie has plain looks that are only just compensated with brains. Their mutual relationship is described perfectly with one direct sentence: “He was a glittering superhuman creature who must have been put on earth by a perverse God to remind homely women like herself that some things were unobtainable.”

The first few pages then tell us a bit more about our characters: Bobby Tom makes women play a game for his hand in marriage, he likes having private jokes with himself, he has an ego problem, he is manipulative and very intelligent. Gracie is a closeted sensualist and a peeping tom wannabe, also smart, patient, doesnt look as bad as she thinks, easily distracted with new and shiny. And you adjust your opinion of the two accordingly. The story goes from a duckling and a swan to a much more interesting battle of determinations and minds.

SEP gets you emotionally involved with her characters, using relatable language and descriptions. While placing them on two opposing sides, she also makes you root for them both.

I think this might be an appropriate moment to mention that I really really wanted to like Bobby Tom, Gracie seemed like a character that deserves a good man, not to mention I liked him from the first Stars book. But he started of as a bored boohoo playboy who couldnt play football anymore, and was feeling bad for himself. OK, I dont like jocks, I admit. BUT. He kept Gracie with him on the trip to Texas for entertainment. Dude. His ohyouaretheclownIneed smirking attitude towards Gracie pissed me of.

Yes, there is more to him than all that, he isan easy mark”, very private, feels like he owes something for his success, and at the bottom of it all a decent human. But I just had a problem with the whole patpat on the head he gave Gracie. Then again, she showed some teeth soon enough, not to mention turned him on. Which he refused to admit.

ALSO, a thing I had a problem with. Through the whole book Bobby Tom fights and then makes excuses as to why he is attracted to Gracie, the whole time labeling her as less, or worse, or a charity case, because she doesnt have DD breasts. Dude needed the biggest reality check and an attitude adjustment from beginning to end. His refusal to cope with his own life made me maaaad. Made the whole painful groveling at the end all the more enjoyable though.

But I digress.

Once their entertaining road trip to film location ends, Gracie ends up on the bottom, gripped by despair that she still wont manage to live. That is where the part that makes you understand the two humans trying to cope with their new reality starts.

We also get a nice side story involving Bobby Toms mom. The best part is that the side story does not seem like an addon. It flows and contributes to the greater scheme of things.

As the story moved on, so did I. Bobby Tom started making sense, and mostly didnt anger me to the point of frustration. The way I got to experience him was more along the lines of growing up alongside him, or diving deeper into who he is. The more is revealed to Gracie, the more we all figure out. Most frustrating part of the book I must say is the fact that we get a full on insight into the heads of our characters, and we feel the refusal Bobby Tom has for his changed circumstance, we feel the way Gracie opens up her inexperienced heart, and we most definitely cheer on. Only to have it all go down the drain with a resolved flush.

SEP leaves bits and pieces of our characters on the pages for us to find, she fits in the details that make them who they are like an offhand comment that flows with the arc, is a part of narration, makes sense and doesnt serve just one purpose. She uses those little fillers as much as she uses the big events that drive the story forward. She also uses dialogue, the characters voices and makes them more human, relatable, understandable, through their every word and interaction. One other thing she does in all her books is not letting us know all at once. As our hero and heroine get to know each other, we get to know them to.

The way SEP structured this book you were driven to get the happy ending, to want them to be uncomplicated and happy, to cheer for some kind of clarity. That is what makes the end, the situation where our heroes are forced to figure out who they are and what they want, and they refuse to do so, all the more sad. And frustrating. The tension is at an all time high two pages until THE END. And the book doesnt have an epilogue. No way for you to feel that nice calm after a good tumble.

This is one of those books that got me involved, and then left me wondering what to do with the rest of my life.

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