Saturday, February 12, 2011

You Gave Away How Much???? "This Heart of Mine" by Susan Elizaberth Phillips

Molly Somerville knows she has a reputation for trouble. She did give away her inheritance, but hey, nobody is perfect. Still, if anyone has an almost perfect life, it's Molly. While her Daphne the Bunny children's books could be selling better, she loves her cramped loft, her French poodle, and her career creating the animals who live in the fictional Nightingale Woods. She even loves her older sister, Phoebe, even though it was tough at first growing up in her shadow. Phoebe is beautiful, blissfully married, and owner of the most successful professional football team in America. But who other than your sister knows you are about to do something drastic everytime you change your hair? Yes, Molly is happy about almost everything except her crush on Stars' daredevil quarterback, that awful, gorgeous Kevin Tucker--a man who can't even remember her name.

Kevin's hidden depths and iron will propel Molly out of her comfortable existence into an unforgetable summer at a place called Wind Lake. Surrounded by paintbox cottages and an old bed-and-breakfast, Molly and Kevin battle their attraction while dealing with an aging sexpot actress, a cranky, world-famous artist, and a pair of teenage newlyweds. Their lives and careers are in crisis, but sometimes falling in love hurts, sometimes it makes you mad as hell, and sometimes it can heal in the most special and unexpected ways.

This fifth novel in the "Chicago Stars series" is set about 12 years after the first novel and finds the younger daughter of Bert Somerville at an interesting time of her life. She is approaching 30 years of age, has finished college and purchased her own small and cramped condo in an old, rennovated warehouse on Chicago's North side. Just a few years previously, in an effort to finally rid her life of her uncaring, mean, and controlling father (now dead), Molly had put her $15 million inheritance in a charitable foundation and was now having to earn her own living. But she felt like her own person for the first time in her life. If only she could find a way to get Kevin to even know she was alive. She had nurtured a crush on him since she was 16 years old for all the good it had done her, and she had almost come to the conclusion that her life was just fine the way it was. Let Kevin have his fashion models and his arm candy blondes; she was OK by herself.

Kevin, on the other hand, was in trouble. After nearly a decade of almost legendary performance with the Chicago Stars, he had sustained a shoulder injury that required surgery, and now he was having to face up to the possibility that he was indeed mortal, and the end of his pro career was just a few years away. Now he finds himself on suspension after some daredevil stunts that put his safety and physical wellbeing at risk. His past was beginning to intrude on his fast and furious life as well--his last remaining relative had died and left him an aging old Methodist church campground--built by his grandfather on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan--and now all his. Due to some very bazaare, hurtful, and angering circumstances, Molly and Kevin find their lives entwined, if for only a few months, and Kevin drags her to the old campground, thinking it was uninhabited. He plans to close it and sell the property and rid himself of that part of his history. Surprise!! It is now a thriving and popular summer resort and fully booked through September.

This is such an interesting novel and will take the reader from humor to tears and back again. Molly & Kevin's story is strange and convoluted, to say the least, but the background characters are strong and interesting, bringing an unexpected flavor and some surprising aspects to their story. The characters from several of the preceeding novels in this series again make an appearance, and the description of the family/friends impromptu softball game--the Jocks vs the Last Kids Chosen in Gym Class--is an absolute hoot. SEP has this marvelous sense of humor and it breaks through in all her writing.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of all SEP's novels is the way she brings in personal issues that are often not the subject of romance fiction. Kevin's struggle with his past is never far below the surface and it keeps popping up at the most inopportune times. Molly's fears about being loved for herself, her fierce independence and insistence on taking care of herself testify to the fact that her past still rules her inner life more than she realizes. Family and friends are important and they form a colorful background to the main story. The "side" stories are a delight in themselves as they impinge on Molly & Kevin's journey. All the characters have glaring flaws--they are all completely human. All of them have to deal with the pressures of a world that isn't very very kind or forgiving. Each deals with hidden hurts, old secrets, fears that have been shoved and buried for decades, and relationships that suffer as a result. SEP simply doesn't back away from those and thus, the reader gets a dose of humanity that is captivating and compelling.

There are gazillions of good books "out there" and serious romance readers know that to be the fact. But there are just some books that keep drawing us back, keep making us deal with the realities of human experience, even though they may not exactly match the reader's personal journey. This is one of those books. It is one that contains so much that a reader cannot possibly catch all the nuances of the story in a single time through. And I happen to be one of those readers who feel like I want to know these people better and for that reason alone, I keep on going back and re-reading these novels. This one is so full of good stuff and so well written that it is just as interesting the second or third time through.

If you have not read any of the Chicago Stars series, you can start anywhere in the series, but I would recommend that you read them all. By the time you have completed book seven, you will indeed feel as if you know some of these characters like good friends and neighbors. I give this novel a 4.5 out of 5.


Mary G said...

You captured this book perfectly & I agree it's a book "that contains so much that a reader cannot possibly catch all the nuances of the story in a single time". I think it time for a reread.

While Dream A Little Dream is my first & fave SEP, this one was magical. As much as the story was amazing, I absolutely loved the blurbs of the children's story before each chapter. The characters in Molly's
book written for children seemed to mimic was was going on in the characters of the maim story.

It was funny, charming & I almost looked forward to what was happening there too.

Mary G said...

Sorry "main" story