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Natural Born Charmer …

Natural Born Charmer
Susan Elizabeth Phillips

First, I have to say that I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  Her books have always been … sweet.  She has a wonderful sense of humor.  The characters in her book have always been able to not take themselves so serious, despite whatever serious issues they are dealing with.  And you might not always want to, but you end up rooting for her characters.  The characters have depth.  They change and grow, and you end up seeing their inner strength.  SEP books are always a picker upper.  When I'm bummed, I'll end up re-reading a couple of them.  I always feel good afterwards.

So, on to this book.  Perhaps I had too much expectation for this book.  I have to say, that although this book is in the same vein as other SEP books, it's not quite her best work.  Not to say the book wasn't good.  It just wasn't her best (though that's a pretty high standard).

Dean Robillard, star quarterback of the Chicago Stars, is driving when he sees a headless beaver marching down the road.  The girl beaver is looking mighty pissed.  Turns out, the beaver is Blue Bailey in a beaver costume.  Dean is in the middle of his own crisis.  He's intruiged and pulls over.  And the adventure begins.  You know what happens – Dean and Blue fall for each other.  Oh, I should mention that ther is a whole series revolving around the Chicago Stars.  You should read them all.

SEP does characters well, even supporting, secondary characters.  But in this case, I think she overreached.  We have Dean, a natural born charmer who's had pretty much everything going for him, trying to figure out what is missing from his life.  We have Blue, who is committment phobic given her unstable childhood, being passed from caretaker to caretaker while her mom is off saving the world.  We have Dean's mother, an ex-drugged out groupie who is trying to get back into Dean's life and redeem herself.  We have Dean's rock star father, who has never been involved in either of his children's lives but who is trying to grow up.  We have Dean's half-sister, a 11-year old who just lost her mother and trying to make a connection with Dean, a big brother she's never met before.  Then we have the town, a tiny place in Tennessee.  The town has its own issues.  The town's owner is a grumpy old woman who abuses her power over the town and over anyone she meets.  But somehow she has a heart underneath it all (I actually didn't quite buy this part). 

Anyway, there was just too much going on.  I think this is why SEP didn't have time to fully develop each of the characters.  I never quite understood what Dean's problems were.  There were hints about his bad childhood but it was all resolved a little too tidily.  I never quite got what was going on with Blue.  There were again, hints and possibilities, but never quite fully developed.  Same with Dean's mother and father.  Dean's mother has been clean for 10 years.  Why try to make a connection with Dean now?  And what prompted Dean's rock star father from suddenly taking growing up from his rock star life style?  And don't even get me started on the town owner old grump, who ended up in this weird grandmother role that I never bought into. 

I guess in the end, I never got the why of everything.  Everything got resolved and I got my happy endings as expected, but it all felt a bit too contrived.  The situations these characters were in and how it was resolved all seemed like SEP had a vision of where this was going, and it was going to get there dammit.  Because I have read all of SEP's books, I can see where she was going.  But I wanted her to take more time to get there.

In the end, I still enjoyed this cast of characters.  They were all sweet (mostly) and you root for them.  I just wish I loved them a bit more, like I do with other SEP books.  The book is still worth reading, and SEP is still an awesome author and an auto-buy for me.  I give this book a B. 

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