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Natural Born Charmer    by Susan Elizabeth Phillips order for
Natural Born Charmer
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Football superstar Dean Robillard hopes that his road trip to Tennessee will serve a dual purpose: he's eager to check out the major renovations at a property he recently purchased, and also wants to figure out why his gilded life in the fast lane no longer satisfies. As he's tearing along a lonely stretch of Colorado highway he encounters a woman who quickly shakes up his life - and not just because she's dressed in a beaver costume.

Blue Bailey is out for blood. Her no good lying boyfriend Monty is not only a thief, but a coward to boot. After she traveled halfway across the country to be with him, he dumped her via a sickeningly smarmy letter. Even experienced ladies man Dean agrees that Monty's brush off lacks finesse. Determined to see the outcome to this unfolding soap opera, Dean agrees to drive Blue into town to confront her boyfriend. Once the dust settles, Blue has verbally emasculated Monty and set his new girlfriend flying face first into the dust. Now, all the wandering portrait painter needs are her few belongings and a fast ride out of town.

Against his better judgment, Dean offers Blue a lift to Nashville. He quickly learns that she's the antithesis to every woman he's ever known. Equally refreshing is the fact that she has no idea how famous he really is. By the time they reach his farm, Dean is enchanted with the tiny, combative woman he's affectionately dubbed Bo Peep and who seems to have an uncanny and sometimes disturbing ability to see right through him. As for Blue, she may have Mr. Celebrity Football Player all figured out, but coming to grips with her uncharacteristically lustful reaction to him is a whole other story. She'd be crazy to hang around and let herself fall completely under his natural born charm. But, ever the smooth and smart operator, Dean convinces her to work for him for the summer and that's when the real fun begins.

When Dean learns that the woman he'd hired to oversee the renovations is really his estranged mother April, he's furious. He's never forgiven her (or his famous rocker father Jack Patriot) for abandoning him to private schools while dad pursued his career and music groupie mom fed her addiction to sex, booze and drugs. The situation becomes even more complex when Dean's young half sister Riley shows up, determined to insinuate herself into her brother's life. Oddly enough, it's Blue who's the voice of reason. She knows all about abandonment, and urges Dean to face up to his past and come to terms with the dynamics of his fractured family so he can move on with his life.

Phillips has written another engaging installment in her Chicago Stars series. It's a story filled with her trademark quirky characters and their equally quirky situations. She's adept at showing both Dean and Blue's trust and abandonment issues. Blue's wicked zingers, put-downs and insights hide her own many insecurities, but Dean takes them all in stride and neatly and patiently whittles his way into her guarded heart. Their combative relationship is both funny and poignant as it unfolds. This is a classic SEP romance filled with snappy, smart dialogue, great sexual sparring, plenty of humor and a nice secondary plot involving Jack and April trying to come to terms with their own disastrous relationship. Some deep-seated issues find resolution a bit too swiftly and neatly, but as a whole, Susan Elizabeth Phillips presents another crowd pleaser in Natural Born Charmer.

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