Friday 1 August 2014

#CBR6 Book 79: "Heaven, Texas" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

The ridiculously named Bobby Tom Denton was Chicago Stars' famous quarterback until he sustained a career ending knee injury. Now he's unsure of what he's going to do with his life, and deeply frustrated about it. When the tenacious and bossy Gracie Snow turns up on his doorstep and announces she's going to escort him to his hometown Telarosa (formerly Heaven) in Texas to start shooting the action movie he agreed to star in. Gracie's spent most of her life living a sheltered existence, working in a retirement home, and is now determined to make her new job as a production assistant a success. If she can't get Denton to Texas on time, she'll be fired.

More used to leggy, promiscuous models than prim, mousy virgins, Bobby Tom is fascinated with Gracie, but not really all that interested in following her orders. When he finally does arrive on the film set, more than half a day late, he discovers that his selfishness has dire consequences for Gracie, however. She's fired, and devastated. He demands they hire her back, as his personal assistant, agreeing to pay her salary. As Gracie has already shown that she refuses to take any kind of charity from Denton, and is appalled by how many people who seem to be blithely taking advantage of him and sponging off him, the producer agrees to pretend she is still paid by the film studio.

It seems like every single person in Telarosa and the surrounding area has some eligible woman they want to introduce to the former quarterback, now future action star. Bobby Tom is sick of all the attention and declares that Gracie is his fiancee. To make this a convincing charade, he also gets his widowed mother to give her a makeover. Of course, as soon as she starts dressing her age, applying some makeup and has a decent haircut, Bobby Tom Denton is not the only man in Telarosa to notice Gracie Snow. What is he going to do if she decides that she has enough of him bossing her around, and takes off with someone else?

Mrs. Julien skipped this book because she just couldn't deal with a hero named Bobby Tom. I agree that the name is truly ridiculous, but the book is pretty much a funny romp. As seems to be the case in a lot of Phillips' books, there is also a secondary plot running through the book, involving an older couple, in this case Denton's widowed mother and the richest man in town, who is hated by nearly everyone and keeps threatening to shut down his tech company, which would be the final nail in Telarosa's coffin. He's been in love with her since they were both in high school, but never thought he could have her, and proceeds to blackmail her into dating him, in a manner that I frankly found quite despicable, but he is also filled with very believable remorse afterwards, and grew on me as a character.

Bobby Tom is quite ridiculous and I frankly don't understand why Gracie put up with him for so long before putting her dainty foot down and telling him what's what. He's used to being an adored playboy and having had his career drastically cut short, never took the time to consider what he wanted to do once football was no longer an option. Emotionally immature but sexually experienced, he seems to think that giving Gracie a makeover and seducing her is doing her a great favour, never really stopping to take in how much she's improved his life since he met her. While he's self-centred, he's also nothing but courteous, kind and far too generous with everyone around him, even when they are taking advantage of him both financially and emotionally. He doesn't seem to think that he should ever say no to anyone, and cannot for the life of him understand why Gracie won't take the expensive gifts he wants to give her, or insists on paying rent to stay in the spare room above his garage.

Gracie is awesome and my favourite part of the whole book. She's the reason I'm giving the book 4 rather than 3.5 stars. Having devoted herself to helping others in her mother's care home until said mother retired to Florida, she is finally trying to create a new life and identity for herself. Used to surrounding herself with pensioners, she's a bit overwhelmed when she starts making friends her own age and really blossoms when she starts settling in Telarosa. She sees Bobby Tom for who he is, both his good and bad qualities, and hates that everyone around him seems to take him and his tremendous wealth for granted. Since Bobby Tom barely has anything for her to do as his assistant, she makes herself indispensable on the film set, doing everything from running the catering truck to babysitting, as required. She's determined not to let Denton see how head over heels in love with him she is, knowing that they are from such vastly different worlds that she doesn't have a chance of him loving her back.

With the exception of the beginning of Denton's mother's romance, which was a bit creepy, and a minor subplot involving an old girlfriend of Bobby Tom's and the jealous town sheriff, her fiancee, which just didn't work for me at all, this was a very fun, and quite often silly romp. I can see why it's still on the Top 100 list over at All About Romance. Plus, I can now say that I've read a romance where the hero was called Bobby Tom. Never thought that was going to happen.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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