by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
“Just to make sure I understand . . . We’re not only running a clinic here, but you’re now teaching sex education classes in my house?” “Write down any questions you have. It’s important for boys to be as well informed as girls. And I didn’t invite them. They showed up. And before you go into your whole Prince of Darkness routine, you should know that two of those girls are teenage pregnancies waiting to happen.” “That’s not your problem.” She touched Wren’s cheek. “Don’t worry about that bad man, sweetheart. I’ll slip some garlic in your blankie.”
The first sentence of this book, “Tess danced in the rain.” and the subsequent “meet-cute” gets this book off to a very corny start. Luckily, it got much much better. Although SEP’s worst books are still very entertaining and have a lot to admire in them, I was disappointed a little bit in her last 3 novels. This one, I think, pulls her out of the little tiny rut she was in. Some of the reviewers comment that this was a rather dark book. I didn’t find it dark at all. It is not a comedic romp and there was one tragic and horrific happening, true. But there was a lot of humor, snark, and wit as well. All of SEP’s heroes and heroines have issues. Some of them have very serious issues. A few of her early books have a lot of darkness despite the happy endings. Dream a Little Dream anybody?
Tess has come to the small mountain town of Tempest, Tennessee to recover and heal from the death of her young husband. Of course, she finds love and healing both with a difficult sexy artist and a newborn baby. She runs roughshod over the townspeople with all of her big-city judgements. And she eventually finds love and healing with them too. Fair warning: if you believe in abstinence-based sex education and disapprove of birth control for teens, you will find a lot to get offended with in this book. Or, heck, you might find yourself questioning your point of view.
A lot of the humor arises from the good citizens of Tempest and Tess’s interaction with them. And there is some really nice character development there as well. The antagonists either change and grow or are handily dispatched. There is an interesting survivalist family we get to know. You can’t say that about most “chick-lit”! I liked the development of the romance: neither too much or too little, for me, anyway. There is an interesting little switch up at the end. Usually, the heroine gets all twisted up because the hero has never told her he loved her in so many words and she rejects him even though they have a great relationship. This happened in First Star I See Tonight and it annoyed the heck out of me. In this one, it’s the hero who gets all boo-de-hoo-hoo, and I’m pretty sure this was a deliberate wink from the author at romance fans.
It was an excellent comeback for one of my top 5 automatic-buy authors. And the big fat ole happy ending epilogue was truly the icing on the cake. Whether she goes back to her romantic comedies or continues along the more women’s fiction path a la Kristan Higgins, I will be there along for the ride.**4 1/2 stars**
June 21, 2020