Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books remind me of a brewery! Yes, I know that sounds really weird, but consider - her work varies from the light and frothy lager of Lady Be Good and Nobody's Baby But Mine, through the medium-weight and complex Fancy Pants, to the dark and rather heavy Dream a Little Dream, and ending with the absolutely perfectly-blended This Heart of Mine. Consequently, I had little idea of what to expect when I picked up a copy of Honey Moon recently. Being a good little reviewer, I checked the publication date and noted that it was an earlier work, so I knew I was probably going to get more of a stout than a lite!
But what I did get was a fascinating mixture of all of the above - I have no idea what you'd call it if it was a beer! Probably an import! On the surface, it is the story of Honey Jane Moon, a young girl from the wrong side of the tracks, whose determination and drive take her to Hollywood and success. She finds love, adventures, laughter and passion and we follow her life as it moves along its confusing pathways! However, this is so much more than a simple tale of one woman and the men she loves!
Honey is a complex character, driven by her circumstances to the most unyielding and uncompromising need to succeed. She also harbors a well-hidden but overwhelming desire to be loved, and she doesn't realize how much of her life is spent chasing this goal. Honey's world is peopled by her own wastrel family, or what's left of it, and some of Hollywood's elite, notably aging movie star Dash Coogan (I saw Robert Redford's face on this character - life has left its mark, but not dimmed his appeal), and young up-and-comer Eric Dillon! This novel became less of a hero/heroine romance after the first few chapters and more of an ensemble piece, where there are very few secondary characters - everybody we meet becomes important. I'm not quite sure how Ms. Phillips manages this, but she makes us care about Eric, Dash, Honey, Honey's dimwitted sister Chantal, Dash's ex-lover Liz, and even Liz's neighbor Lilly. The children, as they arrive, are also crucial to the character development of some of these people, and the pace of this story never lets up as Honey's life unfolds - not in the simplified vacuum that exists in many romances, but in a complicated real-life environment where life goes on regardless of joy or heartache. It just "is"!!!
The parallel is drawn between the "Black Thunder" roller coaster in Honey's amusement park home and the life she leads - eventually both have to be braved by tormented souls, in order to achieve a kind of psychological catharsis. Of course there is plenty of sex, scandal, love, betrayal and laughter, as there should be in any good romance. But don't expect to be able to anticipate where this story is going - it twists and turns back on itself and constantly surprises the reader! My goodness, that sounds a lot like life, doesn't it?
For anyone who has an urge to get lost in a sprawling tale that spans a generation and covers territory from the Carolinas to Hollywood to Europe, then this is the book for you. Especially when you consider that the ending will reinforce the basic need to believe that good can truly triumph and love can overcome just about all obstacles. It's a keeper!!