Few authors would have the gumption to start their story with a beaver and a football player, but that's exactly what Susan Elizabeth Phillips does in her new story, Natural Born Charmer.
When Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard spots a woman dressed in a beaver costume walking along the side of the road, he knows his day just got a little bit more interesting.
Blue Bailey is out to kick some butt. She's penniless, she's been dumped by her boyfriend, she's wearing a beaver costume and she's out for revenge. Dean's appearance just helps her get the jump-start on her butt-kicking that much quicker. But then what? Blue, who has wandered from place to place since she was a child, has no place to go. Her career as a portrait artist is the perfect kind of job for a woman who doesn't want roots. However, Blue knows her only hope at the moment is Dean, but that means making sure he doesn't drop her off somewhere along the way to his East Tennessee farm. Blue is at her quickest, her toughest and most tempting as she matches wits with the NFL's hottest player.
Dean isn't quite sure why he's allowing Blue to ride with him. All he knows is that her tough attitude and the way she doesn't cater to him is an aphrodisiac he can't refuse. All he's interested in is a quick affair, or so he keeps telling himself, but when they arrive at his new home, all bets are off as secrets from Dean's past and a town on the brink of extinction force Blue and Dean to rely solely on each other. Can the amiable but remote hotshot quarterback and the reticent and quirky artist find the trust and love they have been searching for all their lives?
On the whole, I really enjoyed Natural Born Charmer. Dean is a snappy, thoughtful, and all-too delicious character who takes great pleasure in teasing and arousing Blue. The depth to him that was subtly revealed in Match Me If You Can is fully explored as his character tackles family and love for the first time ever.
Blue is also a pleasure to read about and will probably stand-out as a unique and sassy protagonist in Ms. Phillips' character retinue. Blue is a softy, a woman of the school of tough-love, and a woman very much afraid of giving her trust to others. She isn't afraid however to match wits with Dean or to tell the citizens of Garrison, particularly the querulous and ultimately distinct Mrs. Nita Garrison, what is what.
The very small caveat with this story is that some of the plots feel a bit rehashed. You'll see shades of Dream a Little Dream, Heaven, Texas, and This Heart of Mine within the pages of Natural Born Charmer. Luckily, even with the recycling of plots, Susan Elizabeth Phillips still brings genuine reading joy to these pages.
Natural Born Charmer lives up to its title. The characters, the wonderful East Tennessee ambiance, and the richness of the storytelling combine for terrific reading and a surprising adventure.