Friday, October 1, 2010

Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen *****

What makes a great book even better? An audio book of it - read by Kate Fleming/Anna Fields! Yay! I located a set of cassettes of this out-of-print audio book, and digitized them as I knew I'd want to listen more than once. Since digitizing is a 1x deal, I also listened to it.

here's my original review from 2008:

Ok, I keep calling her books "another winner" - what the heck, they are! Head Over Heels has some of Andersen's stock plot lines and character attributes, but it doesn't make me feel like she's writing the same story over and over.

Our heroine is Veronica, an interior decorator who lives in Seattle. She's just arrived in her home town of Fossil, in East Washington state, having just learned about her sister's murder that occurred a month ago while she was out of the country on business. Both their parents are also gone, and Veronica has inherited the family business, a bar called the Tonk, her sister's home and at least temporary custody of her niece, 6 year old Lizzy, because Lizzy's father has been accused of the murder and is currently on the lam.

When Veronica goes into the bar to meet the current manager/bartender and see how things are going, she gets a rush of why she wanted to leave all those years ago: in her own personal memory of her upbringing, her father was a party-guy and her mother worked too hard to please him, both running the bar. She and her sister worked in the bar until she left town - her sister had been running it ever since. She hated the bar and working there, and wants to just sell it and take Lizzy with her back to her life in Seattle.

Our hero is Cooper Blackstock, who is doing a little undercover by working as the current manager/bartender for the Tonk, not letting on to anyone that Eddie, Lizzy's father, is his half-brother. As far as Coop is concerned, Eddie is innocent even if he did run, and he wants to see if he can figure out the killer's identity. Coop's backstory: 13 years in the Marines and currently a best-selling author under a slight pseudonym, James Lee Cooper (his first name really is James).

Of course, the chemistry between Ronnie and Coop is pretty immediate, and it isn't all good chemistry - they're fighting like cats and dogs right off the bat. A friend, Marissa, had been taking care of the bar for Ronnie while trying to locate her, and hired Coop and also leased him the upstairs room in the sister's house - so now he's living with Ronnie and Lizzy.

Meanwhile - we get the scary killer's POV but only vague clues to his identity as little pieces of the puzzle begin to come to light. Apparently the sister had an affair with someone famous or upstanding in the community, and fingers are pointing around. Whoever it is is feeling pretty cocky about how he has fooled everyone.

There's a cute secondary romance between Marissa, who is widowed, and Kody the refrigerator guy who has a thing about women with kids. This plot device has shown up before: Kody's sister has a son, and she sleeps around. Kody has seen the nephew get attached to all these men who then up and leave her - and him - and he has sworn off girlfriends with kids to avoid this situation for the kids' sakes. So, he'll go out with her, and sleep with her when the kids are away, but he doesn't want to ever meet the kids. Once she figures out he has a problem with her kids, she drops him. It's interesting how Andersen maneuvers the dialog so when you read it you see what each one is saying and also how the other misunderstands the motives. Ah, remember it's a romance, and they manage to get together and straighten it all out.

Meanwhile, Coop is looking for any clues, and Ronnie is falling in love - but, oops, someone recognizes Coop and spills the beans about his relationship to Eddie in front of Ronnie. There goes that whole trust thing! Coop, sensitive Marine that he is, does some serious courting - flowers, gifts, you name it (he loves Lizzy's new cat; he's great with kids; he probably even eats quiche) - and manages to get back in her good graces. Whew - good thing too, because he has fallen head over heels for her! (get it??)

But Coop has one secret left untold, about his occupation (best selling author). From her perspective, he's a drifter without ambition, just like her dad. She imagines a life with him will be like her parents, and she doesn't want that. So she asks him to tell her exactly what he does for a living so she can deal with it. But Coop is stubborn - he grew up never being good enough for his mother, and he doesn't want to tell her - he wants her love unconditionally, without it being based on what he does for a living. He's concerned she won't love him for who he is when she realizes he's making big bucks on his books. She even tells him that it doesn't matter what he does but it does matter that he won't tell her - but they are both stubborn and hold out, causing a major rift.

Well - they hold out until the killer is revealed and kidnaps Ronnie. Then all bets are off. As soon as she's released, both are ready to forgive anything and everything. Ya know, I think even then I'd have been a leeetle teensy more put out about what his secret was than she was, though!! OK, hard to say since I wasn't kidnapped. Maybe that clouds the judgement.

Lots of laughs, pretty hot love scenes - I rate it 5 but not the same 5 as others of hers. There I go with that whole rating thing - it's higher than a 4 for me, but maybe 4 3/4 is what I need for this one. I loved it but not as much as the last 2 of hers I read (Skintight and Just for Kicks).

Added in 2010: ok, the audiobook is flawless (now that I digitized it and removed all the repeated sentences...) and raises it from that 4 3/4 to a definite 5 - Kate Fleming was an amazingly brilliant narrator and really made this one shine! (but I still feel Coop owed Ronnie a major apology for holding out on his career...)

No comments: