Monday, February 9, 2009

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips *****

I'm finally done with my Chicago Stars Audio Marathon of 2009! And I'm a big fan of Natural Born Charmer with Blue and Dean.

We first met Dean in Match Me If You Can - he was the model-handsome quarterback backup to Kevin (This Heart Of Mine) Tucker, friend of Annabelle. He's driving along, looking for a diversion during the off-season, and there's a woman in a beaver suit on the side of the highway...

Blue is doing whatever she can to support herself, including a job marketing Beaver Lumber by standing in a beaver suit, directing traffic. Blue is a wanderer - her backstory includes a crusading mother who left her in the care of others while she went around saving everyone else. Blue has been left behind time after time - first her mother, then various friends of her mothers. She has major trust issues, so keeps her life simple so she can stay on the move.

Dean has a similar backstory - his mom April was a rock star junkie, bed-hopping and drug-ingesting, leaving Dean in boarding schools. He didn't even find out his father was rock star Jack Patriot until he was 13, and that fact is still a secret to everyone except April, Jack and Dean.

Dean decides to drag Blue along (she has no choice - she's down to her last $20...) to his new home in Tennessee, where a housekeeper is overseeing the remodeling.

Jack Patriot had one marriage, to a country star, with one daughter - Riley. The country star has just died in an accident, and Riley is being cared for by a nanny at her home in Nashville while Jack is on the road. Riley learned about her relationship to Dean and that he has a new home in Tennessee, not far away. Riley takes off on her own to find Dean, who is family after all.

Since the housekeeper ends up being Dean's mom, April, pretty soon they are all living there, trying to get along and learning to be a family. April has never forgiven Jack, Dean has never forgiven Jack or April, Riley is desperate for attention, and Blue (while mortified of her reaction to her rock idol, Jack) is the mediator amongst them all.

It's a fun story about forgiveness and family and love. Although Blue doesn't fit Dean's idea of the type of woman he's attracted to, he soon realizes she knows him - she GETS him - and she's just THAT into him, which is what he needs. They both struggle with trust issues, and in the end come up with a plan to test them both. But it isn't just their love story - it's April and Jack's, and Jack and Riley's and even Blue and Mrs Garrison's - young love, mature love, parent/child love.

And the ending is so wonderful that even if I was feeling a 4 star, I'd have changed my mind during the epilogue and given it 5 stars. Oh, and Notable Pet status goes to Killer/Fluffy, the dog!

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