Sunday, February 1, 2009

This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips *****

This is the 5th in the Chicago Stars series, and stars Kevin Tucker - Stars Quarterback and best friend to Cal Bonner and Jane Darlington Bonner of Nobody's Baby But Mine - and Molly Somerville, Phoebe Somerville Calebow's sister of It Had To Be You. Even though there's a similar theme - heroine getting pregnant right at the beginning, it's got a different twist than Nobody's Baby, and this time I found it funnier than ever. I admit, the first time I read it, I had my eyebrows shot up to my hairline, but once you let yourself into the seemingly-normal/partially fantasy fictional Chicago Stars world, you just go with the flow!

Kevin and Molly have something in common - they are both thrill seekers and need some danger and excitement in their lives. Molly's always been seen as a good girl, even a goodie two-shoes - except for occaasional forays into serious mischief. She was raised by Bert Somerville, owner of the Stars who would have preferred a son to the 2 completely different daughters he sired. Her life was similar to Phoebe's - boarding schools and summer camps, and not much contact with the important adults in her life.

Kevin was raised a PK - preacher's kid - by older parents who doted on their only child. It was a solid, middle class life, with summers spent at the family retreat in Michigan where he was the only kid amongst older adults. His recent thrill-seeking adventures have put him at odds with Coach Calebow, who sends him off to the Calebow vacation home for a weekend of solitude. He wasn't expecting to have company - and neither was Molly, when she went there to get away. She's been on the verge of doing something really stupid, so she figured she would stay out of trouble for the weekend.

Wrong. She's always had a crush on the good looking jock who doesn't even know her name. She's even fashioned one of her recurring characters in her children's books on him. When she couldn't sleep, she decided just to look in his room to see what he looked like sleeping... Then she decided it wouldn't hurt to just crawl into his bed, just for a touch - and the next thing she knows, she's pregnant. This leads to a marriage neither one wants but Kevin is determined the child won't be illegitimate.

What's fun about their story is the realistic way they form a friendship and then fall in love - it's not just a thunderbolt, love-at-first-sight type of relationship. When Kevin checks up on her to find out why she hasn't signed the anulment papers, he finds her depressed, and takes her with him for a few days to the family retreat that has now become a bed and breakfast/family camp. A few days turns into a few weeks, and Molly finds she's enchanted by the storybook cabins and surroundings. She finds her writing muse again, and regains her self-confidence and self-esteem while building a friendship with Kevin.

Kevin has some other family-building to do - his Aunt Lily (I think of Tyne Daily of Cagney and Lacey, sort of...) shows up to mend fences as well. There's a secondary romance with Lily and a famous painter who has a summer home there. There's also the famous softball game that gets funnier every time I listen to it - the "last kids chosen in gym class" versus the jock team which includes 2 NFL quarterbacks, where the Last Kids use cunning and deceit to nearly do the jocks in!

OK, if you can get past the odd way they get together, Kevin and Molly's story is warm and funny and touching and a romp, and I'm giving it 5 stars on this my 4th or 5th listen.

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