Desert Isle Keeper
Heaven, Texas is the second book in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ football series, all of which can be read independently from one another. The first book in her football series is It Had To Be You, continues with Nobody’s Baby But Mine, and finishes with Dream a Little Dream.
Personally, I do not like football. I also have not met many people from Texas and certainly no male football players from there. The very phrase “good old boy” makes me cringe. The hero’s name is Bobby Tom Denton and I’ve never met a man who has two first names, something I would usually consider to be a “redneck” type of name. That this undoubted chauvinist also is surrounded by a bevy of gorgeous women, whom he refers to as “prime cut,” would ordinarily have me howling in outrage. All that said, I adore this book!
The basic premise of the story is that BT (that’s what everyone calls him), a man who has everything and whom no woman can “reel in” for marriage, falls in love with a virgin spinster who has worked in a nursing home her whole life. The heroine, Gracie Snow is no great beauty although she becomes mildly pretty after BT’s friends and relatives work on her hair, clothing and makeup. This aspect of the plot is also something I would ordinarily hate!
Only in the hands of a terrific romance writer could this unpromising premise bloom in full glory. And it does in the hands of the incomparable Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her husband has worked in the executive end of football and she brings a total ring of authenticity to this book as a result. She fully develops football characters, including Bobby Tom Denton, and she does this from a woman’s perspective. Dan Jenkins is a well known male writer about football characters but his work is very different from this female romance writer’s.
Phillips especially takes the reader into the heart and mind of Bobby Tom and, as we see him come to terms with his life, we come to love him too. BT has just lost his career because of a knee injury. Phillips lets us see BT’s unique way of looking at the world and how he’s become used to being used by everyone around him. He also cultivated the persona of the ultimate charmer, complimenting the other person endlessly and eventually getting his own way. Bobby Tom now has to find something else in his life to replace football and, in the process, he has to finally grow up.
One very funny moment in the book is when he takes a date out but also takes Gracie with him as his bodyguard. How he handles his date that evening will have you howling out loud as he fabricates how good Gracie is with an Uzi machine gun and how he can only have sex with his date if she doesn’t mind Gracie’s coming in to watch them as he can’t be out of her sight. There are lots of scenes like that in this book and you will find it one of the funniest romances you’ve read. A running gag in the book is how Bobby Tom gives his women fans the “football quiz” so they have a chance to become Mrs. Bobby Tom. However, SEP is also a master at bringing poignancy into a story, and she achieves that in this book as well.
Gracie is a fine heroine and you can understand BT’s gradually falling in love with her. However, this is really Bobby Tom Denton’s book. There is a view of the romance novel that states that it is the hero who ultimately makes the book work, or not, for the romance reader. Bobby Tom certainly came through for me. If I could fall in love with this guy, whose personal ad should send me running in the opposite direction, any reader can!
Over the years, AAR has had many a guest reviewer. If we don't know the name of the reviewer, we've placed their reviews under this generic name.
|Review Date:||May 6, 1999|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
|Review Tags:||Chicago Stars series | funny | slow burn | Sports Romance | Texas | Top 100 Romance|
This book just did not age well for me, which is unfortunately how I feel about the entire series minus MMIYC. I suppose I’ve been very vocal since the most recent book was out (which was AWFUL) about how disappointed I am in this series upon rereads. This one is one of my least favorite for some of the reasons others have mentioned.
The penchant for public humiliation and extravagant gestures is what drove me away from this author. I would laugh while reading the novels, but carry a sour taste in my mouth afterwards. This one is a perfect example of all that I find unlikable about SEP novels.
I was rereading the last 50 or so pages of this book last night (and I’m still charmed by the football quiz at the end). However, this book has another trope that I don’t really like in romances and I see lots of authors use it, which is the 11th-hour epiphany when the hero (or heroine) suddenly realizes they do indeed love the person they’ve been sparring with for 400 pages. I have a difficult time coming to terms with this idea and it’s maybe because I’ve never experienced it myself. Gracie has an epiphany too at nearly the end of the book when she realizes her own self-worth through a conversation with a third-party, but that seems more believable than Bobby Tom’s sudden realization he loves Gracie. Does love suddenly strike someone and jolt them into self-realization? I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to appreciate this literary device in romances.
I can certainly understand why people don’t like–and even hate–this book, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. If people’s objections press your buttons, then, probably it’s not the book for you. I know almost nothing about football or athletes, and normally a good ole boy like Bobby Tom (even his name makes me cringe) would NOT be my cuppa. However, because he is never cruel–unaware and stubborn, yes–I came to love him almost from the first he shows up. It’s a tricky balance because most of the time, he is amused at Gracie, so it could have easily slid into his actively laughing at her, but he never crosses that line as his affection grows into love. Grace is someone who has always suppressed what she’s really like to do and be, so Bobby Tom’s love liberates her as she learns to value herself. Plus, I have been laughing at the final “football quiz” every time I think of it since the book first came out. When I first read it, I laughed out loud for about five minutes. No exaggeration. So, my advice is: start reading it, and if you like it, keep on. If not, go on to another book–there are so many great ones out there, don’t waste your time trying to love one you don’t.
100 times this!
@LyndaX – the football quiz at the end is very funny, and it’s also very romantic and sweet. Knowing nearly nothing about the game myself, I totally identified with Gracie here and I loved that Bobby Tom did not care a fig that she was clueless about the game either.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, SEP is an author who either works for you or doesn’t work at all. Unfortunately, I’m very much in the latter category, for some of the reasons Chrisreader articulated above. I really, really do not like scenes in which the hero or heroine must grovel or is humiliated publicly, nor do I like to read courtships conducted in public or grand public gestures that seem to be more about attention grabbing than about expressing a serious commitment. Having said that, this is by no means SEP’s least rewarding book, and if other readers enjoy it good for them. It’s just not for me.
I agree with all the above comments. Between you, you have articulated everything that annoys me about a SEP book. I too hate the way SEP humiliates her heroines and also find most of the male leads in her books to be boorish in their behaviour. That said, because SEP writes well , I found myself repeatedly giving yet another of her books a try hoping the heroine won’t be mistreated and the humour would be less cruel. Unfortunately every time I found myself angry at the way she was treated. Finally I decided I would not read another SEP book. I have met SEP fans who think her books are funny so it’s obviously a case of YMMV. Personally, if I want a humorous romance from that era, I much prefer to reread some Jennifer Crusie.
I think this was the first book I ever read from SEP. It ultimately did charm me, though it does have some moments when I cringed, especially during the many scenes of humiliation of Gracie. I’ve sense come to see some of these moments as trademark SEP where the heroine is belittled and humiliated, the hero has to grovel publicly to win her back, and the whole town ultimately joins in to bring the two together and affirm their love. SEP enjoys spectacles and I find that quite fascinating, especially since most romances keep the romance private between two people.
“since” not “sense”!
This is one of my least favorite SEPs. I found Bobby Tom to be a boor and Gracie to be a caricature. I do really like the romance of his mom and the bad boy from her youth. But the rest of the book is a big miss for me.
I personally couldn’t stand Bobby Tom and I hate romances where either (or in this case both) of the main characters have to be humiliated repeatedly. It’s a SEP staple but I hate it. I also personally dislike “public” romances (if anyone proposed to me by blimp, or big spectacle I’d run the other way) but I get that some people love this style and it totally works for them.
I also have trouble buying that Bobby Tom is going to completely change his lifestyle and be happy with Gracie. I think this book really hinges on whether you adore Bobby Tom or not to work and he just didn’t work at all for me.
I don’t remember the secondary romance in this book, sadly. But I have found that SEP has done a nice job with some of the older-couple secondary romances in a few of her books. As I recall there is also a lovely older-couple romance in Match Me If You Can, I think.
I love Suzie and Wray.