"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review #25: Breathing Room, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Years ago, I read a book by Susan Elizabeth Phillips called Glitter Baby. It was chick lit, but it wasn't half bad. Boss, who purports to be a book snob but secretly devours celebrity biographies - and the much jucier autobiographies - made fun of it, and now Glitter Baby is office shorthand for trashy romance novels. So when I was looking for something light (and free on the library's website), I found Breathing Room, and figured that I couldn't go wrong with another Phillips.

Dr. Isabel Favor is a high-powered self-help guru, but it turns out her personal life is a mess. She's just discovered - in the course of 24 hours, mind you - that her accountant has robbed her blind, her fiancé is breaking up with her for another woman (she apparently is pretty rigid in the bedroom), and her business is crumbling. Unsure of what her next step should be, she accepts a friend's offer to escape to a farmhouse in Tuscany for a couple of months to regroup.

Once in Italy, Isabel decides to throw caution to the wind and sleeps with a fellow tourist she picks up in a bar. She sneaks out of the hotel room in the early morning hours, sure she'll never seem him again. Except in typical romance novel fashion, he's the owner of the farmhouse where she's staying, and their paths cross again. To add drama to the drama, they both used fake names for their one-night tryst, and he soon discovers she's the Oprah of self help, and she figures out that he's really Ren Gage, a world-famous actor known for playing the bad guy.

Shenanigans ensue, the townspeople are acting strange, there's a strange fertility statue missing from the town, Ren's pregnant ex-wife turns up with her four children, the ex-wife's new husband comes along later, Isabel and Ren fall apart, there's a big storm (with storm sex, during which all I could think about is that, having grown up in Florida, I know you should never, ever, ever have sex in an open field when there's crazy lightning), they pick grapes and make wine and go truffle hunting, and of course, there's a happily ever after ending.

As this kind of book goes, it's halfway decent. There are no surprises, but sometimes you just need something light that you can read in ten minute snippets of time. It's no Glitter Baby, but, as Boss would say, not much is.

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