Susan Elizabeth Phillips
1999, Contemporary Romance
Avon, $7.50, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0380794489 Part of a series
Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Lady Be Good is, in a word, terrific. The characters are richly drawn, and that includes both the primary hero and heroine, and the secondary characters as well. It's hilarious too, incredibly sexy, and extremely well written - included in all that funny and sensual writing is a surprising amount of depth.
Headmistress Lady Emma Wells-Finch is a woman with a mission. She needs a scandal to convince the Duke of Beddington she is not duchess material, and yet she can't go too far or she risks his selling St. Gertrude's School for Girls out from under her. Incredibly gorgeous world-famous pro golfer Kenny Traveler is a man without a mission. But he needs to avoid a scandal to have his suspension lifted by the PGA commissioner, the Antichrist, who happens to be his mentor. The mentor and the mentor's wife? The starring couple from SEP's earlier Fancy Pants - I haven't read it yet, but it's just been reissued. I feel a glom coming on!
As a favor, Francesca, Fancy Pants herself, has asked Kenny to "baby sit" her friend Emma as she spends two weeks in the U.S. doing research for an article. If all goes well, she'll ask her husband Dallie to reconsider his suspending Kenny from the tour. Emma arrives in the U.S. and expects to be greeted by a driver Francesca hired for her, a driver she finds dull-witted and extremely slow. Although Kenny finds her luscious, he also finds her bossy, and so doesn't correct her misconception. Deciding to have some fun, he takes her to his house and pretends he's house-sitting - she can stay there and save some money. When he gets her into the hot-tub, he informs her he's available for sex at thirty dollars a pop. Guess what? She not only believes him, but tells him she's interested! What better way to get out of marrying that lummox the Duke?
Kenny, despite his slow way of walking and talking, is pretty darn clever. He's figured out a way to have sex with this beautiful woman, and has convinced her to cook dinner for him before-hand! It's all going wonderfully until she spies a magazine cover in his bedroom and realizes who he really is. Then it hits the fan.
Rarely have I read a book that was so much fun in the first fifty pages. And Lady Be Good never wavers - it continues to be zany and so-hot-it-sizzles for the remainder of the book. Though both Kenny and Emma have enough emotional baggage to fill a Lear Jet, they are lovable. And in a sub-plot that appears to mirror Lady Emma's dilemma, we are introduced to Kenny's gorgeous sister Torie and uber-geek Dexter O'Conner, the man Torie's father insists she marry or he'll cut off the funding for her emu farm (don't ask). When introduced, Torie is a strong character, and yet it didn't occur to me until much later that author Phillips planned such an important sub-plot for her. The relationship that develops with the surprisingly sexy Dexter is wicked and funny. Lovers of the hero-as-geek as written by Jayne Ann Krentz will find Dexter delightful and sexy as well.
Lady Be Good is such a romp that giving more plot detail would be silly - there's no crime, no mystery, just a fabulously written story filled with interesting people and places. Small town Texas life is made fun of with a loving hand, as are some of the idiosyncracies of wealthy Texas women. I've lived in Texas for twenty years, and I know women who know how many calories a Life Saver has. I know women who decorate their homes like Kenny's step-mother does, which as Torie calls it, has that Marrakesh-on-Avon look.
Kenny and Emma, with their conflicting goals, alternately mesh and abraid each other relentlessly, and along the way, discover themselves through the eyes of love. Whereas Emma is quick to jump to all the wrong conclusions about Kenny at the beginning, she is his staunchest champion at the end. Though their final conflict didn't fully make sense to me, its conclusion and the out-and-out hilarious epilogue made up for its lack. Nearly every character in Lady Be Good, with the exception of the Duke, receives the same loving treatment - the author pokes gentle fun at everyone save him. As a result, the reader will come to care about the whole lot of them.
-- Laurie Likes Books
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