Susan Elizabeth Phillips
1995, Contemporary Romance
Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0380776847 Part of a series
Heaven, Texas is the second book in Susan Elizabeth Phillip's 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. This book is in its 8th printing and easy to find in book stores, but it's hard to find in used book stores because readers tend to keep it.
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!
-- Carol Irvin
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