Susan Elizabeth Phillips
1999 reissue of 1993 release, Women's Fiction
Pocket, $7.99, 448 pages, Amazon ASIN 0671735934
I thought at first that this book was going to be about someone's honeymoon which didn't much appeal to me. But no, Honey Jane Moon, is the name of the delightful heroine of this novel. Brought up in a dilapidated South Carolina amusement park, she makes the trek to Hollywood at age 16 and ends up as the "child star" of a hit television show, playing a character much younger than her real age. There are two actors on the show as well: Dash Coogan, a middle-aged cowboy, who plays her father on the show, and Eric Dillon, a young hunk, who plays her love interest who spurns her, a role he repeats in Honey's real life while they are together on the show.
Dash and Eric are the two male leads in this novel, neither of whom want to get involved with Honey in the beginning of the book. Neither man is a villain which is a fresh twist. Usually, when there is another man in a romance novel, he has to become the villain as a foil to the hero. This novel is too complex to take such an easy way out, however and both men have romances with Honey in the course of the book, but not at the same time. I like seeing the evolution of a character in a book, flaws and all, and Honey does not disappoint. After years of poverty and doing without, Honey becomes a real brat as a result of her instant fame and wealth. She tries to control everyone and everything. Part of Honey's problem is that Hollywood does not want her to age. Since she plays a child on the screen, she acts the child in real life to her personal and professional detriment. She is not stupid, however, and when she sees the destructiveness of her ways, she begins to mend them.
Honey matures into a lovely young woman and has her first shot at romance with her idol, Dash Coogan - a romance which causes her viewing audience to abandon her. Dash himself is a complex character whom we come to fully understand. That is the real strength of Honey Moon. There are many books about Hollywood featuring actors as lead characters but this one is different in that it fully explores the three lead characters, all of whom have demons from their past which handicap them in the present and try to doom them for the future.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips' trademark humor in not in play in this book. The humorous aspect of her writing is more prominent in her later books which are more straight romance stories whereas Honey Moon is more Women's Fiction than romance. There are also dark elements to this story - death and child abuse to name two - which are well handled and give the book terrific emotional impact. Actually, Phillips' humor would have struck a false note with these darker elements present so she wisely did not upset the book's exquisite balancing act.
Ultimately, Honey must come to terms with her past by going home to her old amusement park. The coaster ride, Rolling Thunder, gave her a great feeling of empowerment as a child. By rebuilding it to pass the ride and the park on to future generations of needy children, she strengthens herself. This setting also presents the climax of her romance with her old co-star Eric Dillon and leads to the HEA ending. Honey Moon is a wonderful book that I couldn't put down and it has become a classic of Women's Fiction with a prominent place on the keeper shelf for many, many romance readers.
-- Carol Irvin
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