Pandora's Box

Head Over Heels

Susan Andersen
2002, Contemporary Romance
Avon, $5.99, Amazon ASIN 0380819171
Part of a series

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

Veronica Davis goes home to Fossil intending to takeover the care of her murdered sister's young daughter and sell the bar that Ronnie's family has always owned. Cooper Blackstock is tending bar while trying to find evidence to prove his half-brother innocent of the murder. Cooper and Ronnie strike sparks off of each other from their first meeting and they fall in love as they try to protect their niece, Lizzie, and find the real killer.

Linda:     Head Over Heels is my second Susan Andersen book. Everyone on-line seemed to have loved the first one I read but for me it was only average. I'm so glad we picked this book because otherwise I might never have tried her again and it would have been my loss. I loved this book!

Blythe:     This is my first Andersen, and while I had some problems with it, I ended up enjoying it. A large part of the reason for that was the dialogue between Coop and Ronnie, which I thought was great. The love scenes weren't bad either.

Linda:     Not only was the dialogue great, but the word plays were too. And I thought Coop and Ronnie were well developed. So was Lizzie, Ronnie's niece. BTW, did you like the secondary romance between Marissa and Kody?

Blythe:     I did, but there wasn't really all that much to it. It was very much a secondary romance. What I probably enjoyed more was Marissa's interaction with Ronnie. They were best friends and they really seemed like it, too. How many books have you read where it seems like the heroine is totally friendless? Anyway, I liked that relationship, although the "wrong side of the tracks" theme wore on my nerves at times.

Linda:     I liked their friendship also as well as the "wrong side of the tracks" twist to the story. When Marissa one-upped the Junior League ladies-who-lunch who wanted her to fall on her face, I was cheering her on. I liked Coop a lot, although like Ronnie I thought he should have told her he was Eddie's brother before he slept with her or at least right afterwards. But, he did grovel very nicely and creatively. Another plus was that Ronnie was very intelligent and her actions at the end proved it. It's nice to see a woman who thinks for herself.

Blythe:     I was prepared to be annoyed with Coop from the start. I didn't like the way he was lying to Ronnie (by omission, but still) and I didn't like the way he had judged her by her sister's behavior and assumed she was the same. How lame is that? I also thought he should have told her about his profession when she found out his other secret. But, you know what? For some reason I had no trouble forgiving this guy. I just knew I should have been more annoyed with him, but he groveled . . . with presents! I ended up liking him, even though I knew I was being a pushover, which probably echoed the heroine's feelings. I think what really endeared him to me was his guy-speak. Andersen did a really good job with that. He thought and sounded like a guy. A lot of authors try for that effect, but I think many miss the mark.

Linda:      The dialogue rang true to me too, particularly his conversations with his Marine Corps buddy - I practically fell on the floor over the "reverse Pinocchio" theory. Coop was just lovable and it wasn't that he gave gifts; it was that they were creative gifts. His rapport with Lizzie was great too. The fact that he put his whole life on hold to help his brother was impressive. Since he had never met Ronnie coupled with the fact that she didn't show up for a month after her sister's death does help to explain why he thought she was like her sister. Did you love the images of Ronnie's first visit to her sister's house - my eyes burned just thinking of the glow off of all that gold. <g>

Blythe:     I also liked the conversations with his Marine buddy, and the conversation Ronnie and Coop shared as she was packing up Crystal's knickknacks was priceless. There really was a lot of humor here, and as someone who is also quite different from her sister, I could relate to Ronnie's occasional thoughts about how could they have sprung from the same womb. I did find the wrong side of the tracks thing pretty tiresome, but then I've never lived in a town small enough for people to know everybody and talk about living on the wrong side of the tracks. I also think Andersen should tone down some of her metaphors. Some of them were a little long-winded and farfetched for my taste.

Linda:      I thought Andersen showed great sensitivity in Ronnie's talk with her niece Lizzie about her mother. I adored it when she said: "You always loved her but sometimes it wasn't good to be with her." Ronnie nicely accepted Lizzie's love for her mother and yet let the child know that the flaw was in her mother and not her. I thought the mystery was well done too and liked the fact that it never overwhelmed the romance. This is very definitely romantic suspense with the emphasis on the romance and the relationships. I liked Andersen's humor a lot and I got the feeling that she was nicely setting up another book about Coop's friend "Midnight" and his sister. This is one sequel I would be happy to read and hope that we will get to see Ronnie and Coop again.

Blythe:     I liked the mystery too, but I wouldn't call this romantic suspense, because the mystery just didn't seem prominent enough to warrant that designation. Which was fine with me; I think the reason I enjoyed the book most was because it was just a good, old-fashioned romance. Nice guy, nice girl. Both had some baggage, but not enough for a trip around the world or anything. It was a cute story with some fun dialogue and better-than-average sex scenes. In a way, it reminded me of some of the earlier JAK stuff that I've enjoyed.

Linda:      That's probably why I liked it. Yes, the mystery plot is there but it never gets in the way of the love story - just the way I like it. These were likable characters who seemed to exist outside the confines of the story. Because both were part of the world, had friends, jobs, and lives, they seemed like fully developed characters as opposed to two people who could only exist in the framework of a book. I can't say enough about the dialogue. I'm still chuckling over Coop's explaining to Ronnie why one of his friends is named "Rocket" - it was priceless and just how guys think.

I hope that I am right that we will see a book with his Marine buddy. I thought the details Andersen gave us about Midnight's sister and her trouble with men seemed to lead into another book. Perhaps I have read so many sequels lately, that I am seeing lead-ins where they don't exist. But, I would definitely read a sequel to Head Over Heels - if Andersen promises us more peeks at Ronnie and Coop. I will now have to go thru the TBR and dig out some of Andersen's backlist and give them another try. I wonder if my problem with the first one was one of inflated expectations because so many people thought it was absolutely hilarious. It's hard to live up to hilarious.

Blythe:     I liked the real world aspect too, and would have liked to hear even more about Coop's real job. Although I had some niggles with the book, I wouldn't mind reading more by Andersen, and I plan to keep an eye out for her next. Just what my TBR pile needs.

Linda:      LOL, two months in a row we have both liked the book - what is this world coming too? I am always happy to discover another author who does humor well and I love great dialogue - your comparison to early JAK is high praise in my book and I would concur.

What's up for next month?

Blythe:     Next month we are taking a break. Due to various things we aren't going to have a chance to do a February Pandora but we'll be back raring to go with a March Pandora.

Linda:      See you in March.

Blythe:     Happy reading!

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, with assistance from Sandi Morris, for

-- Pandora's Box

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