Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a dangerous woman. I learned that way back in 1989 when I stumbled across her novel FANCY PANTS. In that richly textured, mainstream glitter and glitz women's fiction novel that still managed to be one of the most extraordinary romances I'd ever read, she first did the impossible. She made golf interesting. That's right. Her hero, Dallie Beaudine was the sexiest golfer to ever pull on (or off) a pair of...well...golf pants.
Since then, I've been forced to govern my SEP reading with a very strict set of rules. Because she's on a very short list of writers who can make me care more about what I'm reading than about what I'm writing, I'm only allowed to read her books on vacation, on long car or plane trips, or when I've just finished writing one of my own books.
Fortunately for me, a car trip to Florida coincided with the release of her brand spanking new Chicago Stars book, MATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Not since I first read ROOTS in the car when I was 13 have I enjoyed a road trip so much! From the very first page, SEP evokes empathy for her characters. We first meet modern day matchmaker Annabelle Granger trying to lure a drunk man out from under the wheels of her car because she's late for a very special appointment with high-profile sports agent Heath Champion, aka The Python. How can you not fall in love with a woman who smears lipstick on her lovely yellow shirt when she's trying to sniff her armpits for B.O. while driving? That's the beauty of SEP's female characters. They're not just the friends we'd long to have. They're already us!
She also excels in choosing the right details. The very fact that the heroine owns a Hello Kitty cookie jar tells you everything you need to know about her. As a writer, I found myself utterly seduced by sentences like, "Her sister-in-law used perfume like bug repellant." And Heath Champion has to be one of the most luscious, three-dimensional contemporary heroes I've ever read. SEP knows men! She knows how they think and how they talk and she loves them anyway, which only makes us love them more.
I also love the fact that the characters from the previous Chicago Stars novels weren't just marched onstage for a "Very Special Appearance" but were actually used to further the plot and facilitate the romance between Annabelle and Heath. I loved seeing Phoebe and Dan from IT HAD TO BE YOU with a few more wrinkles and a couple of teenagers of their own.
So who is the author who makes you sigh with satisfaction every time you close one of her books? Who is the author who can make YOU fall in love all over again?