Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss


August 5, 2014

I’m here today to talk about NATURAL BORN CHARMER, and all the ways in which it is my reading catnip. But first, I need to tell you a story about me, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and pajamas.

Last summer, my publisher scheduled lucky me for a book signing with Eloisa James, at a bookstore in SEP’s hometown – and SEP, being the incredibly gracious person she is, invited us both to stay over at her house.


When I found out this was happening, can you imagine my first reaction? Was it, “OMG, I bet her house is gorgeous”? No, though her house was. Was it, “Will she make me oatmeal in the morning?” No, though she did.

My response was to immediately take to Twitter, beseeching strangers for shopping guidance. “I need pajamas!” I wrote. “I am sleeping over at SEP’s house, and I have nothing to wear.” Because, you see, I don’t own any decent pajamas. I sleep in ratty old oversized t-shirts.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying, I knew Blue Bailey was my kind of girl from the first time she slept in her ratty old oversized “Beer for Breakfast” t-shirt.

Actually, Blue might have had me at the beaver costume. I also, at one point in my life, was paid to wear an enormous, furry sauna—otherwise known as a Maurice Sendak “wild thing” costume—to entertain elementary schoolchildren for $7 an hour. It was $93 an hour too little. The kids were adorable, but the sweat was epic. Years later, I’m still rehydrating.

Anyway, you get the picture. I love a misfit heroine like Blue—one with quick wits, her own quirky style, and more snappy comebacks than fashion sense—and I especially love to see those heroines paired with a smooth-talking, handsome charmer like Dean. One who says things like, “It’s the fact that she’s her own person I’m attracted to.”

And I, like Blue, also enjoy quarterbacks who moonlight as underwear models and initiate sexy role-playing while on nature hikes. But who doesn’t. Ahem.

Where was I?

Oh, yes—Eastern Tennessee, which is so richly drawn in these pages, I could feel the humidity and found myself slapping at nonexistent mosquitoes. Jack and April’s second-chance romance…sigh. Eleven-year-old Riley, with that endearing blend of toughness and vulnerability… And crusty old Nita Garrison, with her hidden heart of gold. SEP creates characters who jump off the page and land right in your heart. She writes people you know. I could tell this story was going to live with me for a long, long time when I actually closed the book when I could tell Dean and Blue’s reconciliation was coming. Have you ever done that? I wanted to see them together so badly, but I just wasn’t ready for it to end yet.

I couldn’t hold out forever, but I’m still a little bit sad that I ever turned the last page on that book. I will console myself with ratty t-shirts and the NFL preseason. And, of course, a re-read.


Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard is the luckiest man in the world: a
bona-fide sports superstar and the pride of the NFL with a profitable side
career as a buff billboard model for End Zone underwear. But life in the glory
lane has started to pale, and Dean has set off on a cross-country trip to figure
out what’s gone wrong. When he hits a lonely stretch of Colorado highway, he
spies something that will shake up his gilded life in ways he can’t imagine. A
young woman . . . dressed in a beaver suit.

Blue Bailey is on a mission to murder her ex. Or at least inflict serious
damage. As for the beaver suit she’s wearing . . . Is it her fault that life
keeps throwing her curveballs? Witness the expensive black sports car pulling up
next to her on the highway and the Greek god stepping out of it.

Blue’s career as a portrait painter is the perfect job for someone who refuses
to stay in one place for very long. She needs a ride, and America’s most famous
football player has an imposing set of wheels. Now, all she has to do is keep
him entertained, off guard, and fully clothed before he figures out exactly how
desperate she is.

But Dean isn’t the brainless jock she imagines, and Blue— despite her petite
stature—is just about the toughest woman Dean has ever met. They’re soon heading
for his summer home where their already complicated lives and inconvenient
attraction to each other will become entangled with a charismatic but aging rock
star; a beautiful fifty-two-year- old woman trying to make peace with her rock
and roll past; an eleven-year-old who desperately needs a family; and a bitter
old woman who hates them all.

As the summer progresses, the wandering portrait artist and the charming
football star play a high-stakes game, fighting themselves and each other for a
chance to have it all.

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