Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Susan Elizabeth Phillips - Breathing Room

Dr. Isabel Favor, author of Four Cornerstones for a Favorable Life, has sacrificed everything to build her self-help empire. Then, in a matter of weeks, it all comes crashing down. She loses her money to an unscrupulous accountant, her fiancé to a frumpy older woman, and her reputation to headlines denouncing her as a fraud. America's diva of self-help soon discovers she can fix everyone's life but her own. Broke, heartsick, and soul-weary, she heads for Italy in search of a little breathing room.
Lorenzo Gage makes his living killing people... on the silver screen, that is. He's viciously handsome and sublimely talented. But as he begins his vacation in Italy, he's also vaguely dissatisfied. Being a villain with a face to die for has its rewards, but he hates the feeling that everything he's neglected in life is catching up with him. Then he spots Isabel sipping a glass of wine in a sidewalk café. A good guy wouldn't think of seducing such a tidy-looking woman... but he'd never seen the fun in playing the hero.
It doesn't take long for Isabel to realize she's escaped one kind of chaos only to be plunged into another. Even the shelter of a simple stone farmhouse nestled in a Tuscan olive grove can't provide her with the refuge she needs -- not when the townspeople are scheming to drive her away, and her plan to restore her reputation has come up empty. And especially not when the man who deceived her refuses to leave her in peace.

Comment: Now that I've gotten a taste for ms Phillips' books, I'm trying to get to her backlist - something I'll eventually go through - and this title caught my attention and I was even more interested in the blurb after reading it.
I think the author's style is very appealing and I couldn't wait to read.
In this book we meet Isabel favor, a self help coach who worked hard her all life and a true believer in her lessons about self worth, hard work, healthy relationships and positive thinking. The story begins with Isabel finding out that her account stole her money, people are cancelling attendance to her presentations and her fiancé tells her he loves someone else and he's going to be a father.
It's a now penniless, depressed and single Isabel that goes to Tuscany to spend some time at a friend's villa and to think about her future.
It's in Italy that Isabel meets Ren Gage, an actor who got famous playing the villain in action movies. But there's mot than meets the eye when it comes to Ren and his and Isabel's paths are going to cross after they realize they share the same space for a while. But aren't they looking for more than just acceptance in their lives.
I enjoyed this book. As always, the author creates an interesting cast of characters and places them in situations where they have no other option but to evolve, to become better, to find the things they didn't even know they were looking for. Sometimes that happens because they fall in love and they see through others' eyes how special they can be.
I always think it's fascinating how the author finds situations not always very realistic and makes them somehow believable. Isabel and Ren's lives are possible yes, but surely still in the realm of hopeful dreams that anyone would want to try for some reason. I liked how they seemed unapproachable at first but deep down their choices and hardships were as common as anyone else's.
People have issues in their lives and I was glad things just didn't solve themselves for Ren and Isabel, despite a little exaggerated scene towards the end which I think was avoidable.
The lesson to learn is that we make our own paths and sometimes little decisions can be the solution to bigger problems, who knows...
The romance was interesting because Ren and Isabel were so different, had different expectations and thought differently about life and how to live it. Of course opposite people would complement each other and it was sweet to see the practical and calm Isabel help others and giving advice to Ren the way he needed. And Ren was more impulsive but made Isabel take risks, feel things get out of the tight control she had that almost stopped her from living.
Their relationship felt balanced and it wasn't picture perfect, they had to talk and learn from each other to find happiness.
The secondary characters are funny, have an interesting part in developing the story and I liked how they mattered to the story and to the development of the main couple's relationship. Sure, some things seemed rather avoidable, not that they were badly done, only that I think they weren't helping anything, such as the problem many inhabitants had after Isabel moved and why.
Some secondary characters were interesting and I genuinely liked them, like Tracy, Harry and their children. All of them helped Isabel and Ren somehow.
In the end of it, I had fun with this book, I liked spending time with the characters and learn about their lives and see how a HEA can make someone feel better. I have good hopes for the author's other books too.
Grade: 8/10

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