Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Review by: Jamie Gogocha
Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
What do you get when you combine a scorned woman in a beaver costume, an untouchable football player confused about his next play, and a parade of small town folk and members of music’s inner circle? You get Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Natural Born Charmer.
The book starts out with Dean, a football player needing time to think some things through, coming upon Blue, an unemployed artist suddenly single, broke, and homeless, on a Colorado highway. Intrigue and ulterior motives lead to Blue hitching a ride with Dean to his mid-renovation farmhouse that he purchased for those needed getaways. Upon their arrival at the farm, Dean finds an unexpected and unwelcome guest on his property. This leads to some simple lies that become increasingly complicated as the cast of characters grows.
Phillips’s 2007 book is a contemporary humorous romance that covers the entirety of the emotional spectrum. The story is a typical romance novel in the sense that the reader has a pretty good idea of where the book is heading right away. What made Natural Born Charmer so delicious was that I didn’t know how, or if, we would get to the happily ever after that is such a big part of the romance genre.
Aside from the unpredictability of the plot’s details, the characters alone were worth the read. Susan Elizabeth Phillips creates three-dimensional characters that are strong, but beautifully flawed. As the story went along, I got to know each of the characters quite well. I loved them for their personalities, their struggles, their flaws, and their strengths. Dean is not your stereotypical jock with only looks, style, and money going for him. Blue is not a typical free-spirited, fearless artist. They are both written with a depth I was not expecting as I ventured into this rom-com.
It is this depth that caused me to surrender to the emotional ride that is Natural Born Charmer. The humor is apparent right away and continues through the book. However, as I got to know Blue and Dean, I celebrated their first real kiss. I ached when their individual baggage got too heavy for them to carry. I got frustrated, and sometimes angry, as they each got in their own way. And I cried—a lot—when things seemed hopeless in the game of emotional chicken they were playing.
Phillips’s writing is wonderful, as well. It guides story that is as smooth as a ride in Dean’s Aston Martin Vanquish and is packed with fresh, memorable imagery. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, contemporary romance that is full of surprises.
Oh, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips owes me a travel package of Kleenex.
You can purchase Natural Born Charmer here.
Jamie Gogocha recently graduated from Central Washington University’s Professional and Creative Writing Online Program. When she’s not reading, working at her local library, or getting lost in her community’s woods, she is putting her ideas to words. Jamie lives in Yelm, Washington with her husband and their two cats.