Gracie Snow has been sent on an impossible mission. Recently recruited as a production assistant to Windmill Studios, Gracie has been given the seemingly impossible task of shepherding ex-football star turned movie star to the set of his first film.
Bobby Tom Denton is a football legend – he won two superbowl’s with the Chicago Stars and looked to be on a winning streak before a blown knee saw him retired at the age of thirty-three. He agreed to star in his first feature film only as a way to pass the time before deciding on a new career path.
Bobby ‘B.T.’ Tom Denton really has no interest in being a pretty boy actor… and poor Gracie is going to have her work cut out for her trying to convince this egotistical, chauvinistic jock that the world doesn’t revolve around him.
I read the first book in Phillip’s ‘Chicago Stars’ series (‘It had to be you’) and hated it. But I’d heard good things about ‘Heaven, Texas’, so thought I would give the 2nd book a go before writing off the whole series.
In retrospect, I should have listened to my gut.
Gracie is a sickeningly sweet Mary-Sue. She describes herself as ‘homely’ in appearance, and even after a makeover Bobby Tom can only ever muster a “she’s cute” compliment. But what Gracie lacks in ‘va-va-voom’ she makes up for in sugary sweet personality. Gracie used to run her families nursing home before choosing a different career path as a production assistant. Even after deciding to leave her old life behind, Gracie can’t help but visit the local nursing home of B.T’s hometown – simply because she enjoys hanging out with the old folks. Yep, Gracie spends her free time at the local nursing home. Gag.
Gracie is also a 30-year-old virgin. She says that growing up around old people stunted her hormones, and so it’s up to Bobby Tom Denton to initiate Gracie in the pleasures of the flesh… double gag.
Gracie is such a ludicrously angelic character that it’s hard to like her (or relate to her). She’s pretty endearing when we first meet her (sporting a bad perm and schoolmarm outfits) but Phillips keeps ramming her syrupy sweetness down your throat to the point of dry-heaving.
Bobby Tom Denton is a pretty atrocious leading man. I don’t know why, but Phillips has a serious love for male chauvinists. I initially liked the idea of a series centred around a football team and its players – I thought the characters would offer up plenty of Alpha male testosterone, but also give Phillips an opportunity to poke fun at the ‘dumb jock’ prejudice. Instead Phillips seems to revel in writing leading men who conform to such misconceptions;
But he preferred his women blond and flashy, with legs up to their armpits and porn star breasts. Real live sex trophies, that’s what he liked, and he wasn’t going to apologize for it either. He’d earned those sex trophy females on the bloody battlefield of the NFL.
What makes B.T’s inherent sexism even worse is how quickly Gracie falls in love with it. Despite acknowledging his chauvinistic ways, and realizing he has an ego the size of Texas – Gracie is smitten with B.T. from the get-go and falls in love with him fairly early on. And the main reason she gives for her feelings is that he’s very handsome (making her just as sexist as he is, in many ways). The whole relationship is pretty atrocious – and to top it all off the sex scenes are stilted, and sparse.
Surprisingly ‘Heaven, Texas’ does have a small amount of spark – but it’s not between Bobby Tom and Gracie. There’s a secondary romantic storyline going on between Bobby Tom’s widowed mother, Suzy Denton, and the town’s local villain, Way Sawyer. Way and Suzy went to high school together – she was homecoming queen, while Way was the bastard son to a local girl who claimed to have been gang raped when she was sixteen. Despite social differences and Suzy’s romance with B.T’s father, Way had a fierce crush on her all through his adolescence. In describing their school dynamic, Way says he was a; “dime store James Dean trying to impress Natalie Wood”. Now, year’s later when Suzy is widowed and Way holds the town’s future in his hands, he propositions Suzy to become his mistress and save the town.
Suzy and Way’s romance is sizzling, made even sexier for their interesting back story. Bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks falls in love with the homecoming queen – I liked it. Way and Suzy share a Jacuzzi together, and that particular scene is hotter than all of B.T and Gracie’s stifled couplings put together.
I hated this book, and am now officially giving up on Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The secondary storyline in ‘Heaven, Texas’ does confirm that Phillips can write good romance and a decent sex scene – but I don’t have the confidence or patience to wade through any more of her books.