Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
ISBN: 0-06-103209-3 or 978-0-06-103209-7
Publisher: Avon Books
Type of book: Adult, contemporary, romance
Year it was published: 2002
Quick Note: I will not focus on love scenes in there to be honest. This is something private and my blog is not made for that. I will focus on plot and characters in there however.
For a college graduation present, a friend gave me Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Natural Born Charmer. I read the novel a number of times and loved it for its unpredictability and characters. The first few pages for me were award winning and hilarious. I enjoyed the storyline and even the ending. (Normally I'm not the type that likes happy endings,). So when I saw this novel, I thought I could expect the same thing; likable characters and an ending that really touches one's heart. What I didn't expect is to feel alienated by the book and disliking the characters.
There are four characters that the novels focuses on: Isabel Favor, Lorenzo Gage, and Lorenzo's wife and her husband. I will do my best to summarize the four main characters. Isabel Favor is a perfectionist control freak blond that right away hates Gage. (To be honest, between them I didn't feel any chemistry...) She lives on the principles that she builds (the four cornerstones) but at the moment is bankrupt and her fiance abandoned her for another woman. Lorenzo Gage is a villain movie star that enjoys annoying Isabel to death and often teases her. The ex-wife is a much better character and seems to be more understanding and more palatable. The ex-wife's husband again is also a sweet character. (This book would have been more interesting if it was between the ex-wife and her husband rather than Isabel and Lorenzo.) There are hints that Isabel and Lorenzo have had childhood issues but those issues seem to be ignored or barely talked about. In other words I felt no closure to the issues that the main characters possessed.
Right away Isabel's character alienated me from her. She is getting married but at the same time she doesn't plan her wedding. She is a perfectionist and to be honest I rarely got a glimpse into her more vulnerable side. She is also hard as nails. I am positive that people like and enjoy characters who are vulnerable and are feeling insecure. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, although she attempted to portray Isabel in such a way, in my view she failed miserably! She attempted to create a Gone with the Wind novel but it didn't succeed. (If Isabel is so perfect, why did these things happen to her? Why should I feel sorry for her and sympathize with her predicaments?)
One other thing I had a problem with is the assumption that the author made in vocabulary choice. I have never traveled to Italy, and am therefore not familiar at all with the Italian cuisine. It would help if she would have taken the consideration that not everyone went there and created a mini glossary for the terms, or at least a short description. I could be reading this novel and all of a sudden I see the word porcini and wonder what is that? Or some other words that deal with food.
The theme deals with control and chaos which I agree with. One has to be prepared and be analytic, while at the same if the unexpected happens, embrace it as well. That is the only theme that I got from this novel; don't try to make everything super organized, let some chaos and unexpectedness flow in, that will make life more enjoyable. Unfortunately the theme alone is not enough to save the novel.
The plot itself was trite and boring. While the dialogue was snappy, this book was really lacking in what Natural Born Charmer possesses; a soul and something that makes one involved with the characters. (I told the giver that Natural Born Charmer was possibly one of the best romance novels I have read, and no, I'm not lying, its the truth.) The chemistry between Lorenzo and Isabel felt forced and although I have started on July 18th 2010, due to boredom in the book and lack of relating to characters, I couldn't finish this novel for almost a month on August 12th, 2010. And for those who are wondering, if the novel is interesting enough, I could finish it in just a few days. ( Recently read a 420 page novel in just four days,) So length doesn't really scare me.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips wrote many novels such as Lady Be Good and is primarily known for her fictional football team The Chicago Stars/Bonner Brothers novels. She has two grown sons and is married.
This is from the back of the book:
"She’s lost her money to an unscrupulous accountant, her fiancé to a frumpy older woman, and her reputation to headlines denouncing her as a fraud. Lately it seems Dr. Isabel Favor, America’s favorite self-help guru, can fix everyone’s life but her own. Even the shelter of a simple stone farmhouse nestled in an olive grove can’t provide Isabel with the refuge she needs-not when the townspeople are scheming to drive her away, her plan to restore her good name has come up empty…and a movie star villain with a face to die for refuses to leave her in peace!
Viciously handsome and sublimely talented, Lorenzo Gage makes his living killing people…on the silver screen, that is. Vacationing in Italy, he hates 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 Ren Gage never saw the fun in playing the hero.
Sometimes all it takes is a special place…a special love…a little breathing room…for life to deliver all its glorious promise. "
As I mentioned before, I disliked this novel immensely. The characters were very alienating, I had a hard time liking or feeling sorry for Isabel and its really a poor sign if you wish that the heroine of the novel would completely disappear into abyss or something of the kind. The food vocabulary really alienated me and I wished again that she made a mini glossary for those who are not familiar with. I managed to gather some hints of the food because I was somewhat familiar with Spanish language. I will not go into detail but I really have to say that in this novel love scenes are very very weak and what could've been interesting exploration as to why the way she is, is only addressed shallowly in a precursory manner which really disappointed me. This novel will not be something I will recommend to anyone so please don't read it unless you are controlling perfectionist who can identify with the heroine.
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)