Publisher: Avon (August 1, 1994)
The Windy City isn't quite ready for Phoebe Somerville -- the outrageous, curvaceous New York knockout who has just inherited the Chicago Stars football team. And Phoebe is definitely not ready for teh Stars' head coach, former gridiron legend Dan Calebow, a sexist jock taskmaster with a one-track mind. Calebow is everything Phoebe abhors. And the sexy new boss is everything Dan despises -- a meddling bimbo who doesn't know a pigskin from a pitcher's mound.
So why is Dan drawn to the shameless sexpot like a heat-seeking missile? And why does the coach's good ol' boy charm leave cosmopolitan Phoebe feeling awkward, tongue-tied...and ready to fight?
The sexy, heartwarmingm, and hilarious "prequel" to "This Heart of Mine" -- Susan Elizabeth Phillips' New York Times bestselling blockbuster -- "It Had To Be You" is an enchanting story of two stubborn people who believe in playing for keeps.
I am so late to jump on the SEP bandwagon, but the real cool thing is that it's never TOO late to start up a good thing. (Plus I had read "Ain't She Sweet?" already, so I'm not completely clueless about SEP). Tracy had written a good review of this book several months ago and I ended up buying the book soon after reading her review, and now finally, because SEP lives in my area and she's having a booksigning in February, I decided to prepare myself.
When we first meet Phoebe Somerville, it is at the funeral of her father Bert, where she tottles in with her poodle and Hungarian lover. Needless to say she causes a scene. This does not impress Coach Calebow or any of the other men working for the Stars. When they later find out that she is their new owner, well, lets just say nobody's happy, and that includes Phoebe.
Phoebe only ever wanted her father's love, and when she finds out that he left her the Chicago Stars, with conditions of course, she's hurt and angry. She's never liked football, and can't believe that even in death he would continue to humiliate and reject her. She has a younger sister who hates her, a football team she doesn't know what to do with, and until the team is turned over to her cousin Reed, she has no money. Phoebe decides to go back to New York and leave the team to their own devices.
Dan Calebow has had just about all he can take of this spoiled airhead who refuses to answer her phone or deal with any decisions involving the team. He flies to New York to give her a piece of his mind, and to drag her back to Chicago and face her responsibilities. Reluctantly Phoebe agrees to return, though she's definitely not happy about it. To top it all off, Dan affects her more strongly than any other man ever has, and this makes her nervous. Used to using her blatant sexuality to scare men off, she doesn't know how to deal with one who ends up intimidating her instead.
Once Phoebe returns to Chicago, she starts getting involved in the business, and going to the games. She learns how superstitious ballplayers are, and must follow certain traditions in order to appease the players. She still doesn't know much about football, but Phoebe can talk a good game to get what she wants. Over time, she begins to care for the players, and her feelings for Dan grow stronger. She tries to keep her distance, but because he's the coach, he's always around.
As for Dan, he's not sure what to make of Phoebe, but he knows he doesn't like her very much. She's brassy, over-the-top sexy, and comes across as a bimbo, and he knows he doesn't want to be another notch on her bedpost, even though he's incredibly hot for her. No, Dan is tired of games and of high maintenance women. He's looking for a nice girl, one who loves kids and won't give him any trouble. He thinks he's found one in a shy school teacher, and goes about courting her. But why can't he get Phoebe out of his head???
When I first started reading the book, I didn't like Phoebe or Dan very much. But then I got to know them, and find out what drives them to be the way they are. Both have been affected by what happened to them when they were younger, Phoebe moreso than Dan, and it sets the tone for their actions. I'm not big on heroines who hide their intelligence like Phoebe does, but we learn what's behind her motivation and we see how it works for her. I did find it clever how she would use her physical appearance to outwit men who expected to get what they saw on the outside, and didn't pay much attention to what Phoebe had going on upstairs.
As for Dan, it took him awhile, but he finally caught on to Phoebe, and he realized just how smart she really was. He also had to own up to the fact that sometimes, she might just be right about how strict he was with the team, and that maybe she knew best. He was just as guilty as others when he pegged her as a stupid bimbo, but as he got to know her and see her around her younger sister, and how warm and caring and smart and sassy she was, he fell like a ton of bricks. Only he fought it every step of the way. Dan could be just as stubborn as Phoebe, and this lead to some heartache for both of them until a dangerous situation wakes them both up to their feelings.
I ended up devouring the book, and liking how once again, like she did in "Ain't She Sweet?", Susan Elizabeth Phillips can take initially unlikeable characters and endear them to the reader. I loved it when Phoebe would get the best of some guy who thought she was just an airhead, and I loved that Dan gave her props for her unconventional way of using her smarts, even admiring her for it.
What I didn't like, and anyone who's read the book can probably guess, is the way a traumatic experience from Phoebe's past, one that still haunted her years later, was neatly forgotten almost from the moment she fell in love with Dan. Once she revealed to Dan what had happened to her, it was like she was healed almost immediately, and it didn't feel right to me. And I would have liked it if Dan would have been a man and actually been more apologetic for being such a jerk to her, like he was better than her or something. Eventually though, the guy grew on me, and I was just so happy that Phoebe found a man who understood her, and loved her for the free spirit she was.
Overall though, I enjoyed the book, and I'm glad I have the next 2 in the Stars series. I would definitely recommend it to the one or two romance readers on the planet who haven't yet read SEP.
Rating: **** out of *****