This Heart Of Mine
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, contemporary (2001)
William Marrow & Co, $23.00, ISBN 0-380-97572-6

I have the greatest respect for this author, the same way I respect Thomas Hardy. Ms Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the rare author I know that has a 100% five-heart track record at The Romance Reader and a B- and higher track record at All About Romance. But even better, she has die-hard strict reviewers apologizing or at least making sheepish-sounding statements why they, oh, like this book, but do be aware, readers, that they don't really care for this author's last book, oh no, et cetera. (It's just their colleagues who gave that last book five hearts/stars/bells/cars/whatever, they'll have you know!)

Not that I am saying these reviewers are all faking it. Miss Phillips have an undeniable talent for witty repartees and humor. But the fact is, she gets away with universal critical acclaim with plots that seem to come out of Stupidity Central at times when lesser authors will be savaged and ripped to shreds. She even has these reviewers acting sheepish for their newest five heart/star/whatever review.

My admirations, my profound admirations and respect really.

My own experience with This Heart Of Mine, unfortunately, is less than stellar. I'm a crank, I know. I do admit THOM is way better than the pathetic-attempt-at-halfbaked-political-romance that is First Lady. And there is no way any story can beat the really insipid Nobody's Baby But Mine, which I love to pick on because it has the stereotypical scientist-bimbo caricature which I loathe.

But really, this book is just another stringed-along spaghetti meal of clichés. Molly Somerville is the typical so-cute-you-can-die heroine of this author - she even writes kiddie books with the word Bunny in the titles! She has a nasty father (how novel!) and she gives her money away to charity (awwwwww!) to get rid of his overbearing presence. And get this - she has this crush on footballer Kevin Tucker for this long time now.

So to express her unfulfilled longings of being done to by a hunky studly footballer who only dates Britney Spears half his age, our discriminate, intelligent heroine creates Benny the Badger in her stories after him. Oooooh.

But things come to a head (heh heh) when Molly slips into Kevin's bed one day, and Kevin comes home...

This author must be the only author who can get away with (a) the wrong-bed-bonk scenario, (b) the surprise pregnancy, (c) the marriage of convenience, (d) a separation triggered by a clichéd device, (e) a reunion, all in a contemporary romance and still gets praised. I am amazed, because there are times when I think I'm reading a Silhouette romance, what with all this barrage of clichés.

There are cursory and throwaway secondary elements involving gay crusades and censorship, dealt with the the indepth courage the way American politics are dealt with in First Lady (act beautiful and helpless, take care of the kids, and they'll make you the first woman Prez of USA - viva la femina). I find the secondary romance between an older couple much more interesting, but that's because they behave with a mediocum with maturity.

Kevin spends so much time pouting, stomping and behaving like a brat, while Molly, sweet giving Molly, she tries so hard to be perky and optimistic. It's Care Bear and Gargamel the Smurf-hater in love. In fact, I feel at times it's Nobody's Baby But Mine all over again.

Funny? At times. Readable? Very, particularly after Kevin and Molly decide to get their acts together in the second half of the story. Five stars/hearts/bells/whatever? Uhm, lemme think. Not really, I don't find it that fabulous. I don't even resonate with it. It's just a rather okay trip down Cliché Central. Never like those sickeningly sugary sweet Care Bear heroines much in the first place anyway.

Rating: 77

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