on June 25, 2004
I will probably get some negative votes on this one but... I just had a hard time getting through it. I didn't care for the main characters- he was flaky and she was difficult. I, too liked sub-characters Tracy and Larry, better than the main ones. Ren is a dashing playboy- a "stuck on himself" movie star that needs to find himself. Isabel Favor is a "self-help guru" and author of The Four Cornerstones of a Favorable Life. She thinks her life is perfect until it falls apart. They both end up in Italy to get away from it all - at the same villa. Ren owns the villa but Isabel refuses to leave since she has put down a large deposit for it in good faith. There's a past here. They've met before. They had a rather unusual one night stander of which both want to forget. Surprise! They are now sharing the same villa. Sparks and tempers start to fly! Meanwhile, something is going on around the villa- Isabel is trying to be run off by the villagers. Why? I'm not going to tell incase you want to read it for yourself. Hey, you might enjoy it. It just wasn't for me. Too silly at times.
on March 7, 2004
The first three chapters were downright depressing but after that I smiled my way through most of the rest of the book. The witty dialogue reminded me of one of those screwball comedies from the 1930s like "Topper" or "Bringing up Baby" -- so much fun!! This was the kind of romance where the two main characters enjoy the heck out of each other and you know that they will have a happy and lasting marriage. (I hate romances where the "hero" treats the heroine like dirt until the second to the last page where suddenly he declares his undying devotion.)Isobel and Ren start off on the wrong foot but they are able to mend the fences very quickly. I especially loved the character of Isobel. Sure she was a control freak, but she was willing and able to bend and grow. And Ren was the perfect man to help her to do it. I found Isobel to be the most mature heroine I've ever read about. And I mean that in a good way. And just because her life was in shambles doesn't mean she couldn't continue to be a good councilor - psychologists do it all the time. It's called being a professional.
This book was not without its faults but I found the problems easy to forgive. I thought this was one of the best romance books I have ever read and definitely the best SEP novel. I highly recommend it.
on March 1, 2004
Hard for me to "breathe" with this one, it was too awful!
I had this book for a long time until I got around to reading it. This was a good thing because by now Iï¿½ve forgotten what I paid for it so, Iï¿½m not sure how much of a waste of money it was.
Isabelï¿½s negative traits: self righteous, controlling, arrogant, obsessive, superior, annoying, boring, judgmental, prissy. Those are just the ones I can think of offhand.
Her positive traits: OK, let me think a minute, I'm sure there's something. She seemed to like kids?
Her fiancÃ© left her after falling in love with a frumpy older woman whom he had gotten pregnant. Her accountant ran off with her money. Her career tanked. But that didnï¿½t stop her from assuming she knew what was best for everyone else and telling them about it! Sheï¿½s definitely not in a position to give advice! Heal Thyself.
Ren was a likeable enough guy, nowhere near the ï¿½bad boyï¿½ the media would have you think. He was however either stupid or masochistic or both to get involved with Isabel. What could a man like Ren possibly see in this woman? Or really any man for Peteï¿½s sake. And how could she appeal to a man after she dictated her list of ï¿½rulesï¿½ for them having sex? ï¿½Canï¿½t do this, canï¿½t do that, Iï¿½m in charge, I call the shots.ï¿½ Can you say "kill the mood"?
And what was with the last couple of chapters? For awhile there I thought Iï¿½d dozed off and woke up in another book! Castle ruins, lightning, goddess (yeah right), statues (cue dramatic music)!
This definitely goes into the ï¿½giveawayï¿½ pile! Although I'm not sure if there's anyone I dislike enough to give it to.
I can highly recommend Ms. Phillip's "Kiss An Angel" which is one of my favorite books. Also "It Had To Be You".
on July 10, 2003
I accidentally stumbled upon "Lady Be Good" when hunting through the grocery store rack for something light to read. It was FABULOUS...one by one I went out and purchased every other SEP book I could find and read them all (many of them in one day, and once I read through the night until dawn to finish it). In every one of them I ended up "falling in love" with the main man and feeling everything the heroine felt for him. It was terrific.
Unfortunately, this book didn't sit that way. While it is a decent read, you just don't ever fully identify with either of the protagonists and that makes the book fall flat - for an SEP book. I never fell in love with Ren and while the book was worth finishing there were never the same fireworks there were before. Also, SEP is starting to lean towards kinky sex...something just a little too contrived if the main characters are "in love." Kinky role playing is best left for folks who have been married several years and need to spice things up a bit instead of doing the same old, same old, IMO.
If you want a good book, read this. If you want a FABULOUS book, read any of the other SEP novels out there.
on May 27, 2003
... readers seem to either love or hate this book. I fall somewhere in the middle, finding more to like than dislike in this overall enjoyable, often funny story of two very different people who turn out to be surprisingly right for each other. This is my first book by this author who seems to be so revered, and I was not disappointed, but neither was I overly impressed.
Psychologist and self-help guru Dr. Isabel Favor's life is a mess. Her accountant took off with her money and left her with big trouble with the IRS, a disgruntled former employee has given an unflattering tell-all interview, and to top it all off, her fiance has just dumped her for another woman. Can things get any worse? Yes, they can! Decamping for two months to a rustic farmhouse in Tuscany sounds like the way to get back on track. But first stop is Florence where she engages in an uncharacteristic, fiasco of a one night stand with what she thinks is an Italian gigolo. And when she reaches the farmhouse it's no better since the locals seem to want drive her out. Demanding to speak with the owner, she barges into his villa and comes face to face with her "gigolo" - who turns out to be a movie star!
Lorenzo "Ren" Gage is Hollywood's favourite psycho killer on the screen, and a self-indulgent, self-loathing cynic offscreen. He's taking some time off at his villa before shooting begins on his next film. But when Isabel storms into his life, the sparks definitely start to fly! They challenge, antagonize and annoy one another, but they are also extremely attracted. She convinces Ren that something is up with the locals and they play amateur sleuth to find out what's going on. And then Ren's ex-wife shows up with her children and emotional drama. It gives Isabel a chance to get back to the basics of her vocation and Ren the opportunity to see her in action and in the process she earns his admiration and respect. Though they've begun an affair, Ren knows she's just too good for a rotten guy like him. But can Isabel convince him otherwise - that there's a good man deep down inside him?
I loved Ren! Not only was he handsome and sexy, he had a great sense of humour and his disguises to avoid being recognized were a hoot! Though Isabel is at first annoying and rigid, spouting her Oprah-esque psycho babble, once she started to loosen up, I started to like her. But I found the climax of the story a bit melodramatic, the conspiracy of the villagers a bit silly and, though I understood the purpose of their presence, I felt too much time was spent on the marital problems of his ex-wife and her husband. I wanted more of Ren and Isabel!
Anyway, a flawed, but still recommended read.
on May 26, 2003
A lot has been written already so I will just say I agree with those readers who wrote:
- The secondary story was more interesting.
- Isabel's acting out towards the end did not fit. I understand she had the last straw but it still seemed too extreme a change.
- The prayer references were distracting. If I was so inclined I would have picked up something from an inspirational romance line.
Also, the gigolo scene at the beginning was not necessary. Too much of a coincidence when they would meet anyway as landlord and tenant.
Now to end on a better note, what I liked was:
- The writing style was great as always. The story kept moving smoothly. It all takes place in a few weeks.
- Funny when it had to be funny. Serious when it had to be serious. Some readers were annoyed by Isabel's self-righteousness but it was part of her control personality. She eases up on the Four Cornerstones and lets in some chaos at the end.
- There were three story lines going: Isabel and Ren, Tracy and Harry, and the stolen statue. I was able to follow the swiches in point of view easily.
- The kids were painted realistically. Irritating to Ren but not to the reader.
This was not my favorite SEP but she is still an auto-buy for me. I look forward to reading Luv U 4-Ever.
on May 26, 2003
This perhaps may be the most outrageous pairing by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - a self-help guru and an actor with a bad-boy reputation? You can't help but be skeptical. Yet Breathing Room is Ms. Phillips most exhilarating effort crafted by tight research of Tuscany that segues from Guarnacci Etruscan Museum to its delicacy porcini.
Dr. Isabel Favor decides to retreat to Tuscany after her accountant cheated on her and the loss of her fiance. Her stablizing mantra crashes - and at the spur of the moment she engages in a quickie with hot-shot actor Lorenzo Gage after some chemistry sparks between them at a side-walk cafe. He happens to be the owner of the farmhouse she has rented.
That's when you marvel at Ms. Phillips's ease and affection with her characters where clever quips and banters reveal their insecurity and how the pensive and cool-headed Isabel suits the chivalrous Ren to a tee with equal emotional needs. Ren is a cynic who believes Isabel is too good for his sordid past and hedonism; Isabel discovers life isn't something you can compartmentalize.
The mystery aside, Breathing Room succeeds with deadpanned humor and believable characterization. She deftly explores the foundation of marriages and love with a fallout between her side ensemble - Tracy and Harry. She tackles the differences and emotional chaos between the matured Isabel and Ren realistically and convinces us this fairy-tale ending is here to stay. Their triumph is as much an enlightening for us - that true love comes in all kinds of packages.
on April 22, 2003
This book was a joy to listen to, its not terribly exciting in the action sense, it doesn't have long detailed descriptions of sexual action. What it does have is a complex set of characters who reveal themselves and evolve under the power of a love that both try to deny.
First let me congratulate Kate Fleming as the reader, she does a superb job, not only with the voice inflection but conveying the tone of the words, it is worth the audio edition just to hear her read it. Rather than saying "he said disgustedly" she will deliver his lines in a disgusted tone so the words are almost unnecessary. It is treuly amazing how an accomplished reader can enhance the enjoyment of the material itself.
Ren and Isabel are interesting complex characters that I found myself getting more and more involved with as the story progresses. At the start they both are living a kind of fantasy and denying the reality of what they are like. She believes herself perfect and can't tolerate any imperfections in herself, he believes he has no redeeming qualities at all and can't tolerate any hint otherwise. As they come together and start to unravel, the journey is sometimes painful, sometimes joyful and it is only the power of their love that can keep it moving forward. The love that both sees as a threat to their way of life and thus to be avoided at all costs. The tension and change in them is well crafted and made me want to keep listening.
There are some subplots about the mystery at the well and the ex-wife but its mostly about Ren and Isabel.
I heartily recommend this story for anyone who is interested in well-written dialog and interactions and wants to watch two very real seeming people become intertwined and mature.
on March 30, 2003
This book was incredibly disappointing. I was expecting SEP's trademark humour but it just wasn't there. The characters were poorly drawn, the main storyline was weak and the secondary plot was just plain silly. Who could believe that a woman who had a PhD in psychology and who had earned a place as a life skills guru could fall apart so completely simply because she was defrauded of all her money? Who could believe that this selfsame guru could not know that her relationship with her fiancee was dysfunctional and that he was bound to fall in love with someone else, someone normal and loving? In fact her whole life is dysfunctional and in an effort to fix things she decides to do something incredibly dangerous and pick up a stranger in an Italian cafe and have [relations] with him! She follows this up with a decision to have a meaningless fling with him. Instead of being healed by her behaviour, I can only think that she would be mentally and spiritually damaged. How can anyone find this mindless drivel romantic or entertaining? From its tawdry beginnings to it's lacklustre relationship development, it stinks. Don't waste your money. I was lucky it was available in soft cover over here. I guess you poor Americans get to pay for hardcover. I'm writing this review in the hopes that some of you will save your money.
on January 18, 2003
If you're a SEP fan like me, you'll love this book. As is her wonderful tendency to do, we get to meet two characters and see how they appear to outsiders and then she slowly and seductively unwraps the outer layer to reveal what REALLY makes them tick. And as she shows us their hearts, she endears ours to them as well.
Isabel is or was successful but it's not until she runs into Ren to see how deep her commitment to her profession really goes. The depth of that commitment affects Ren more than he wants to admit. And of course, it takes Isabel to carefully observe why Ren only thinks he can play the bad guy roles in the movies he does. SEP hits on an issue that everyone can relate to: everyone has lied to themselves (deceived themselves, denied themselves)one time or another for one reason or another.
I love books like this that ends happily ever after and there is nothing really sad to make me get all moody over. (no one has to die and I'm not forced onto an emotional roller coaster ride) Real life is emotional enough for me and that's why I turn to the world of fiction like this. Thanks SEP for this keeper of a feel good book.