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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 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.
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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.
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on June 22, 2002
I give up. Somehow Phillips manages, book after book, to write stories I just can't wait to gobble up. I'm entertained, amused, touched--sometimes all in the same moment by her warm-hearted, sexy stories of women who lose everything and then meet the absolute baddest of the bad boys, like buttoned-up Isabel Favor and Lorenzo Gage in BREATHING ROOM. At the end of her rope, Isabel learns that surrendering to what life has in store for her is the ultimate secret. Yes, embrace the chaos and become emotionally richer as a result.
This theme is a consistent one w/Phillips, and it resonates for a lot of us in a world grown increasingly unmanageable, confusing--and, yes, chaotic.
Isabel Favor in BREATHING ROOM is a heroine so in control of every aspect of her life that I pictured her even folding over the corners of her own toilet paper! And my heart broke for her.

But, oh, and ah, and my, how delicious the future awaiting her just when she's lost everything and has nowhere to turn. Except into the arms of Ren Gage, Hollywood's really, really bad boy.
Except...he's no boy-man, and she's not a woman who's passively waiting for a knight on a white horse. Not totally-in-charge Isabel!
And all this delectablility takes place in the gorgeous world of Tuscan Italy, ripe with the smells of grapes and wine, warm with late afternoon sun--shoot, if I can't afford a trip out of town, let me spend another few hours reading BREATHING ROOM and visiting Tuscany vicariously.
I loved the characters, the setting, the poignant humor--everything. The secondary love story, for me, was richly drawn and equally affecting--a large cast of characters moving lightly, like sunshine on the leaves of the Tuscan olive trees.
SEP writes with such understanding of what it means to be a female in this culture, of struggling to be-all and do-all for everyone. As a result, her heroines are irresistibly winning. They speak for many of us. What they struggle with, we non-fictional women struggle with, too. We all need a little BREATHING ROOM. And Phillips translates that struggle into something charming, funny, and utterly delightful.
While I hate to weight down the charm of this book by mentioning that it also deals with big issues of life and how we deal with them, BREATHING ROOM touches on some really significant issues, though with such a light, deft hand that I am once again amazed by SEP's skill.
This is a perfect book for right now, for days when we'd all like to gather our scattered thoughts and not have to think about reality and how awfully, awfully real it can be. I'd rather live in the Phillips' BREATHING ROOM reality for a few hours and catch my breath for a moment. And then go back to real life with a smile on my face and a lighter heart. BREATHING ROOM is a real gift.
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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.
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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.
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on January 15, 2003
We all know what a gifted writer SEP is but I couldn't finish this book because I was so let down with the story. For one, I could NOT believe that gorgeous, RICH Lorenzo found the dowdy, plain Isabelle attractive. Because we know in real life that does not happen. Lorenzo was previously married to a gorgeous person, he has dated tons of Hollywood beauties...and he's gonna fall for a self-righteous non-descript therapist? Please. Talk about contrived. Not only that, but Isabelle had NO sex appeal least it didn't come across that way in the book. How the heck did Ren see her across a crowded outdoor cafe and want to make mad passionate love to her. What-ever!
The whole fertility story was trite. It was a stretch and one that afforded SEP to work in the Tuscan countryside and the people in it. The best part of the story was the secondary couple (Ren's ex)...there was a wonderful story there and SEP is gifted in working in those secondary couples (like in THIS HEART OF MIND...the old couple..they were HOT, HOT HOT.)
What I do love about SEPs books is the sexual energy, the humanity, the love, the emotion she puts in her characters. As long as her stories have somewhat of a realistic element I will enjoy it. I don't enjoy a story that is not believable.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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on June 7, 2002
How do I describe Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips? Well, let's see-it's sexy, romantic, naughty, has characters I adored, fabulous secondary characters, great dialogue, and takes place in an exotic location. Let me ask you, as a romance reader, what more can you ask for?
Dr. Isabel Favor has it all. She's a self-help guru who can do no wrong, or so she thinks. Then she is attacked in the tabloids by a disgruntled ex-employee, she finds out the IRA is after her for unpaid taxes, her accountant who was supposed to take care of the taxes has skipped the country with all her money, and her fiancé has gotten another woman pregnant. All this happens within a space 24 hours to a woman who is supposed to have all the answers.
Lorenzo Gage is a drop dead bad boy. He makes his living playing the most horrendous villains in movies. His attitude is he can do whatever, whenever, with whomever he wants when he wants. Life is good until a former girlfriend, who just happens to be America's favorite actress, dies and the blames lands in his lap.
Two people on top of the world find themselves hiding out in Italy waiting for the bad press to die down. However, they end up finding more when they discover each other. Breathing Room is a fantastic read. Lorenzo, or Ren as he is called, is that bad boy every woman wants to tame. He has it all, looks, money, talent, and loads of sex appeal. Isabel is the self-contained character that needs to learn to live life. Put them together and you have a wonderful story. Ms. Phillips outdid herself in Breathing Room. This is one of those books that will go on my keepers' shelf and will be read over and over.
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