Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Review: Ain't She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
I've been having good luck lately with my library finds - first with The Borgia Bride, then Garden Spells, and now with my latest read, Ain't She Sweet? This book was my first Susan Elizabeth Phillips and it was a good read, and very reminiscent of Garden Spells, though it was published a few years prior. This was supposed to be my April review for the Contemporary Romance Challenge, but I wasn't able to review it on time, so it has become my May entry.
The beautiful Sugar Beth Carey ruled Parrish, Mississippi as a teenager. She surrounded herself with a handpicked group of friends and used her wealthy family's influence to reign over her high school community, making the lives of many students and one particular teacher a living hell. When she left town for college, she didn't look back. Now fifteen years and three divorces later, Sugar Beth has returned to Parrish, down on her luck. No longer the wealthy child she once was, Sugar Beth is intent on finding a notorious painting of her late aunt's that is worth millions. All Sugar Beth wants is to get the painting and get out of town, but finding it isn't as easy as she'd hoped it would be and she ends up in Parrish for an extended stay. Low on cash, Sugar Beth's only choice for a job is with the teacher whose reputation she purposely tarnished.
Colin Byrne's career was almost ruined by Sugar Beth's false accusations. He was a young teacher who happened to get on Sugar Beth's bad side and ended up losing his job over it. Years later his name was cleared but not before the damage to his pride had been done. When he finds out that Sugar Beth has returned to Parrish, Colin is ready to exact the revenge that is fifteen years in the making. The situation is even sweeter now that Sugar Beth has no money and he has become a wealthy author and owner of her beloved childhood home. When Sugar Beth is unable to find a job in town, Colin uses the opportunity to begin his revenge plot and offers her a job as his housekeeper.
With no other options, Sugar Beth takes a big bite of humble pie and accepts his offer. She begins working for the man she wronged so many years ago while the whole town of Parrish laughs at her behind her back and scorns her to her face. Sugar Beth takes her lumps with her head held high, intent on finding the painting and leaving. She hadn't counted on falling for Colin, though, and that changes everything. Sugar Beth shows remorse for her past actions, but nothing short of seeing her brought to her knees will satisfy Colin's need for revenge. As the two verbally spar with each other, the sexual tension intensifies, and the mutual attraction slowly but surely comes into play. That is when things get dicey and the story becomes fully entertaining.
Ain't She Sweet? is a story full of conflict and drama, which makes it my kind of book. What I loved most about it was that both Colin and Sugar Beth were full of the dramatics. Reading the story was something like watching a play, where everything is deliciously overacted. But I'm partial to drama queens so these types of characters work for me. I did have some problems with the story, though. The reason's for Colin and Winnie's anger at Sugar Beth was understandable, she had done both of them horribly wrong, but the anger from her old friends was silly. They went along with Sugar Beth's antics against Winnie, laughing all the way, so in my opinion, they were no better than her. And their reasons for being upset with Sugar Beth just felt hollow. Also, I wish that the surprise twist at the end of the story had been explained to the reader and not just implied. As it was, the last pages of the book felt rushed, which made what should have been a highlight for the reader, a little lackluster.
The sub plots that involved Sugar Beth's half sister, Winnie and her husband, who also happened to be Sugar Beth's ex boyfriend, Ryan, was another low point. I found it hard to like either character. Winnie's reasons for being upset with Ryan were contrived, especially considering that she was the real blame in the whole matter. And Ryan's actions and notions about Sugar Beth seemed out of place. He came off as a snobby opportunist at some points. The only saving grace in the whole subplot was Winnie and Ryan's teenage daughter, Gigi, whose presence brought out the best in all of the characters involved.
For my first SEP book, Ain't She Sweet? was a good pick. Even though I had some problems, the overall story was fully entertaining. I will definitely be looking into her back-list. Grade B