Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard is the luckiest man in the world: a bona-fide sports superstar and the pride of the NFL with a profitable side career as a buff billboard model for End Zone underwear. But life in the glory lane has started to pale, and Dean has set off on a cross-country trip to figure out what's gone wrong. When he hits a lonely stretch of Colorado highway, he spies something that will shake up his gilded life in ways he can't imagine. A young woman . . . dressed in a beaver suit.
Blue Bailey is on a mission to murder her ex. Or at least inflict serious damage. As for the beaver suit she's wearing . . . Is it her fault that life keeps throwing her curveballs? Witness the expensive black sports car pulling up next to her on the highway and the Greek god stepping out of it.
Blue's career as a portrait painter is the perfect job for someone who refuses to stay in one place for very long. She needs a ride, and America's most famous football player has an imposing set of wheels. Now, all she has to do is keep him entertained, off guard, and fully clothed before he figures out exactly how desperate she is.
But Dean isn't the brainless jock she imagines, and Blue -- despite her petite stature -- is just about the toughest woman Dean has ever met. They're soon heading for his summer home where their already complicated lives and inconvenient attraction to each other will become entangled with a charismatic but aging rock star; a beautiful fifty-two-year-old woman trying to make peace with her rock and roll past; an eleven-year-old who desperately needs a family; and a bitter old woman who hates them all.
As the summer progresses, the wandering portrait artist and the charming football star play a high-stakes game, fighting themselves and each other for a chance to have it all.
Dean and Blue fit the SEP mold:
That’s where the similarity between this and the remaining stories in her Chicago Stars series ends.
In NBC, Phillips lays bare Blue’s vulnerabilities almost immediately. You ache for this woman, but understand her need to deal alone. Her self-preservation skills are traced very realistically back to childhood heartbreak and SEP clues readers in efficiently but poignantly. IOW, no background info dump used to neatly explain character behavior. Nothing contrived to make her particularly appealing to Dean. We see and feel through Blue from beginning to end.
Dean is equally appealing, in a “what you see is what you get” kind of way. Phillips establishes Dean as a decent guy with her trademark wry sense of humor. On the surface, he appears very much like previous SEP Chicago Stars heroes. His intentions toward Blue are not exactly honorable, his goal to bed her not all that mature. Unlike his predecessors however, he derives only a fraction of the enjoyment in his pursuit of Blue. He simply doesn’t have as much time for it. Instead, he spends the bulk of his time wrestling his own emotional baggage. Watching him alternately avoid and deal with his bizarre family was entertaining and touching.
His bizarre family, the bulk of his emotional baggage, comprises a wonderful supporting cast of characters. SEP easily fleshes out each character without miring the reader down in tangents. The developing relationships between each family member, Dean and Blue lend color and depth to the story. And SEP layers and blends, mixes and matches until every character is essential in the telling of the story. These relationships also provide one of the greatest sources of humor—Blue’s reaction to Dean’s rock star Dad. It is nothing short of hilarious. Throw in a cantankerous old broad down the road and you have a melting pot at high boil, spewing venom laced one-liners at perfectly timed intervals. This is SEP at her best.
I also found NBC to be more sexually charged than previous SEP titles. She takes their physical relationship a bit beyond the traditional, highly anticipated consummation of their attraction. Through the power of suggestion, SEP actually sways toward the erotic, with allusions to kink, spanking and even anal stimulation. Far sexier than the explicitness of true erotic titles.
Overall, the perfect romantic read. I fell in love. Then felt bereft when it was all over. If I could experience this with more of my romance reads, I’d be a happy woman.