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Dream a Little Dream
Those who accuse all romances of sounding the same should read a Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel. Within a couple of pages, they will realize there is a startling originality to the characters.
In one novel, the heroine was a "bimbo" with painfully bad taste. In another, the title character springs from a carny background and carries the tacky name of Honey Moon.
All of Susan's awkward characters are on an emotional journey to transform themselves. "It takes me a year to write a book," Susan confesses. "I don't want to spend it with a perfect person. They have to have some flaws to make it interesting."
While her characters may be flawed, don't make the mistake of labeling them as weak. "I want them to grow in strength. My heroines are always capable of doing something by the end of the book they were incapable of in the beginning. I guess it's my trademark: Good love makes us better people."
That philosophy pervades her latest book, Dream a Little Dream. Rachel, the heroine, sputters onto the scene in the jalopy she and her son have been living in. They are returning to Salvation, NC, a town where she is hated. Her late husband had been a crooked televangelist who swindled the town of much of its capital.
The hero Gabe was dragged back to Salvation from an alcoholic haze in Mexico by his concerned brothers. He had fled after his wife and child died in a car accident.
Both flawed characters are desperate for healing. "Rachel is my strongest character. Having a child to protect gives you strength," Susan says. "But Gabe Bonner is one of my darkest heroes.
"His character was easy for me to write," Susan continues. "If you're happy with your marriage, it's easy to identify with what kind of pain you would be in if you lost a good marriage and your children."
If you surf the internet bulletin boards, you've been hearing the pre-publishing buzz about this novel. Part of that excitement stems from the way Susan introduced these characters in Nobody's Baby But Mine. Neither Gabe nor Rachel made an appearance in the book. But because of how the citizens of Salvation spoke of them, readers became hungry to see what the "real" people behind the rumors were like.
Another aspect that sets Dream... apart is how Susan addresses religion in this book. A secondary love story follows Gabe's minister brother Ethan. Since Ethan has a taste for what he calls "trashy women," he constantly struggles with his conviction to remain celibate until marriage. As for Rachel, married to an evangelist, faith had once played an enormous role in her life. "I didn't try to back away from it," Susan states. "If I hadn't dealt with it, it would have been dishonest. Rachel's focus was so clear from the beginning. The part of her that led her to marry Snopes [the evangelist] was disillusioned. That must be addressed."
Fans will be happy to hear that Susan is currently penning a Fancy Pants spin-off. "The publishing date isn't set yet," Susan says. "It'll be sometime in 1999. But those who read Fancy Pants will be interested to hear that Dallie Beaudine is now the PGA commissioner!"
While predicting how a Susan Elizabeth Phillips' book will unfold is impossible, there is one thing readers can count on. "The power of love," Susan reveals. "I think that is fun
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