Review: Simply the Best

Review: Simply the BestSimply the Best (Chicago Stars, #10) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #10
Published by Avon on February 13, 2024
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: With two characters who have more in common than at first glance, this messy and sexy story with some mystery was really enjoyable.

THE STORY: Brett Rivers is a cutthroat sports agent known as “The River” who is devoted to his job when a costly mistake involving his top client puts his career at risk. Rory Garrett is struggling to launch her chocolate business after having a drunken misunderstanding with Brett that makes her feel like a failure yet again. But when an unexpected event happens involving Rory’s celebrity footballer brother and his ex-girlfriend, she and Brett reluctantly join forces, both wanting to find Rory’s brother – Rory to help her brother and Brett to save his career. Despite their mutual attraction, their differences threaten to undermine their goals…unless they can work together to unravel the mystery, confront their personal demons, and maybe even find an unlikely happy ending.

OPINION: Phillips’ latest Chicago Stars romance is classic SEP fun. Rory dreams of having her own chocolate shop, but she’s broke. Her half-brother Clint is a famous football player with a lot of money. Brett is Clint’s agent who helps manage his career. Rory and Brett don’t like each other at first. (Well, actually they kind of do, but I’ll leave that surprise for readers) But then something happens with Clint and the two have to work together.

As Rory and Brett spend more time together, they start to enjoy each other’s company. Rory is messy and disorganized but super creative. Brett is very organized and responsible. Opposites attract, and the chemistry between these two is hot. What I loved best is that as the book goes on, Brett is shown to be more of an emotional mess than expected and Rory has responsibility and maturity in different ways. This is not a true “enemies to lovers” but comes pretty close. Watching them go from antagonism to deep love is what SEP excels at. You just know they are perfect for each other even when they fight.

There are also some funny side stories with Rory’s stepmom Kristin. I loved that SEP did not make her a caricature as she first appeared.

This book has everything great about SEP’s writing: humor, steamy romance, interesting mystery, and characters who are at their core decent people. Rory and Brett have their flaws as humans but end up balancing each other out nicely.

WORTH MENTIONING: I want Clint’s book now. He’s much more interesting now with some darkness and baggage.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SIMPLY THE BEST is the tenth book in the Chicago Stars series. This book can be read as a standalone. While there are mentions and cameos from other characters in the series, they are limited, and there is no overarching plot. Brett works for Heath Champion, so we get some glimpses of Heath and Annabelle from MATCH ME IF YOU CAN (Chicago Stars book 6).

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: When Stars Collide

Review: When Stars CollideWhen Stars Collide (Chicago Stars, #9) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #9
Published by William Morrow on June 29, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: “WHEN STARS COLLIDE” is a delightfully fun, well-crafted book that shines with Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ signature wit and wonderfully resonant characters that I just loved.

STORY: Thaddeus Walker Bowman Owens, a backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars, and Olivia Shore, an international opera diva, end up traveling together on a nationwide tour promoting a luxury watch brand. Neither is happy about the team-up. Quickly there is something between them that develops as Olivia’s journey is complicated by threatening letters, haunting photographs, and dangerous encounters with an unknown villain. These two talented, passionate, and ambitious stars have a friendship but also some intensity between them. As both are devoted to their careers, there seems to be no future, and yet there is such desire and yearning between them.

OPINION: This sparkling gem of a novel is Susan Elizabeth Phillips at her finest. Infused with her trademark humor and wit, WHEN STARS COLLIDE is a hugely entertaining read that had me hooked from page one. As expected with Phillips’ books, the characters leap off the page. Backup quarterback Thad and opera superstar Olivia feel like people you’d love to be friends with in real life – despite their fame, they are down-to-earth and handle their conflicts in refreshingly adult ways.

The banter between them gave me life – their chemistry sings from their very first meet-cute. As they navigate their nationwide tour and subsequent safety issues, their connection deepens into a supportive partnership. Phillips perfectly balances drama, humor, mystery and romance in a “beach read” that was impossible for me to put down.

After being in a reading slump myself, the sheer joy and smile-inducing fun of WHEN STARS COLLIDE was exactly what I needed. Phillips’ distinctive humor shines here, with plenty of goofy and even madcap situations. But beneath it lies two characters written with heart and depth. I adored watching Thad and Olivia realize how much alike they are despite first impressions, finding common ground as ambitious, passionate artists. This book left me grinning from ear to ear. I somehow missed it upon release but am elated to have found this gem.

WORTH MENTIONING: While not necessary to read the other Chicago Stars books to enjoy this one, readers of the series will get some great cameos from characters in the series. Nothing intrusive, but the book seamlessly roots itself in the Chicago Stars universe.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN STARS COLLIDE is the ninth book in the Chicago Stars series. This book, however, can easily be read as a standalone. While there are a few cameos from characters in previous books, nothing is really missed by starting here instead of reading the previous books (although they are great and highly recommended).

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.