Little, Brown, March 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
Stone Senterra has discovered the perfect film project to launch him from mediocre action hero to blockbuster star status. It's a project featuring the late Harper Vance, an agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who was killed in the line of duty. Vance is a national hero who took down the Turnkey Bomber. There's just one person standing in Stone's way.
Grace Vance, a former Miss Georgia contestant and host of an Atlanta talk show, is fighting to protect the privacy and memory of her late husband. The movie star Stone Senterra wants to exploit Harp's life, but Grace refuses to cooperate with the project, and is trying her best to sabotage it. Sweethearts since childhood, Harper grew up on the wrong side of town, and the shadows of his early life haunted him until the day he died. She was Harp's "saving grace," but the truth about their lives is something private she doesn't want to become the subject of a movie. When Senterra moves his family and production team to Dahlonega, Georgia, Grace's hometown, and sends his top security agent to deal with her, she meets the first person to interest her since Harp's death.
Boone Noleen, an ex-con and head of security for Stone Senterra, is responsible for making sure Grace doesn't ruin Stone's pet film project. Stone hired Boone straight out of Angola State Penitentiary. Boone owes Stone for giving him a second chance, but he knows the first time he sets eyes on Grace that he wants to take care of her. "Some women set a man free from himself. Grace was one of those women." Grace has a track record for picking up strays; however, Boone recognizes Grace doesn't need to heal the wounds in his life, he needs to heal hers. First it's going to take some big time, good-ole-boy, southern skill to charm Grace.
CHARMING GRACE is an outrageously funny novel. Grace's tactics for interfering with the movie production are hilarious. Written in first person viewpoints and shifting between Grace and Boone, readers will laugh out loud at the twists and turns of this unusual courtship. The prose is filled with trendy descriptions and southernisms, but once you get into the rhythm of the writing it flows beautifully. Divided into three parts, the novel is more fiction than romance, and Grace and Boone have few scenes together until part two. The supporting cast is filled with flamboyant characters like: Grace's quirky grandmother G. Helen, Stone's bodybuilding sister, the movie actress, Diamond "Irma" Senterra, and Mika, Harp's biracial debutante niece. Ms. Smith has a great comedic style, but she is equally gifted with raw emotions. Plus, the ending had a nice twist I never saw coming. This is my first novel by Deborah Smith and any author that can move me from laughter to tears in the span of a paragraph is definitely one I want to check out further.
Deborah Smith is the best-selling author of SWEET HUSH, A PLACE TO CALL HOME, and WHEN VENUS FELL. Her website http://www.deborahsmith.com/charminggrace/ features a CHARMING GRACE blog, written in the fictional voice of Grace Vance for readers interested in discovering more about these fascinating characters.
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