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Breathing Room

Breathing Room

4.1 82
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kate Forbes (Read by)

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She's Dr. Isabel Favor, America's diva of self-help.
He's Ren Gage, Hollywood's favorite villain.
Sometimes you just know that God has a sense of humor.

Dr. Isabel Favor has sacrificed everything to build her self-help empire. Then, in a matter of weeks, it all comes crashing down. She loses her money, her fiancé, and her reputation. Broke,


She's Dr. Isabel Favor, America's diva of self-help.
He's Ren Gage, Hollywood's favorite villain.
Sometimes you just know that God has a sense of humor.

Dr. Isabel Favor has sacrificed everything to build her self-help empire. Then, in a matter of weeks, it all comes crashing down. She loses her money, her fiancé, and her reputation. Broke, heartsick, and soul-weary, she heads for Italy in search of a little breathing room.

Lorenzo Gage makes his living killing people .. on the silver screen, that is. He's viciously handsome and sublimely talented. While on vacation in Italy he spots Isabel sipping a glass of wine in a sidewalk café. A good guy wouldn't think of seducing such a tidy-looking woman... but he'd never seen the fun in playing the hero.

A farmhouse nestled in a Tuscan olive grove can't provide Isabel with the refuge she needs — not when the townspeople are scheming to drive her away, and her plan to restore her reputation has come up empty. And especially not when the man who deceived her refuses to leave her in peace.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
After a disgruntled assistant bad-mouths her to the tabloids, her accountant runs off with her money, and her fiancé dumps her for another woman, self-help guru Dr. Isabel Favor decides to take a breather in the Italian countryside. There she meets Hollywood's sexiest, hottest bad-boy, Ren Gage…and gives in to his tempestuous charm. Ren is incognito in Italy for his own reasons -- which will soon come to light and cause complications for the pair -- but is still more than willing to keep lovely Isabel off balance and help her enjoy the pleasures of taking life as it comes. He's sure the comfortable stability of Isabel's old "favorable" lifestyle can't compare to what he has to offer -- fantastic food, endless sunshine, and wild sex. But old habits die hard, and Isabel is not sure her admirably controlled lifestyle leaves any room for an impulsive, passionate movie star who thrives on chaos. With Breathing Room, bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips has crafted a passionate story that sweeps readers away while tackling some very human, and relatable, issues. The delightful lead characters, Isabel and Ren, are wonderfully different from each other, yet they stay true to themselves while building a life together. Sue Stone
Publishers Weekly
The familiar tricks of the trade are refreshingly revamped in this lively contemporary romance set in Tuscany. Lorenzo (Ren) Gage is a devilishly handsome movie star, best known for his villainous roles onscreen and his playboy antics off. Isabel Favor is a tightly wound self-help guru and author of The Four Cornerstones of a Favorable Life whose own perfect life has recently come crashing down around her. Both have come to Italy to escape the endless rehashes of their latest misfortunes in the public eye, and the equally endless drone of self-criticism. Ren and Isabel meet under what can only be described as unusual circumstances, leaving each of them thinking, thankfully, they'll never see the other again. Imagine their surprise when Isabel turns up on Ren's doorstep, her much anticipated rental villa belonging to none other than her ill-advised one-night stand. As might be anticipated, their fiery antagonism soon breeds sparks of a different kind. The relationship develops in a somewhat familiar fashion, but the development of Isabel and Ren as characters makes their story shine. Meanwhile, at the villa, all is not as it seems, and the two lovers find themselves playing amateur detectives, trying to untangle the strange behavior of the townspeople and of Ren's hired caretaker. As if things weren't complicated enough, Ren's ex-wife, Tracy, suddenly appears on the scene pregnant and with several kids in tow. Tracy's appearance ushers in a touching subplot centering on the nature of marriage in the real world an unexpected and affecting treat in the midst of this steamy, lighthearted romance. With this intriguing combination of the fantasy and reality of romance, Phillips has created a very modern and textured tale: witty, moving, passionate and tender. 9-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With the personal, professional, and financial aspects of her life all in shambles, counselor and self-help guru Dr. Isabel Favor escapes to the Tuscan countryside for two months to rest, write, and rethink her future. But her hopes of a peaceful idyll are dashed when the locals try to convince her to leave her rented farmhouse, whose owner turns out to be Lorenzo Gage, the film world's favorite psychopath and the man with whom Isabel had an impulsive, out-of-character, one-night stand on her first evening in Florence. Chaos reigns and so does passion in this funny, occasionally whacky, yet surprisingly insightful contemporary romance, which gives its optimistic heroine and conflicted movie-idol hero a little "breathing room" and lets Italy's hill country work its magic. With stunningly vivid descriptions and some of her most complex protagonists to date, Phillips (This Heart of Mine) has once again produced a thoroughly delightful romance. Phillips lives in the Chicago area. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.54(w) x 7.12(h) x 1.26(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Dr. Isabel Favor prized neatness. During the week she wore exquisitely tailored black suits with tasteful leather pumps and a strand of pearls at her throat. On weekends she favored tidy sweater sets or silk shells, always in a neutral palette. A well-cut bob and an assortment of expensive beauty products generally tamed her blond hair's inclination to rearrange itself into disobedient curls. If that failed, she resorted to narrow velvet headbands.

She wasn't beautiful, but her evenly spaced light brown eyes sat exactly where they should, and her forehead rose in proportion to the rest of her face. Her lips were a shade too lavish, so she camouflaged them with nude-toned lipstick and dotted foundation on her nose to mute an unruly splash of freckles. Good eating habits kept her complexion creamy and her figure slender and healthy, although she would have preferred slimmer hips. In nearly every respect she was an orderly woman, the exception being a slightly uneven right thumbnail. While she no longer bit it to the quick, it was markedly shorter than her other nails, and nibbling at its edges remained the only habit from her very untidy childhood that she'd never entirely been able to conquer.

As the lights in the Empire State Building went on outside her office windows, Isabel tucked her thumb inside her fist to resist temptation. Lying on her art deco desk was that morning's issue of Manhattan's favorite tabloid. The feature article had festered inside her all day, but she'd been too busy to brood. Now it was brooding time.

America's Diva of Self-Help isDriven, Demanding,
and Difficult

The former administrative assistant to well-known self-help author and lecturer Dr. Isabel Favor says her employer is the boss from hell. “She's a total control freak,” declares Teri Mitchell, who resigned from her position last week....

“She didn't resign,” Isabel pointed out. “I fired her after I found two months' worth of fan mail she didn't bother to open.” Her thumbnail crept to her teeth. “And I'm not a control freak.”

“Coulda fooled me.” Carlota Mendoza emptied a brass wastebasket into the receptacle on her cleaning cart. “You're also -- what was those other things she said -- driven and demanding? Sí, those, too.”

“I am not. Get the top of those light fixtures, will you?”

“Do I look like I got a ladder with me? And stop biting your nails.”

Isabel tucked away her thumb. “I have standards, that's all. Unkindness is a flaw. Stinginess, envy, greed -- all flaws. But am I any of those things?”

“There's a bag of candy bars hidden in the backa your bottom drawer, but my English isn't too good, so maybe I don' understand this greed stuff.”

“Very funny.” Isabel didn't believe in eating her feelings, but it had been a horrible day, so she slid open her emergency drawer, pulled out two Snickers bars, and tossed one to Carlota. She'd simply put in extra time with her yoga tapes tomorrow morning.

Carlota caught the candy bar and leaned against her cart to tear it open. “Just outta curiosity...you ever wear jeans?”

“Jeans?” Isabel smooshed the chocolate against the roof of her mouth, taking a moment to savor it before she replied. “Well, I used to.” She set down the candy bar and rose from the desk. “Here, give me that.” She grabbed Carlota's dust cloth, kicked off her pumps, and tugged up the skirt of her Armani suit so she could climb onto the couch to reach a wall sconce.

Carlota sighed. “You're gonna tell me again, aren't you, about how you put yourself through college cleaning houses?”

“And offices and restaurants and factories.” Isabel used her index finger to get between the scrollwork. “I waited tables all through graduate school, washed dishes -- oh, I hated that job. While I wrote my dissertation, I ran errands for lazy rich people.”

“What you are now, except without the lazy part.”

Isabel smiled and moved on to the top of a picture frame. “I'm trying to make a point. With hard work, discipline, and prayer, people can make their dreams come true.”

“If I wanted to hear all this, I'da bought a ticket to one of your lectures.”

“Yet here I am giving you my wisdom for free.”

“Lucky me. You done yet? 'Cause I got other offices to clean tonight.”

Isabel stepped down from the couch, handed over the dust cloth, then rearranged the cleaning bottles on the top of the cart so Carlota wouldn't have to reach so far for the ones she needed. “Why did you ask about jeans?”

“Just trying to picture it in my mind.” Carlota popped the rest of the Snickers into her mouth. “All the time you look ritzy, like you don't know what a toilet is, let alone how to clean one.”

“I have to maintain an image. I wrote Four Cornerstones of a Favorable Life when I was only twenty-eight. If I hadn't dressed conservatively, no one would have taken me seriously.”

“You're what, sixty-two now? You need jeans.”

“I just turned thirty-four, and you know it.”

“Jeans and a pretty red blouse, one of them tight ones to show off your boobs. And some really high heels.”

“Speaking of hookers, did I tell you those two ladies who hang out by the alley showed up at the new job program yesterday?”

“Those whores'll be back on the street by next week. I don' know why you waste your time with them.”

“Because I like them. They're hard workers.” Isabel kicked back in her chair, forcing herself to concentrate on the positive instead of that humiliating newspaper article. “The Four Cornerstones work for everybody, from streetwalkers to saints, and I have thousands of testimonials to prove it.”

Carlota snorted and...

Breathing Room. Copyright © by Susan Phillips. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Susan Elizabeth Phillips soared onto the New York Times bestseller list with Dream a Little Dream. She’s the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a hiker, gardener, reader, wife, and mother of two grown sons.

Brief Biography

Chicago, Illinois
Place of Birth:
Cincinnati, Ohio
B.F.A., Ohio University

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Breathing Room 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love how this author writes her novels. Every single one has more things involved that actually tells the reader how they may deal with situations. Its not all about love, it tells you what happened in a characters life and what they have conquer in order to move forward. Another thing that i love about her books is the fact that they are helarious and they just make you want to read on and on and on until the book is done.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a person that buys or reads books on the reviews given by readers, then this is definitely not a book for you. While I am still fairly new to SEP I actually enjoyed breathing room so much so that I couldn't put it down, while the story line in a bit out there in terms of what brings the characters to the current predicaments they find themselves it is a well told story, with well thought out plot development. I like good story telling that keeps me intrigued, if that's what you're looking for then this is definitely a book you'll enjoy reading. Besides, I thought the whole point of romantic fiction was to take you to another place, and that exactly what she does.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just got done reading the book for the second time and I still could not put it down. I am a big SEP fan anyway, but this is one of my faves. Sure it is a bit outlandish at times (especially the ending) but that is what reading is all about in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to many friends who have also really loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Susan Elizabeth Phillips books. I LOVE most of them and really like the rest....except this one. Definitely the worst, I would just skip altogether.
Always_A_Romantic More than 1 year ago
I just stumbled upon this author recently and have been pleasantly surprised. I loved "Match Me If You Can" as well as "This Heart of Mine" and "Natural Born Charmer". I planned on reading all of her books but this one gives me pause. I'm only half way through it and I don't think I can finish it. I don't like the hero, Ren, (very unbelievable) and Isabel just hasn't developed along with the story as far as I'm concerned. I think I'll go on to another of her books and hope for the best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
right so i find susan elizabeth phillips a fantastic writer but this book was absolutely terrible. the female was boring and punch-in-the-face worthy. if i could give it negative stars i would. oh and there is absolutely no plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was excellent! I highly recommend it. I've already read it 3 times in the past year and each time is as good as the last! The author makes you feel like you're there...almost like watching a movie. It was great.
Tess89 More than 1 year ago
I agree with one of the comments. I liked a lot "Natural Born Charmer" and I wanted to read more of this author hoping to have nice relaxing time when reading. Unfortunately "Breathing Room" gives me pause too. I could not finish this book. This romance is so plain an boring. I hope that other books can be better. This book was really bad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!! and im not lying. SEP is my fav author and this book was another one of her successes. SEP has a unique way of writting, she has an incredible way of thinking. I LOVE HER BOOKS AND I LOVE HER! you go SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hard for me to 'breathe' with this one, it was too awful. I had this book for a long time until I got around to reading it. This was a good thing because by now I¿ve forgotten what I paid for it so, I¿m not sure how much of a waste of money it was. Isabel¿s negative traits: self righteous, controlling, arrogant, obsessive, superior, annoying, boring, judgmental, and prissy. Those are just the ones I can think of offhand. Her positive traits: OK, let me think a minute, I'm sure there's something. She seemed to like kids? Her fiancé left her after falling in love with a frumpy older woman whom he had gotten pregnant. Her accountant ran off with her money. Her career tanked. But that didn¿t stop her from assuming she knew what was best for everyone else and telling them about it! She¿s definitely not in a position to give advice! Heal Thyself! Ren was a likeable enough guy and nowhere near the bad boy the media would have you think. He was however either stupid or masochistic or both to get involved with Isabel. What could a man like Ren possibly see in this woman? Or really any man for Pete¿s sake. And how could she appeal to a man after she dictated her list of rules for them having sex? Can¿t do this, can¿t do that, I¿m in charge, I call the shots. Can you say 'kill the mood? And what was with the last couple of chapter¿s? For awhile there I thought I¿d dozed off and woke up in another book! Castle ruins, lightning, goddess (yeah right), statues (cue dramatic music). I can highly recommend Ms. Phillip's 'Kiss An Angel' which is one of my favorite books. Also 'It Had To Be You'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was dissapointed in this book. I've read nearly all of her books, and love them, but in this book her characters weren't realistic and the heroine was a woman that I don't think I could have even been friends with. Don't give up on SEP after this book though, she's a terrific writer, usually.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really like Susan E Phillips and I totally savored 'This Heart of Mine' - and, so I was eagerly looking forward to 'Breathing Room'. I was so disappointed!! The only thing this book did for me was make me want to book a flight to Italy. Other than that, the characters were boring, the premise was stupid, and the ending over the top. What has worked in other books (poor but beautiful woman meets bad but intelligent boy) needs an overhaul. Too bad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just love these characters. Ren & Isabelle are 2 of my characters SEP ever created!
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Very good, funny and uplifting.
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