Publication Date: November 12, 2015
Phaleeta Turnbow is a lifelong, Kansas City resident that works in public relations at a publishing house and has a disastrous dating life. She measures all men against the man of her dreams, Frisco Balantine, a fictional creation by author Rob Penner. When Phaleeta gets an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) of Rod’s new book and finds that he’s killed Frisco, she decides that the protagonist must be modeled after the author. In researching her next move, she finds that Rod’s hometown of Lavender Fields, Michigan is in need of a new librarian. Can Phaleeta find happiness in the tiny western Michigan town with the man of her dreams or will he turn out to be a nightmare?
Phaleeta Turnbow is a woman in love with a fictional man. She is a self-aware character in that she knows her infatuation is nuts and is prohibiting her from living the rest of her life. She understands that it’s irrational, but love and reason don’t share headspace. When the fictional Frisco dies, it’s a real and heartfelt loss for Phaleeta. He has been a true roadblock to her real life. Her heart is in mourning but her head is saying, “The real Frisco might still be out there.” Hence, the hunt for an author she’s met casually but found rather reserved so, really, he could be anybody. Of course, that Rod is exceptionally good-looking eases the mental process and encourages a lonely 20-something to try to live a truelove fairy tale.
Phaleeta’s Obsession has a number of positive points. The story is a fun idea with which readers will identify. You see all of the polls online asking readers to vote for their “book boyfriends”—Phaleeta takes the idea to the extreme. Her journey is progressive so that we get to know her as she mourns the loss of Frisco and makes a plan to throw herself in the path of Rod Penner.
In Phaleeta’s path to love are the residents of the tiny town of Lavender Fields, specifically the local library board. Crowne has given thought to the rich and unique personalities that make up her cast of supporting characters. Elderly twins Bella and Ella run the post office and hair salon. Shirley is the town mayor. Shirley’s grandson, Sam, is young, strapping and Phaleeta’s ticket to Rod Penner as he works as his accountant and assistant. The scenes in which she interacts with the older ladies are delightful in that the women are true manipulators and there are few secrets once they’ve set their mind to uncovering them. Phaleeta, as cool as she thinks she might be, never has a chance.
Phaleeta’s Obsession is a book that could use polish. Crowne says in two paragraphs what could be laid out in one sentence. We’re told earlier in the novel that Phaleeta is very careful with her hair. In Chapter 13, Phaleeta has an appointment for a haircut with Bella and in an extended paragraph opening the chapter explains again how much she loves her hair and talks in circles about how she’s worried to let Bella cut her hair. The language used in the novel is very formal for characters so young. Also in Chapter 13 (location 1650), Sam is speaking to Phaleeta and says, “Its an appropriate night for a celebration, so off with the two of you and let me have my solitude!” The line isolated could easily be tongue in cheek, but the dialogue throughout the story is formal and stilted and not written in the way that people actually speak.
Awkward dialogue doesn’t hold up the story as much as the consistent over explanation, nor does it keep Phaleeta’s Obsession from being a really good story with really interesting characters. Cathy Crowne is a talented author with good ideas and a strong identity. If you’re looking for a really interesting romance and can identify with the “book boyfriend” phenomena, give Phaleeta’s Obsession a shot.
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