It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  

Yeah, high school kinda' sucked.  And while it didn't end with a Tale-of-Two-Cities-style guillotine to the neck - 'least not for anybody we'd have liked to see suffer that fate, if only figuratively -- for many of us, those years pert' much reeked.  Still, most of us get past it, especially when we figure out that even the tormentors were soul deep in insecurity.

Unfortunately, tormentor or tormented, lots of things can send one hurling back through time to those days.  Recently an online pal, Santa, encouraged me to pick up a classic romance I'd long been meaning to get to, Susan Elizabeth Phillips' (SEP) "Ain't She Sweet?  ," (ASheS), a marvelously funny and sexy novel that for almost everyone who reads it dredges up the bad old days -- and lots of reasons to get right with 'em.

Aside from being one of the most popular romance heroines of all time, Sugar Beth Carey ruled the high school roost in her small Southern town.  Gorgeous, sexy, whip-smart and pin-prick mean even as a teen, her thirst for attention, and anger over her impossible family sitch, spurred her to ruin the career of a hot young teacher in her school before she ran off to gain her MRS degree, and find fortune and fame.

Back in town and broke after three marriages, Sugar Beth finds Colin Byrne, the hot teacher, now is a respected member of the community, a world-famous author and the straight-out-of-a Regency-romance, hero-type guy - complete with broody bastardliness and smokin' Brit accent -- who owns the home Sugar Beth grew up in.

No prob.  Sugar Beth knows it's time to nosh on some humble pie, so she makes a devil's deal with Byrne to work for chump change as his housekeeper so she can search his digs for a supposedly valuable painting her grandmother willed to her - a piece of artwork with a history as passionate and scandalous as the one about to explode between Byrne and Sugar Beth.

But Sugar Beth's got more to make up for than her treatment of Byrne, and her comeuppance with the grown women who once were her best friends won't just teach her the full measure of reaping what one sows.  Sugar Beth's painful to joyful interactions with women friends and nemeses give us a highly polished mirror in which to take a gander at past wrongs and current resentments -- and what it might mean to look oneself in the eye and make amends where and with whom they're most deserved.

Of course, we can get past the past, but sometimes our old friends won't let us forget from whence we came.  A few weeks ago a really nice guy I was pals w/ in high school and recently reunited w/ through the miracle of social media wrote me a note on facebook asking what everyone would think if they found out I'd gotten an incomplete in high-school Creative Writing.

I'm reconsidering his nice-guy status.

How do you feel about romances that explore a character's working through feelings about high school? What are some of your faves? Are you and ASheS and SEP fan? How do you like hooking up with old pals through social media?


by Moderator dhaupt on ‎10-19-2009 12:50 PM

OMG Michelle, you picked my best read of all times. A S S (wow great initials) was the first romance novel that I really LOVED. It featured this high school princess who finally got her comeuppance but we find out that maybe really she had reasons. Well duh, don't we all. If you go to SEP's web-site and click on her letter to readers the part about her characters being girlfriends I think that Sugar Beth is who she's talking about.

Now you know that I am not a re-reader, well this is the only book that I've actually re-read because I LOVED all the characters.

And about High School, I think they should all be burned to the ground after graduation ;-) (maybe before graduation) no hard feelings though. But this novel was an exception.

And you can find me on FaceBook, but no one from high school is there, if they try to find be I'll block them.

But there are plenty more people to socially connect with and I'm happy to say that I have plenty of friends there. And I am a more or less well balanced adult in spite of my high school experience.  Besides all my high school comrades are probably serving 20 to life. no hard feelings though.


by Moderator becke_davis on ‎10-19-2009 12:58 PM

I absolutely LOVE this book. I love everything SEP writes, but this one is right at the top of the list. Sugar Beth is such a fabulous character, and the book is so incredibly well-written -- I could go on and on. Love it!!

by MalePerspectiveGuy on ‎10-19-2009 06:05 PM

Hooking up with old pals through facebook is really kind of a gas. It's fun to reconnect in a way that doesn't require a lot of time, energy, travel or expense.  It may be one of the best  things about social networking.  The ability to find old friends who you may never had reconnected with otherwise. 

by 1lovealways on ‎10-19-2009 06:53 PM

Hi Michelle!  :smileyhappy:   J.R. Ward is at Center Stage this week and I thought, since I was finished posting my questions, I'd switch over to Heart to Heart and check to see if the new article was here.  Yes, it was here way before I'll get it!  I usually don't get it until the next day.  I don't know what's up with that?  Probably, some technical problem.  So, here's my take on it.


I think it's alright for a character to work through their high school issues.  Sometimes working through them is the only way to get rid of the extra baggage.  I don't have any favorites on this theme.  It has never been one of my faves to read.  Some of the movies that explore this theme aren't that great either.  I would excuse High School Musical 1,2,3 from this.  Those are ok. 


Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a good author.  I've read her books before, but the only one that comes to mind right now is one in my TBR pile.  I think it's called Heaven, Texas?  Ain't She Sweet sounds funny, sweet and poignat, one that I'd probably read. 


As for hooking up with old friends through social media, I was never the social butterfly type.  My head was always in a book even back then.  I was a nerd, a geek or any other number of names that we were labeled.  However, I do like the idea of the different kinds of ways people can reconnect these days.  It's cool!  Right now, I can't think of anyone, I'm interested in reconnecting with from those days.  I know!  Sounds horrible!  I was a geek to the nth degree.  Only without glasses and a pocket protector and got unmercifully razzed.  But hey, when I think of those people, I smile because we are on equal footing now.  We're all older (no prom queens now), have some wrinkles (some more than others, I'm sure) and are just trying to survive   Finally equal  in some respects.  I did reconnect with one friend once and it turned out to be somewhat of a disaster.  Not at all what I thought it would be, so I figured, never again.  I'm agree with Debbie.  If I was on Facebook, I'd block them too!


by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎10-20-2009 08:47 AM

That's wild, deb, that ASheS was the book that turned you on to romance! Imagine.  Took me forever to stumble across SEP, then finally get to this one. Santa did a terrific 'reader tribute' to the book at RBTB, and getting ready for that gave me the excuse to meet Sugar Beth.  SEP dropped by, and in advance wrote me (and sorry to make that sound Iike name dropping, cause I hate that) about how universally this novel affects readers and touches on their experiences with -- or being one of -- "the mean girls." 

I abhored high school, too, even though I was lucky enough to have some good friends and a couple especially caring teachers. And I'm trying to teach my kids that at their ages everyone around them feels like s/he's a loser, they just choose to turn the discomfort in or out, depending upon how their families and folks around them treat them.  'Course, I'm not raising em to be anybody's fools. But I'm also making sure they understand that as adults they're going to meet folks who drag their h.s. behavior with them.  If we're lucky, we don't have to work or live w/em.


but, omg, deb, you're so funny about blocking hs mates from facebook. 20 to life? At least nobody's fallen yet to lethal injection. That's gotta count for something.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎10-20-2009 08:49 AM

Becke, what other SEPs do you recommend?  

MPG, I'm well aware of your facebook obsession.  Are you and Shakira facebook friends yet? Or did she block you after that unfortunate instant-messaging incident?

by PrincessBumblebee on ‎10-20-2009 10:11 AM

Hey, Bellas! I'm with you all that high school's a faze of our lives best forgotten, hehe. I guess I was kind of a loner and was very quiet. They wouldn't recognize me today, hehe. But, lol, definately should have a school burning at graduation, hehe.

Oh, I love hooking up with old pals through media. It's so quick and easy and saves a lot of time, hehe.

I'm sad to say that I have never read SEP, but her books seem to be everywhere. Maybe I should start with this one, hehe. Right after I drool over Chester Bennington!

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎10-20-2009 10:34 AM

I loved them all. THIS HEART OF MINE was the first book of hers I read, which (of course) was out of order. All that meant was that I had to read the books that came after that one before I went back to the beginning and read them all.


I didn't think I'd like LADY BE GOOD and FIRST LADY, but those ended up being favorites. BREATHING ROOM was wonderful. You can't go wrong with any of her books, but I really love all her Chicago Stars books.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎10-20-2009 11:01 AM

1la, I didn't realize you liked JR Ward! :smileyhappy:  I need to read Heaven, TX, too. Sorry to hear about your bad experience w/reattempting to reconnect. I had a brief facebook friendship flirtation with some former hs classmates a few months ago, but I think they broke up w/me.

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎10-20-2009 11:02 AM

I LOVED, LOVED this book. When I started it I HATED, DESPISED Sugar Beth, but SEP brilliantly made me root for Sugar Beth pretty quickly, and I was experiencing her humiliation and pain so well. I still remember the kitchen scene where she overhead one of the gals talking about her. I remember that sensation of hurt. And SEP really got that emotion there. And Colin was wonderful, just wonderful. I'm a huge fan because of this book!


As for other books, I'm not sure I want to read. I read AShS because of a recommendation. Didn't really know it was going to explore HS stuff. Probably wouldn't have read it if I'd known, but then I would have really missed out.


As for highschool and hooking up with people I knew then. NOT A CHANCE IN HELL! High school was incredibly painful for me. I'm the one who made the JV Basketball team, made my dad proud then managed to score a basket for the opposing team the first time I played I never really have gotten over the painful humiliation. I still wince at the thought. I was the bookworm, and never included in the in crowd.Was always on the outside looking in. In a lot of ways I still am. So I write to be on the inside with my characters. It works somehow. LOL 


I went to my 10-year reunion only because I looked fabulous for one of the few times in my life. No more gawky, contacts, great dress, and I knew I was a hit when the one-time captain of the football team stopped me and kept saying how great I looked. The thing is the reunion just pushed everyone back into the same old cliques and I don't have time for that.



by Moderator dhaupt on ‎10-20-2009 11:52 AM

Monica, Amen and you rock sister!!!

Too bad you didn't lead the hs jock outside by his uh, nose and drop kick him.


by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎10-20-2009 01:11 PM

oh, the gloves come off, deb! 


Mon, what a story.  No desire to go back as a successful novelist?  Maybe you could do a workshop of erotic things for couples.  Just a thought.  And I don't think I'd have wanted to read ASheS if I were a little closer to high school.  It made me feel great for Sugar Beth and anyone like her who's come full circle and made ammends, cause that's really freeing.  I've heard. :smileyhappy:

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎10-20-2009 04:58 PM

Go back as a successful novelist, Michelle? Maybe, but probably not. There really wouldn't be a point. My hometown is rather small, so everyone knows or hears of hometowners making good. If they hear great, if not, *shrug* It used to be important to me, now all I care about is family and my romance buddies. People I have things in common with. My biggest desire is to go HA in the faces of family who didn't think I could sell to NY or move even higher!!! I shall be good though and gloat in private this January! LOL

by 1lovealways on ‎10-20-2009 05:16 PM

Michelle, you are sooo   funny regarding J.R. Ward!!!  Are you serious or just pulling my leg as the old expression goes (laughing)!  I'm irrevocably down with the Brotherhood and any other books she may write!!!  Bedazzled, bewitched and just plain ole hooked by those sexy vamps!  Yum!


Hey thanks for the empathy in relation to my reconnect. Yeah, it wasn't as I'd hoped, but I don't think many things from HS ever are.  I'm over it and gone on to better things.  Sorry about your Facebook reconnect as well!  Seems like both of us had high expectations that somehow didn't pan out.  But, cie la vie!


Princess, who is Chester Bennington!  You are a name dropper.  Drool is the key word in that sentence! Care to share (smiling)?


Monica, love your story.  So cool!  As the kids say I'm giving you "props."  That maybe the wrong slang as it changes constantly.  Anyway, loved it!!!

by Author Eva_Gale on ‎10-29-2009 05:12 PM

AShS is my hands down all time favorite of SEPs. I re read it all the time, and my favorite part about it the excellent characterization of Sugar Beth. She didn't bemoan her consequences, she sucked it up and went forward. If she had done anything other than what she did at the Sea Willow's party, I would have stopped reading right there, but she is one of my all time favorite heroines. 


Since 1997, you’ve been coming to to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.