Katiebabs is a self-proclaimed present day bluestocking with her head always in a book. She runs her own book blog called Babbling about Books and More!
It Had To Be You is considered one of the top contemporary romances ever written. I don't know why it took me over 20 years to read it since I've enjoyed SEP past titles, especially Heaven, Texas, book 2 of this series, and one of my all time favorite books. It Had to Be You is the ultimate sports romance in the world of football. The heroine is amazing, although the hero is somewhat of a jerk, but he redeems himself by the end so you're all for the couples' HEA. There's a great mashup of humor, chemistry, and some heavy topics such as rape, misogyny, and feminism (including some kink when it comes to the hero and his ex-wife), which is all handled incredibly by SEP. Phoebe is heroine we can all admire, and perhaps even bow down to because of how she lives her life on her own terms after a horrible childhood because of her horrid father, as well as her teen years when her innocence was stolen in a brutal way. You'll be waving your pom-poms for Phoebe as she becomes the big winner here.
Phoebe has returned for her father's funeral. She was basically disowned by her father ever since she left at 18. Phoebe is a blonde bombshell from the way she dresses, to the way she acts with her flirting and how she handles men. She is an outcast who ended up marrying a much older artist. When he died, she was left with next to nothing. She pays her respects to her dead father, but also to be the guardian to her 15 yr old half-sister Molly, who's very bright but awkward and "nerdy". Phoebe thinks Molly can't stand her. At first Molly can't, but she doesn't know who the real Phoebe is because Phoebe's persona is all an act. Phoebe was once overweight and had low self-esteem. She was bullied by her cousin Reed most of her childhood. Phoebe is very wary of men in general because she was raped. Her father didn't believe her, so off she went, to recover and find her way thought life. But her father gets the last laugh because of a stipulation in his will. Since he was the owner of the Chicago Stars football team, Phoebe has to do what he says in the will, or Reed will get everything.
Then there's Dan, the coach of the Stars. Dan doesn't have a high opinion of Phoebe. He's a former football player who is stubborn and very set in his ways. He says some things about Phoebe and the fact that she's a woman that will make you want to strangle him. Dan also has this kinky sexy role playing deal with his ex-wife that is his dirty little secret. Also while he's still having roleplaying sex with his ex-wife, he decides he wants to get married again and targets a school teacher because he thinks she's sweet, virginal, will obey him and be find getting pregnant and keeping his house. Yup, Dan is a male chauvinistic jerk when we first meet him. He and Phoebe spend the first half of the book locking horns and throwing insults around. But all these insults they throw at one another is a form of foreplay. They realize they are very attracted to one another and hop into bed. Now this is one complication they have to deal with, which leads to more headaches for both.
It Had to Be You has so much going on that you won't be bored. Twenty + years after this book was published, it doesn't feel dated, and many of the subject and topics covered still ring true today. Phoebe isn't some pushover when it comes to Dan. She gives it to him good. He's so flustered and confused about Phoebe. But even though Dan may have many strikes against him, he helps Phoebe become comfortable in her skin and welcome sex. She helps change his mind about women in general, and her. They heal each other in a way.
The scenes with the football players and staff are a real hoot. Dan and Phoebe do have great chemistry once you can get past Dan's jerky attitude and beliefs. He does a 180 toward the second half of the novel when he realizes he maybe falling in love with Phoebe, although he still does strong along the teacher, and there was this one scene where he thinks Phoebe is his ex-wife and he almost takes is sexual playacting too far. That made for uncomfortable reading, and I didn't understand why that scene was needed, especially with Phoebe's rape. Also there is a secondary suspense story line with a father of a former Stars player who died. The father goes off the deep end and blames Dan for all his problems. I also felt that was unneeded drama. But the actual HEA for Phoebe and Dan, where Reed gets his just desserts at the hands of Dan and his players who adore Phoebe was the best.
It Had to Be You is one contemporary romance readers should try, especially if you love sports/football romances with a kick ass chick heroine (and her adorable poodle Pooh) who gives the seemingly jerky hero a run for his money when it comes to love and life. Not a near perfect romance, but one that I definitely rate high because I loved Phoebe, the humor, the football atmosphere and most of all a wonderful HEA I want in any romance I read.