When Stars Collide


Thaddeus Walker Bowman Owens, the backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars, is a team player, talented sideline coach, occasional male underwear model, and a man with a low tolerance for Divas.

Olivia Shore, international opera superstar, is a driven diva with a passion for perfection, a craving for justice, too many secrets—and a monumental grudge against the egotistical, lowbrow jock she’s been stuck with.

It’s Mozart meets Monday Night Football as the temperamental soprano and stubborn jock embark on a nationwide tour promoting a luxury watch brand. Along the way, the combatants will engage in soul-searching and trash talk, backstage drama and, for sure, a quarterback pass. But they’ll also face trouble as threatening letters, haunting photographs, and a series of dangerous encounters complicate their lives. Is it the work of an overzealous fan or something more sinister?

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a new book out featuring older leads–she’s a world famous opera singer and he’s a backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars. Dabney and Rachel read it and are here to share their views.

Dabney: Those who love Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars series but haven’t been wild about her more recent works will be happy to hear that, while not perfect, When Stars Collide is vintage SEP.

Rachel: The book definitely did feel like a lot of SEP’s previous work. The protagonists have an initially antagonistic dynamic that grows over time into something more, an old standby in Phillips’ books.

Dabney: I enjoyed it–it has a lightness that I think I needed not to mention main characters that are older. Did you?

Rachel: I really loved the reading experience, the book had a lot of what I love in a romance. I liked the older characters too. The only issue I really had with it was how over the top it got- and that’s usually fine for SEP’s books. This time, though, some of the twists fell flat for me. It started to go downhill at about the two-thirds mark in my opinion.

Dabney: I kinda agree although I was fine until the 85% mark. As the book careened toward the end, the suspense plot swamped the romance and the, up until that point, lovely character development of our two leads.

Rachel: I think it definitely distracted from the characters when the plot got more convoluted. Both leads had great moments, especially when they started to understand each other better and began to communicate. I also thought the supporting characters lived up to SEP’s previous work, she has such great attention to detail in that way.

Dabney: Totes agree about the supporting characters. It’s such a strong point in her work. I loved Clint, the young foot player who keeps dogging Thad, the main lead, as well as Paisley, the hilarious social media whiz. SEP writes young and old people in ways that seem real–and she does a great job showing the generational differences with humor. I also really loved the whole opera plot. I had so much empathy for Liv’s fear that she’d never truly sing again.

What did you love?

Rachel: I loved the opera plot as well, it’s always so interesting to read about characters devoted to their art and passionate about their work. I also love when characters are from different worlds but have a lot of common ground. I would say my favorite part of the whole book is Thad’s development. He goes through so much growth in the book.

Dabney: What didn’t work for you?

Rachel: The suspense of it all didn’t really hold water for me. I usually like SEP’s damsels in distress, and appreciate how they overcome their adversaries, but the conflict in this book was so byzantine. It seemed needlessly complicated for shock value, to surprise the reader. I don’t like when plot twists are engineered specifically so you didn’t see it coming, and feel inorganic to the story. What about you?

Dabney: I agree. I loved the relationship between the leads and I really thought the book would have been just fine–stronger even–if they’d just focused on Olivia’s quest to regain her voice. The whole someone is out to get her thing which morphed into a crazy villainous plot propelled by somewhat obscure motives distracted from the love story.

Rachel: Yes, I think the suspense subplot made a good initial hook and might have been just fine if it had been resolved midway through the story. Olivia’s emotional journey is a lot more interesting, and if that had been more of the focus of the book I would have liked it a lot more.

Dabney: So what grade would you give it?

Rachel: I would say it’s a C from me. What about you?

Dabney: Even with all the unnecessary shenanigans, I’d give it a B+. I enjoyed the characters enough to overlook the nutso goings-on.

Rachel: I definitely liked reading about the characters, but it just didn’t give me enough. I can definitely read a book that is totally bananas and if it’s written well enough and the characters are compelling, it gets an A from me, like Match Me If You Can. This one just didn’t get there for me, unfortunately.

Dabney: So, we’ll call it a B-. Readers, what do you think? SEP gold or brass?

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Dabney Grinnan

Grade: B-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date: 29/06/21

Publication Date: 06/2021

Recent Comments …

  1. excellent book: interesting, funny dialogs, deep understanding of each character, interesting secondary characters, and also sexy.

Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.


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07/05/2021 12:50 pm

I thought this was one of SEP’s better books in a long time. The chemistry between the two leads was excellent and Clint was a fun character. The opera part and losing of voice by Olivia was extremely interesting. And I thought the suspense angle was interesting too. Kept me guessing.

06/30/2021 8:18 pm

When you say the main characters are older, how old are they? If he’s still able to play quarterback for an NFL team, I’d guess he’s in his late 30s. There’s older and then there’s older when it comes to professional sports, Tom Brady notwithstanding (and he’s only in his early 40s).

Reply to  Dabney Grinnan
07/01/2021 7:36 pm

Thank you. I wondered if by older you meant similar ages to the ones in the recent Lily Morton (48 and 52), but that just seemed too old for their professions.

Lisa Fernandes
Lisa Fernandes
06/29/2021 11:53 am

At this point I expect more from SEP; I want more than unusually named heroines and gobs of hatesex.

Reply to  Dabney Grinnan
06/29/2021 1:30 pm

Heroes are my Weakness did not work for me, I did not try for more than the free sample of Dance Away with me, it did not click – but I did read as an easy pleasure First Star I see Tonight – not a memorable special read, but fun in its way. I guess I will try this one – but nearly €20 for the e- book over here in Europe means I will make sure to read at once and return if I am not satisfied!

Last edited 2 years ago by Lieselotte
Carrie G
Carrie G
06/29/2021 10:37 am

Over the top stories are stock and trade for SEP. I enjoyed her Chicago Stars books on audio back in the day, but I know now that part of that was the talented narrator, Anna Fields. When the pandemic hit last spring I decided I’d go back and listen to the series, but after starting and failing to finish two of what had been my favorite books, I gave up. Her humor fell flat and her characters were not likable people. I guess my own sensibilities have changed. After reading this review, I don’t think she’s an author I’ll enjoy anymore.