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Contemporary Romance

A young widow...
A self-destructive celebrity...
A small town in Texas...

This book is an all-out unabashed, unselfconscious romance. No mystery. No suspense. Not a lot of external motivation. It's all about two people. A lot of angst, a lot of drama, a lot of humor, and lot of great dialogue. It kind of has a sixties James Dean feel to it, where you have these tormented characters who just want to sob: "You're tearing me apart!"  James Dean could be the hero, and Natalie Wood could be the young widow. Or maybe Elizabeth Taylor. No, it should be someone quirky. A young Shirley MacLaine.  Perfect.  Mix that up with a little desert town and a bunch of gossips and a time period (of not so long ago) when sex for the fun of it was considered taboo and worthy of gasps behind white gloves.
"Unimpressed with hometown boy Johnnie Irish's superstar status, widowed schoolteacher Maggie Mayfield nonetheless falls for the returning idol, who has only revenge on his mind."
Yeah, well that happens. But so much more. Johnnie ruins the town of Hope's homecoming parade. He passes out on Maggie's floor. He leaves but can't forget her. He makes a movie that bombs. He almost dies and everybody thinks he tried to commit suicide. He returns to Hope to get away from Hollywood for a while. He plays piano for Maggie's play. He gets healthy. He falls in love. He's haunted by demons. He almost dies again. He and Maggie fight. He leaves. He comes back.

From the book:
Johnnie Irish adjusted his dark, wire-rimmed sunglasses, gave a nod to the pilot, then paused in the doorway of the charter plane. Something had definitely been lost arriving by air, he decided. To get the full effect of Hope, Texas, a guy had to approach it by land. He had to cross miles and miles of desolate desert, tumbleweeds, and broken-down shanties. He had to see all the billboards boasting two-headed snakes and five-legged lambs.
As a teenager, Johnnie and some buddies had decided to take in one of the roadside attractions. They’d plunked down a buck fifty only to discover that the snake was pickled and the lamb was stuffed. From the highly visible black stitches, they’d also decided that the freak appendage had been added by some myopic seamstress. They’d quickly pointed out the flaws in loud, boisterous voices. Doubled up with laughter, tears streaming from their eyes, they’d been kicked out of the joint—which only made them laugh all the harder.
Johnnie had been kicked out of a lot of places since then. Bars. Hotels. Restaurants.
Hope, Texas, in particular.
Three months ago, when he’d gotten the phone call asking him to be the main attraction in Hope’s homecoming parade, he’d laughed out loud, right into the receiver. But then he thought it over a while and the temptation proved too much. He’d been harboring a bitterness toward his hometown for a long time, and wouldn’t revenge be sweet? So, fifteen years after being tossed out on his ass, he’d decided to come back.
Desert wind, not yet heated by the day, felt good against his skin. He’d forgotten how clear and untainted the air here was. He took a moment to pull some of that air deep into his lungs.
He could see the promised car waiting for him—the parade convertible. Standing beside it, shading her eyes with one hand, was a dark-haired woman. For a second, panic thumped in his chest while his mind spun backward to his childhood and all its horrors. For a second, he thought the woman standing by the car was his mother, then his head cleared and he remembered she was dead. He let out his breath in relief.

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