Breathing Room

Breathing Room

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

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Join the New York Times bestselling author on a journey to the sun-washed hills of Tuscany. Another sexy, wonderful, contemporary love story with all the heart, wisdom, and wit that have made Susan Elizabeth Phillips the gold standard for women's fiction.

She's Dr. Isabel Favor, America's diva of self-help.
He's Ren Gage, Hollywood's favorite villain.
Sometimes you just know that God has a sense of humor.

Dr. Isabel Favor, author of Four Cornerstones for a Favorable Life, has sacrificed everything to build her self-help empire. Then, in a matter of weeks, it all comes crashing down. She loses her money to an unscrupulous accountant, her fiancé to a frumpy older woman, and her reputation to headlines denouncing her as a fraud. America's diva of self-help soon discovers she can fix everyone's life but her own. Broke, heartsick, and soul-weary, she heads for Italy in search of a little breathing room.

Lorenzo Gage makes his living killing people... on the silver screen, that is. He's viciously handsome and sublimely talented. But as he begins his vacation in Italy, he's also vaguely dissatisfied. Being a villain with a face to die for has its rewards, but he hates the feeling that everything he's neglected in life is catching up with him. Then he spots Isabel sipping a glass of wine in a sidewalk café. A good guy wouldn't think of seducing such a tidy-looking woman... but he'd never seen the fun in playing the hero.

It doesn't take long for Isabel to realize she's escaped one kind of chaos only to be plunged into another. Even the shelter of a simple stone farmhouse nestled in a Tuscan olive grove can't provide her with the refuge she needs—not when the townspeople are scheming to drive her away, and her plan to restore her reputation has come up empty. And especially not when the man who deceived her refuses to leave her in peace.

Breathing Room is a book for any woman who's dreamed of wandering through a vineyard, of lazing under the Tuscan sky, or of reforming a deliciously wicked man. This is a story of hope and renewal, of love and redemption when it's needed the most. Sometimes it takes a special place... a special love... a little breathing room... for life to deliver all its glorious promise.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061032097
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/29/2003
Series: Avon Romance
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 474,882
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Susan Elizabeth Phillips soared onto the New York Times bestseller list with Dream a Little Dream. She’s the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a hiker, gardener, reader, wife, and mother of two grown sons.


Chicago, Illinois

Place of Birth:

Cincinnati, Ohio


B.F.A., Ohio University

Read an Excerpt

Breathing Room

Chapter One

Dr. Isabel Favor prized neatness. During the week she wore exquisitely tailored black suits with tasteful leather pumps and a strand of pearls at her throat. On weekends she favored tidy sweater sets or silk shells, always in a neutral palette. A well-cut bob and an assortment of expensive beauty products generally tamed her blond hair's inclination to rearrange itself into disobedient curls. If that failed, she resorted to narrow velvet headbands.

She wasn't beautiful, but her evenly spaced light brown eyes sat exactly where they should, and her forehead rose in proportion to the rest of her face. Her lips were a shade too lavish, so she camouflaged them with nude-toned lipstick and dotted foundation on her nose to mute an unruly splash of freckles. Good eating habits kept her complexion creamy and her figure slender and healthy, although she would have preferred slimmer hips. In nearly every respect she was an orderly woman, the exception being a slightly uneven right thumbnail. While she no longer bit it to the quick, it was markedly shorter than her other nails, and nibbling at its edges remained the only habit from her very untidy childhood that she'd never entirely been able to conquer.

As the lights in the Empire State Building went on outside her office windows, Isabel tucked her thumb inside her fist to resist temptation. Lying on her art deco desk was that morning's issue of Manhattan's favorite tabloid. The feature article had festered inside her all day, but she'd been too busy to brood. Now it was brooding time.

America's Diva of Self-Help is Driven, Demanding,
and Difficult

The former administrative assistant to well-known self-help author and lecturer Dr. Isabel Favor says her employer is the boss from hell. "She's a total control freak," declares Teri Mitchell, who resigned from her position last week....

"She didn't resign," Isabel pointed out. "I fired her after I found two months' worth of fan mail she didn't bother to open." Her thumbnail crept to her teeth. "And I'm not a control freak."

"Coulda fooled me." Carlota Mendoza emptied a brass wastebasket into the receptacle on her cleaning cart. "You're also — what was those other things she said — driven and demanding? Sí, those, too."

"I am not. Get the top of those light fixtures, will you?"

"Do I look like I got a ladder with me? And stop biting your nails."

Isabel tucked away her thumb. "I have standards, that's all. Unkindness is a flaw. Stinginess, envy, greed — all flaws. But am I any of those things?"

"There's a bag of candy bars hidden in the backa your bottom drawer, but my English isn't too good, so maybe I don' understand this greed stuff."

"Very funny." Isabel didn't believe in eating her feelings, but it had been a horrible day, so she slid open her emergency drawer, pulled out two Snickers bars, and tossed one to Carlota. She'd simply put in extra time with her yoga tapes tomorrow morning.

Carlota caught the candy bar and leaned against her cart to tear it open. "Just outta ever wear jeans?"

"Jeans?" Isabel smooshed the chocolate against the roof of her mouth, taking a moment to savor it before she replied. "Well, I used to." She set down the candy bar and rose from the desk. "Here, give me that." She grabbed Carlota's dust cloth, kicked off her pumps, and tugged up the skirt of her Armani suit so she could climb onto the couch to reach a wall sconce.

Carlota sighed. "You're gonna tell me again, aren't you, about how you put yourself through college cleaning houses?"

"And offices and restaurants and factories." Isabel used her index finger to get between the scrollwork. "I waited tables all through graduate school, washed dishes — oh, I hated that job. While I wrote my dissertation, I ran errands for lazy rich people."

"What you are now, except without the lazy part."

Isabel smiled and moved on to the top of a picture frame. "I'm trying to make a point. With hard work, discipline, and prayer, people can make their dreams come true."

"If I wanted to hear all this, I'da bought a ticket to one of your lectures."

"Yet here I am giving you my wisdom for free."

"Lucky me. You done yet? 'Cause I got other offices to clean tonight."

Isabel stepped down from the couch, handed over the dust cloth, then rearranged the cleaning bottles on the top of the cart so Carlota wouldn't have to reach so far for the ones she needed. "Why did you ask about jeans?"

"Just trying to picture it in my mind." Carlota popped the rest of the Snickers into her mouth. "All the time you look ritzy, like you don't know what a toilet is, let alone how to clean one."

"I have to maintain an image. I wrote Four Cornerstones of a Favorable Life when I was only twenty-eight. If I hadn't dressed conservatively, no one would have taken me seriously."

"You're what, sixty-two now? You need jeans."

"I just turned thirty-four, and you know it."

"Jeans and a pretty red blouse, one of them tight ones to show off your boobs. And some really high heels."

"Speaking of hookers, did I tell you those two ladies who hang out by the alley showed up at the new job program yesterday?"

"Those whores'll be back on the street by next week. I don' know why you waste your time with them."

"Because I like them. They're hard workers." Isabel kicked back in her chair, forcing herself to concentrate on the positive instead of that humiliating newspaper article. "The Four Cornerstones work for everybody, from streetwalkers to saints, and I have thousands of testimonials to prove it."

Carlota snorted and...

Breathing Room. Copyright © by Susan Phillips. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Breathing Room 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 87 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love how this author writes her novels. Every single one has more things involved that actually tells the reader how they may deal with situations. Its not all about love, it tells you what happened in a characters life and what they have conquer in order to move forward. Another thing that i love about her books is the fact that they are helarious and they just make you want to read on and on and on until the book is done.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a person that buys or reads books on the reviews given by readers, then this is definitely not a book for you. While I am still fairly new to SEP I actually enjoyed breathing room so much so that I couldn't put it down, while the story line in a bit out there in terms of what brings the characters to the current predicaments they find themselves it is a well told story, with well thought out plot development. I like good story telling that keeps me intrigued, if that's what you're looking for then this is definitely a book you'll enjoy reading. Besides, I thought the whole point of romantic fiction was to take you to another place, and that exactly what she does.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just got done reading the book for the second time and I still could not put it down. I am a big SEP fan anyway, but this is one of my faves. Sure it is a bit outlandish at times (especially the ending) but that is what reading is all about in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to many friends who have also really loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Susan Elizabeth Phillips books. I LOVE most of them and really like the rest....except this one. Definitely the worst, I would just skip altogether.
Always_A_Romantic More than 1 year ago
I just stumbled upon this author recently and have been pleasantly surprised. I loved "Match Me If You Can" as well as "This Heart of Mine" and "Natural Born Charmer". I planned on reading all of her books but this one gives me pause. I'm only half way through it and I don't think I can finish it. I don't like the hero, Ren, (very unbelievable) and Isabel just hasn't developed along with the story as far as I'm concerned. I think I'll go on to another of her books and hope for the best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
right so i find susan elizabeth phillips a fantastic writer but this book was absolutely terrible. the female was boring and punch-in-the-face worthy. if i could give it negative stars i would. oh and there is absolutely no plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was excellent! I highly recommend it. I've already read it 3 times in the past year and each time is as good as the last! The author makes you feel like you're there...almost like watching a movie. It was great.
Tess89 More than 1 year ago
I agree with one of the comments. I liked a lot "Natural Born Charmer" and I wanted to read more of this author hoping to have nice relaxing time when reading. Unfortunately "Breathing Room" gives me pause too. I could not finish this book. This romance is so plain an boring. I hope that other books can be better. This book was really bad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!! and im not lying. SEP is my fav author and this book was another one of her successes. SEP has a unique way of writting, she has an incredible way of thinking. I LOVE HER BOOKS AND I LOVE HER! you go SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hard for me to 'breathe' with this one, it was too awful. I had this book for a long time until I got around to reading it. This was a good thing because by now I¿ve forgotten what I paid for it so, I¿m not sure how much of a waste of money it was. Isabel¿s negative traits: self righteous, controlling, arrogant, obsessive, superior, annoying, boring, judgmental, and prissy. Those are just the ones I can think of offhand. Her positive traits: OK, let me think a minute, I'm sure there's something. She seemed to like kids? Her fiancé left her after falling in love with a frumpy older woman whom he had gotten pregnant. Her accountant ran off with her money. Her career tanked. But that didn¿t stop her from assuming she knew what was best for everyone else and telling them about it! She¿s definitely not in a position to give advice! Heal Thyself! Ren was a likeable enough guy and nowhere near the bad boy the media would have you think. He was however either stupid or masochistic or both to get involved with Isabel. What could a man like Ren possibly see in this woman? Or really any man for Pete¿s sake. And how could she appeal to a man after she dictated her list of rules for them having sex? Can¿t do this, can¿t do that, I¿m in charge, I call the shots. Can you say 'kill the mood? And what was with the last couple of chapter¿s? For awhile there I thought I¿d dozed off and woke up in another book! Castle ruins, lightning, goddess (yeah right), statues (cue dramatic music). I can highly recommend Ms. Phillip's 'Kiss An Angel' which is one of my favorite books. Also 'It Had To Be You'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was dissapointed in this book. I've read nearly all of her books, and love them, but in this book her characters weren't realistic and the heroine was a woman that I don't think I could have even been friends with. Don't give up on SEP after this book though, she's a terrific writer, usually.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really like Susan E Phillips and I totally savored 'This Heart of Mine' - and, so I was eagerly looking forward to 'Breathing Room'. I was so disappointed!! The only thing this book did for me was make me want to book a flight to Italy. Other than that, the characters were boring, the premise was stupid, and the ending over the top. What has worked in other books (poor but beautiful woman meets bad but intelligent boy) needs an overhaul. Too bad.
LesaHolstine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dr. Isabel Favor is America's favorite advice guru until she loses everything. Lorenzo Gage (Ren) is the actor everyone loves to hate as a villain. When they meet in Tuscany, sexual sparks fly.
siubhank on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Phillips' books that I read. In addition to a great romance and beautiful descriptions of Italy, this book has one of the best lines I've ever read in any book; "He watched her moving through the crowd. Because of his years of doing soap operas, he knew exactly what was happening. Isobel's evil twin had come to town." I go back to the book and read that chapter over time and again, just to get the impact of those lines.
magst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Susan Elizabeth Phillips is at her romantic, sexy best with "Breathing Room." You'll fall in love with Tuscany, the food, the atmosphere, the people. Isabel, the heroine, is funny and flawed and you just might recognize yourself in her. As for Lorenzo Gage, I haven't come across a hero this funny and sexy in far too long. After years of reading romance novels, I thought I'd read just about every way there was to write a sexy scene, but Ren and Isabel in the vineyard with a single grape was one of the most erotic scenes I've ever read.
Amy_Atwell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I very seldom reread books, but I've read this one at least five times. I love the characters and the author's sense of humor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just love these characters. Ren & Isabelle are 2 of my characters SEP ever created!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good, funny and uplifting.