Tuesday, February 3, 2009

#42 - "What I Did for Love" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I'm not sure why I have such an affinity for the romance genre. I generally don't even like romantic comedies unless they're really well done...or I have a crush on one of the actors. Yet I can enjoyably suck up a romance novel in a couple of readings without any problem. Of course, there are only a couple of romance authors that I'll actually read, but I'm still surprised by how addicting I find them. I guess they're kind of like candy: not much more than sugar; pretty unhealthy; they make you feel nauseous if you get too much; but every once in awhile, a delicious and distracting guilty pleasure. And What I Did for Love (2009) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips was a pretty satisfying little bit of escapism.

I may as well go ahead and admit I've read most of Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books and enjoyed them. And I looked up to see when her next book was coming out and put it an early hold on it at the library so I could get a copy quickly and early. (I feel like I'm making some deep, dark confession here.) And I'll admit that the characters and plot are just one big cliché, and I knew exactly how everything would turn out before I even started reading, and the characters are incredibly unrealistic, fantastical caricatures. But sometimes it's nice to sink into a world where a woman just happens to run into the best-looking, sensitive, perfect man who is her "one true love," which becomes apparent after they have hot sex, he gives up his playboy ways, and figures out that he is in love with her. This is one story where everything will turn out all right. I often find the endings a little tedious and repetitive, but there's really no other way to end these kinds of books, so I forgive those parts.

What I Did for Love takes place in Hollywood. In a plot eerily resembling real life, the main character, Georgie York, a famous actress from a much beloved television sitcom is left alone when her husband, a famous action star named Lance, leaves her for Jade, a co-star in his latest film. And just to make the connection a little more clear, Lance and Jade altruistically travel the world, doing good deeds for the world's needy. Georgie is left fending off the paparazzi and trying not to look pathetic. But then she goes to Vegas, runs into the old co-star from her show, Bram (and with a name like that, you know he's got to be "the one"--oops, spoiler!), and they end up getting drunk and married. They decide to pretend the marriage is real for awhile in order for both of them to salvage what they can of their respective reputations.

There is no question that Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a romance writer. She follows the formula without exception, but there are a couple aspects of her books that make hers better than most others. Her characters are likable and feel real emotion. Everyone's felt the sting of rejection or loneliness and Phillips' characters do as well, and in relatable ways. Phillips also often has interesting secondary characters (that inevitably meet a happy ending as well) that create a little community for her story. But probably most important, she doesn't take herself or her story too seriously. The badinage between the characters is always entertaining and funny, and I rarely get bored or want to skip ahead. Phillips builds her own little world in her books and then takes you into her enjoyable and happy fantasy land.

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