Thursday, December 18, 2014

#62 [2014/CBR6] "Heroes Are My Weakness" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Although I've been a little disappointed in some of her more recent books, I'm still far from giving up on her. So when her latest book, Heroes Are My Weakness, came out in August of this year, I was waiting for it. And months and months later, I finally got off the library's waitlist and downloaded the book. And I read it in a day.

Annie is virtually penniless when she arrives on a tiny island in a blizzard in the middle of winter in northern Maine. Having spent most of her savings taking care of her dying mother, Annie can't afford any lodgings besides the small cottage left to her by her mother. But there's a catch. The cottage sits right below the main house, owned by her mother's ex-husband, and the cottage will revert back to him unless she lives there for at least two consecutive months every year.

It just so happens that Theo (her mother's ex-husband's son [short-term step-brother?]) is currently living up in the main house, working on his latest novel. He is a dark, brooding hero, with unsubtle connections to Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. Annie and Theo also have some history when they were teenagers when Theo acted like a psychopath and apparently almost killed Annie.

So, we all know where this ends, but there's a lot that happens in the middle--some of it odd, and some of it endearing. Most importantly, Annie is a ventriloquist, and she often talks to herself using the personas of her puppets. I found this disconcerting at first, but Annie has a unique talent, the puppets show her emotional transformation, and Annie uses them as a tool to help heal a wounded little girl. Not only uniquely original, they ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book.

There were also some odd details that get troublesome when you think about them too much, including the weird living requirement of the cottage, the supposed fortune hidden within the cottage, and some crazy old ladies. What was most problematic was that Annie initially believes that Theo was a psychopath teenager who tried to kill her when she was seventeen. And when she first arrives, she continues to believe him capable of attempted murder. The reader, of course, knows that there must be some explanation because he can't be a romance hero and a psychopath killer at the same time. But Annie wouldn't have allowed herself to get close to him, or spend any time with him, if she actually believed him to be as evil as he is presumed to be. She was playing practical jokes on him, snooping, and sneaking into his house at night. It was both stupid and creepy of her.

Yet I can glide past all these problems when I enjoy the read, and I enjoyed this one more than Elizabeth's last novel. It was nice to read about some new characters and a new location, instead of those derived from other books. Also, Phillips has a knack for taking lonely people and building a community around them, creating a little Eden where everyone helps each other in some way and everyone is improved. Maybe someday I will tire of her style, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

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