My Rating: I’d go there again! (4/5)
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a romance by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. For the last couple of years, I haven’t really been interested in contemporary romance (historicals all the way!); however, when I had a chance to grab a review copy of Phillips’ latest I decided to give it a shot. I loved her previous novels, so I was looking forward to checking out something new from her. Heroes are my Weakness wasn’t what I was expecting, and I totally loved it.
The other novels that I’ve read by Phillips have been relatively light, so far my favourite has to be Call Me Irresistible. Heroes are My Weakness takes a departure from the lighter aspects of romance and Phillips tosses in a lot more suspense and a sinister atmosphere. Happily, this doesn’t mean the Phillips trademark humour has departed (Annie has hilarious conversations with her puppets, after all); it just doesn’t take the front stage or at least shares the stage with a suspense plot.
Following the death of her mother, Annie is a bit down on her luck. She’s a broke, failed actress, turned puppeteer. With no other choice, Annie is forced to go to the only place that will provide her with a roof over her head: their old cottage on an isolated island in the middle of the winter. Ah, the romance of it all…
Returning to the place of her childhood summers, Annie is forced to confront the boy she once cared for, Theo Harp. Theo also happened to have tried to kill her once upon a time and the years don’t exactly seem to have changed this horror writer for the better in Annie’s eyes:
He descended slowly. A gothic hero come to life in a pearl gray waistcoat, snowy white cravat, and dark trousers tucked into calf-hugging black leather riding books. Hanging languidly at his side was a steel-barreled dueling pistol.
An icy finger slithered down her spine. She briefly considered the possibility that her fever had come back or her imagination had finally shoved her over the cliff of reality. But he wasn’t a hallucination. He was all too real. (p.24)
If this was how you encountered a guy you haven’t seen in eighteen years and he also happened to try to kill you, wouldn’t you also be feeling a bit of trepidation?
So, not only does Annie have to deal with someone she’s genuinely scared of, she also has to find the legacy that her mother has told her about and deal with whoever is trying to force her from her temporary home, and just maybe, she’ll find out what really happened with Theo all those years ago. Is he really the villain or could he just possible be the hero after all?
When I had initially started reading this book, I wasn’t sure about it. The hero had tried to kill the heroine (or so it seems), and I wasn’t sure how Phillips was going to turn THAT around. It didn’t help that the suspense was kept up for a large part of the beginning of the book as readers do not get a peak into Theo’s mind. I have to admit, I had my doubts about Theo’s innocence. How could this hero possibly be Annie’s weakness? This gothic suspense was a bit unusual, but I think it really worked here and I certainly didn’t want to put the book down.
As for whether or not Phillips turned the romance around, well, of course she did, this is a romance after all. But it was done wonderfully, full of wit and angst of which I can say no more or else ruin the entire story. The suspense storyline fit well with the overarching romance and completely suited the desolate winter setting. It was wrapped up neatly, but readers will have to keep in mind that this is not a mystery novel, it is a romance and that constantly remains the purpose of this book, as such the mystery element was not overly complicated.
Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, but I would certainly be one board with more from Phillips in a similar vein. I may have been missing out a bit when it comes to the contemporary romance genre.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
The suspense element really worked for me here and way back when I was a huge fan of romantic suspense. A particular favourite was Iris Johansen. Many of her books feature enigmatic and questionable heroes, I suggest starting with The Ugly Duckling.
For a bit of a lighter mystery/romance read, try Jennifer Crusie’s Getting Rid of Bradley. Like Phillips, a generous helping of humour is combined with the romance. This one definitely does not have the dark themes that Heroes are my Weakness does, but is a good one if you’re looking for something in the vein of classic Phillips.