Title: Heroes Are My Weakness
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Rating: 3 Stars
The dead of winter.More often than not, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is an author I turn to in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Not only do her characters draw me in, but her romances manage to contain depth while remaining light reads I can breeze through and simply enjoy. Heroes Are My Weakness, however, proved a bit too odd for my liking. It isn't a bad novel, not in the least, but being a blend of many genres and time periods forces its narrative to stutter and though I became engrossed in the love story by the last third of this novel, it wasn't enough to redeem the entirety of the story in my eyes.
An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A sinister house looming over the sea ...
He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
It's going to be a long, hot winter.
From the beginning of the novel itself, I struggled--stylistically--with Heroes Are My Weakness. Anne, our protagonist, is a ventriloquist and the presence of her puppets are integral to the storyline and, moreover, to her psyche. Thus, the fact that I wasn't a fan of their dialogue alongside Anne's thoughts made it difficult for me to immerse myself into this story. When the novel opens Anne is returning to the cottage owned by her mother on an isolated island off the coast of Maine. To her surprise, she bumps into Theo--the boy she loved as a teenager and grew to fear as their teenage romance took a dark turn. Now, Theo is an author with a wife who killed herself not too long ago and Anne is, still, both attracted and terrified of him.
It takes awhile for the entirety of Theo and Anne's past to come to light but the few glimpses we're given in the beginning all relate to Anne's fear of Theo. As kids, Theo often tormented Anne and now, looking back, she can't believe he once had such a sweet twin sister while he himself remains cold and aloof. Anne's descriptions of Theo travel back in time to draw parallels with Gothic romances. Everything from his old-era clothing to his impeccable manners and even to his Heathcliffe-like brooding. It's an odd juxtaposition of the old and the new and it didn't work for me for a very long time. Even more disturbing, though, Anne and Theo's romance is one I felt disconnected with from the start. After all, Anne doesn't like him. Theo made her childhood a misery, playing pranks on her and even putting her life in danger at times, so the weird fascination she has for him and her attraction to him read rather creepy.
Phillips does, eventually, manage to answer all unanswered questions and the story steers back to familiar romantic territory, full of classic mishaps and steamy scenes. Yet, Heroes Are My Weakness fails to stand out as a Susan Elizabeth Phillips romance. It lacks the humor I often associate with her novels and though the secondary characters are vividly cast, they remain forgettable. Ultimately, Theo and Anne don't have the type of spark--chemistry, if you will--that I've come to expect from SEP's leads. Looks like it's back to the Chicago Stars for me!