A down-on-her-luck heroine is a fairly common and an often used plot device. but that said, nobody writes them better than Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Phillips’s forte is melding pathos and humor in an inimitable way that has us both empathizing and laughing at the heroine’s situation, even as we watch her face formidable challenges. Being a Susan Elizabeth Phillips heroine is not for sissies, because for most of the book the heroine is living by two truisms: only the strong survive and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Most of Phillips’ heroines have some type of financial problem, but others—well they’re just drowning in bad luck. Many heroines had some horrific past incidences, like the rape Phoebe Somerville experienced, but this list is based on current circumstances. Here in my opinionated opinion are the top five luckless Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ heroines:
5. Isabelle Favor from Breathing Room
Deciding Factor for placement: Broke, jobless, jilted, joke on Letterman, I.R.S. tax bill
A heroine who gets to escape her troubles by living in Italy for two months shouldn’t seem pathetic, but is easy to pity Isabelle Favor. Her accountant runs off with her money, leaving her at the mercy of the I.R.S. and David Letterman. Then her boyfriend dumps her, explaining that he has fallen for someone else, and together they’re having a baby. He then cruelly twists the knife by stating his palm pilot is warmer in bed than Isabelle. As Isabelle’s troubles are exposed, her career as a life coach hits the skids. If she is not successful in the four cornerstones of her business—healthy relationship, professional pride, financial responsibility and spiritual dedication, then of course she has no credibility.