When you talk about your favorite authors, it’s hard to choose the BEST of the best; case in point, for me, is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. SEP, for short. And it’s a good time to talk about her, since Call Me Irresistible has just been released in paperback.
She’s written some of my favorite romances of all time. Making the choice for best even harder is that I’ve re-read the books so many times (and sometimes skip parts) that my view might have changed, depending on the reading. (As in, what really bothered other people doesn’t push my buttons as much because I just avoid it.)
Most people have read her Chicago Stars books (and I have to say that series did have a tiny hand in developing my love of professional football), but some of her single titles are my favorites. Clustered at the top of my list are Breathing Room, Kiss an Angel, Heaven, Texas, Nobody’s Baby but Mine, Lady Be Good, and maybe This Heart of Mine (which might also have been my the first book by her that I read).
I enjoyed Match Me If You Can, Natural Born Charmer, and It Had to be You, of course. I have slightly more mixed feelings about Ain’t She Sweet, Dream a Little Dream, Hot Shot, Fancy Pants, Just Imagine, and Glitter Baby (the re-vamped version).
But I haven’t been as enamored with SEP’s more recent books—perhaps my waning interest in Phillips’s recent works is that I’ve felt they’ve been more women’s fiction tone than romance, and SEP excels at writing romance.
Ted Beaudine [what other books has he been in?]. I’m. . . less fond of two females vying for one male’s attentions, however, since usually it’s so...catty. But, I look to Ms. Phillips to convince me as to the story.
There are multiple reasons why I’m not alone in ranking her tops in my author book; just a few reasons why include the amazing relationships she writes, with the alpha world-at-his-fingertips hero, and the every woman heroine. That description makes it seem as though it’s formulaic, but it’s not—each couple she writes is unique. The secondary romances and couples are well done also; in fact, I like the secondary romance in Dream a Little Dream more than the primary, and it’s one of my favorite pairings/stories in general.
So which of her individual scenes are the best? From Breathing Room, I love all of Gage’s disguises Gage. I also adore the scene where Isabel is arrested and Gage’s part in it. In Nobody’s Baby But Mine, it has to be the “cereal killer” bit. It’s fantastic, but I also love the part when Cal holds Jane hostage. Then in Heaven, Texas when Bobby Tom thinks Gracie is leaving forever... that “howl of despair that came all the way from the very depths of his soul.” And then the final one, Alex’s reaction when he looks in the mirror after finding Daisy in Kiss an Angel. It always makes me tear up.
Then there’s the line from Match Me If You Can. Heath already is in love, but doesn’t realize it, but he’s picking out her engagement ring:
“He’d canceled a morning’s worth of appointments to pick out her engagement ring, only two and a half carats because her hands were small, and lugging three carats around all day might leave her too tired to take off her clothes at night.”
And right after Heath realizes he’s in love with Annabel, another character says to him, “Annabelle has . . . She has the breadth of character you lack. She’s the woman who’ll . . . keep you human. She won’t put up with anything less.” Is that not beautiful?
Followed by Heath freaking out:
“I love her!” Heath hadn’t meant to shout, but he couldn’t stop himself, and the woman who’d just emerged from the house across the street scurried back inside. “I love her,” he repeated in a voice that was only marginally quieter, “and I need to tell her that. But I have to find her first.”
It’s the evil in me, but one of my favorite aspects of Ms. Phillips’s writing is how much she makes the hero suffer. He’s an ass, and she puts him through the wringer, making him show his character and his love.
And while Ain’t She Sweet isn’t my favorite books, this is one of my favorite quotes.
“You’ve created this alternate persona—this woman who’s so tough that she doesn’t care what anybody thinks of her. A woman so tough that she’s proud to announce all her character defects to the world, except—and make note of this, because here’s where your true brilliance lies—those faults you hang out for everyone to see don’t have anything to do with who you really are. Applause, applause.”
There’s really nothing to be said after that. My question to you is, have you ever read Susan Elizabeth Phillips before? What’s your favorite book by her? Favorite scene or couple? If you haven’t read her, which of hers are you going to try first?