Aug 31 2011 10:30am

Call Her Irresistible: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsWhen 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).

Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsI 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.

Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsThen 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.

Ain’t She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsAnd 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?


Limecello is a reader, reviewer, lawyer, foodie and discusser of all things random. You can also visit her at her blog or Twitter.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: index | next ›
Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Anna Bowling
1. AnnaBowling
I liked Risen Glory, her lone solo historical (she has another, co-written with another author, which I have but am blanking on title) and actually hunted down a replacement copy after our then-three-month-old puppy decided my original copy would be a great snack. Have been petting Glitter Baby's reissue in Barnes and Noble, but am curious how much was changed from the original version.
Lime Cello
2. Limecello
Anna, I've read Risen Glory - isn't that also a re-write? It's not my favorite, but I do like the back and forth between the hero and heroine, as much as I dislike it. They're so very cruel to each other!
I haven't read the original of Glitter Baby. I don't think too much changed, based on conversations I had, other than the hero doesn't hook up with the heroine's mom in the new version. >.> Guess I shoulda said spoiler alert?
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
I adore SEP! Just finished Call Me Irresistible, and I really enjoyed it. Her characters always feel unique to me, and I was particularly fond of Ted in this one. My favorite, though, will probably always be Ain't She Sweet--it was the first of hers I read, and I loved watching the heroine's turnaround from spoiled brat to one cool chick. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has the ability to make me love characters I first doubt I could ever like, which I admire.
Carmen Pinzon
4. bungluna
I have a love/hate relationship with SEP. I can't resist her books; as soon as they are out in hb I'm off to get my copy. But...

I always hate, (HATE) something about them to the point of incoherency. In "Match Me If You Can", which is my favorite of hers, it's the secondary romance. In "Natural Born Charmer", it's the old lady character and a little bit, (maybe a lot), the mother of the heroine.

I keep coming back to her because no matter what, she always engages my emotions. And I manage to enjoy her much more upon re-reading, since I skip the annoying parts and go straight to my favorite bits.
5. JacquiC
I love SEP, as she was one of the first romance authors I really glommed onto and read voraciously as soon as each book came out. But I haven't been as keen on the recent ones and really couldn't even make it through What She Did For Love (haven't read Call Me Irresistible yet, though). I think the "cereal killer" scene in Nobody's Baby has to be my favourite, though I also just love the last part of the book where the three women are holed up in the cabin on the mountain, trying to get the men to see what they need. I am now re-reading them all, slowly (and reading lots of other stuff in between).
Anna Bowling
6. AnnaBowling
Limecello, Risen Glory was republished with (I think) some changes as Just Imagine, a few years ago. I haven't read that version, but it might be interesting to see what changes were made. The h/h certainly do have an intense dynamic in the original version.

No worries on the spoiler for Glitter Baby. The original seems to be hard to find, so easier to dive into the rerelease first.
Sandi Logsted
7. sandlog
Nobody's Baby But Mine is the romance I recommend to people who usually don't read romance. Ths book is a modern-day classic. That being said, I also loved Dream a Little Dream, not just because of the relationship of Gabe & "Chip" (much more important than his relationship with Rachel). We finally get a more fleshed-out Ethan, the minister brother, who played an unexpected part in Jane's mid-pregnancy seduction of Cal in Baby. Kristy & Ethan almost steal the book out from Gabe & Rachel, and that seems to be a problem with SEP's books, her supporting characters can be more interesting than the main ones. I'll still read her, but I haven't raced out or pre-ordered anything of hers in I cn't remember how long.
8. alicet
My all time favorite SEP book is Kiss an angel. I love the unique setting of this romance. I also adore Daisy the heroine in this book because she started out being a ditsy blonde and really came into her own at the end of the book. SEP tends to have her heroines either really beautiful yet ditsy ( like Daisy) or smart and not as beautiful and yet paired with really hot guys ( like Meg and Ted in Call Me Irresistible). I tend to favor the former pairing.
9. Janga
I never miss an SEP book. Even when there are moments that make me cringe, there are more moments that make me laugh or sigh or cheer, and I end up adding the book to a keeper shelf. This Heart of Mine would make my list of best and worst moments in romance fiction. Dream a Little Dream is my favorite, and First Lady is high on my list too.
Daniela Caldarola
10. Daniela C
My first SEP book was "What I did for Love". I was disappointed. It was sooo not a standard romance that I expected. It wasn't flowery or graphic like I was used to. I almost didn't want to pick up any other books...until "Natural Born Charmer"...I laughed my ass off!!!! I realized SEP's talent is writing a story! It goes beyond the standard boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love-etc. She delves into why these characters do what they do. The more outrageous the better. But it's the WHY that grab us and make us love them!
I agree with so much you wrote, Limecello! Thanks for putting it down for me to read!
My VERY favorite book is "Match Me if You Can". I just LOVE when a hero drops everything for his love. He absolutely LIVED on his blackberry! SEP described his obsession very well. (I personally have experienced it when my husband lost his agenda book. It was his life. He lost it and he almost lost his mind until he was able to find it again) So it is very powerful to me when Heath just dropped the blackberry with the kid without a care. It was no longer important to him. Annabel was more important. THAT grabs me in the heart every time! Makes me want to read it again...and again. ;-)
11. Jen Loves Romance
I LOVED Natural Born Charmer. I giggled almost the entire time I was reading it. I would say it's my favorite however that title belongs to Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. Anyhow one of the things I loved most about this book is how Dean 's nicknames for Blue referred to the beaver costume she was wearing the first time they met. I also love how strong willed Blue is. She doesn't take things lying down. Well somet things she does but that's not the point. Haha I haven't read many of SEP's books but maybe I need to... :)
12. dirtlover
The audiobook versions of SEP books are awesome, I have almost all of them and listen to them once a year at least. Fav: " Natural Born Charmer", hands down. 2nd Fav: "First Lady". She is so spot-on with multi-generation interactions in all of her books. In this one, the kids are so real, you just want to squeeze them. 3rd Fav: "Breathing Room". Have never looked at grapes the same way after the vineyard scene in that one. Whew!
13. book girl
Just the past week I re-read all of the Chicago Stars and Wynette, TX books. I think my fovorites SEP are Glitter Baby and Lady Be Good. Her books are always fun to read. I like the brief updates on previous leading men and women we get in her newer books.
Helen Wright
14. hww
You can never beat FANCY PANTS! The last chapter where Teddy is out on the golf course hitting balls has to be one of the greatest closers in any book. Imagine the shock when Dally and Francie finally find out that he can hit like that. A great satisfying book.
15. SharonRS
My favorite book of hers is This Heart of Mine because it is the first one I ever read. But I agree with Daniela about Match Me If You Can- I loved the whole Blackberry bit. It's especially funny if you listen to it and Phoebe's daughter keeps calling Heath " Pwince". I laughed until my stomach hurt.
kim adsit
SEP is one of my fav authors in the genre, I agree her recent stuff was kind of 'flat', I have however been dying to read 'Call Me..." but $'s tight & a long library wait. I love Natural Born Charmer because I relate to 'The Beav' & it's my perfect fairytale/daydream story. Lady Be Good was a great laugh out loud read. Wonderful article-Thank You
17. Cathiewannabe
Hi, I was a SEPie before there was such a person. There was a blurb on the back of WTT by JC that sent me to the library to reserve HEAVEN, TX in audio. That sent me to BOOKS ON TAPE, who at that
time sold for very few $$ used audio books and I busily collected ALL!I also have several copies of the ORIGINAL GLITTER BABY, incl the audio. The new one is, IMHO, crap compared with the Original, and the new reader is no Anna Fields, who is sadly deceased. She died right after completing NATURAL, I miss her a lot, She was the voice of SEP.
SEP's first book was COPELAND BRIDE, which is impossible to find and I have.....dumb luck at a Thrift Store for 25c ! That's where I found all the GBs as well. I have not read COPELAND BRIDE. It's very fragile even though it's in very good condition.
My fav is still Bobby Tom and Gracie, with Cal and Jane a close second. My least fav, I cannot even tell you the name of, but it's the Brangelina/Aniston rip off.
I also like Alex and Daisy, Gabe and Isabel, oh heck all....except Ted and what’s her name from GB. I loved Ted in FP and in LBG; But in CMI not at all. And I don't know why? He changed and I just didn't like him...and I was floored that Francesca, Dallie, Fleur, and Jake were so awful. It seemed to just be a mean-spirited book. Sure it got to the HEA, but it was a copy of FP; and FP wasn’t so mean. Someone mentioned the secondary romances; did I miss it in CMI? I don’t remember it, and I loved the secondary romances. Esp., since often they were between ‘old folks’.
No one has mentioned HONEYMOON. I think SEP was going through her Danielle Steele phase when she wrote HM, HS, and GB. I made it through HM --- once. When she viciously killed off the hero (secondary) I was so upset, I could hardly finish the book. It had child abuse, death, madness, altogether a very hard book to read….but it did have an HEA.
Some one mentioned Pwince (AF did that so well). I had our summer cottage painted Wind Lake colors (coral and blue and celadon and cranberry and hunter and cream), and the Cereal Killer, and the thrifting in KAA. There are so many cool hidden gems in her books: BT’s girly bedroom, Phoebe’s using her relationship with ‘the Donald’ to get concessions, breasts’ leaking in HT, Daphne and Bennie, Lady Emma’s trip to the drug store, fading tattoos, Just so much.
So where to start…IT HAD TO BE YOU, just to set up the whole Stars team. There are some inconsistencies. As the QB who throws to BTom is never Cal Bonner! Cal shows up in the third book out of the blue. But it’s fun to see the old Stars come around in subsequent books…So IHTBY, HT, NBBM, DALD (off topic somewhat), THOM, MMIYC, and NBC. Then FANCY PANTS and LADY BE GOOD. Also KISS AN ANGEL – just for the Tiger…and the hot sex.
And that's a new topic as well. Where is the sex? I have a theory. SEP, Elizabeth Lowell, Jayne Ann Krentz, Jude Devereaux, Judith McNaught , Linda Howard, Sandra Brown are all getting up there. As am I. And there just isn't as much sex as there was. So why torture yourself by writing about it. WINTER FIRE by Lowell has eyeball sweating sex in it.
I always think your first book is the fav and here’s hoping the new book will be as good as the old books.
ps - yipes you all pushed my buttons and I wrote a novella
18. Pilar
My favorite book of SEP is This Heart of Mine. Loved the interaction between Molly and Tucker. It's funny, endearing and has the hottest sex scene(s).

I really love all of her books and wait impatiently for the next new one!
19. longestcommentever
I have just finished another round of re-reading some SEP books and I stumbled across this page. This comment (or brief article?) is about 2 years too late, but I feel compelled to write and post it. So here's the result of that compulsion:

The thing about SEP's stories is that they are classic romances in that they focus on the relationships of the characters, both across the various aspects of each character's personality and among the characters in the story. Each of the characters, throughout the course of the story, go through phases - facing challenges, confronting their weaknesses, finding their strengths, and embracing the inter-connectedness of their lives with those surrounding them. And in nowhere is this more apparent than in her most cruel or mean-spirited plots, such as Rachel and Chip's entry into town, Fluer's father's parenting, and Wynette's ostracism of Meg. Even the men are not spared; they are shown as entirely human no matter how idealized or one-dimensional their initial portrayal are, such as Bramwell Shepard, Eric Dillon, and Ted Beaudine.

I agree that SEP's worst plot was What I Did For Love (though it does serve as an alternative take on the earlier events of Honey Moon, which must be her darkest novel). What rescues it, aside from two side-romances in it, is the complex characterization she does so very well. Every character is well thought-out, their parts in the plot so essential, their humanity so apparent that even her most banal plots (e.g. Great Escape, This Heart of Mine, It Had To Be You) become addictive reads. They never go through something easy; even the most transitional of scenes often brushed over (Kevin's mother's angst over her looks, teenage Molly's secret love of Danielle Steele, a PA's makeover, a radio station manager's nostalgia) entail facing, if not an external force designed to lay a character low, then personal demons buried so deeply they hardly knew existed.

Maybe that's why I keep going back to SEP's works. When life isn't going well, when the hard topics seem to assault, when the heroes and heroines of real life no longer fit the skins we assign to them, SEPs books make sense. They deal with issues so varied yet common, detailing the process by which the characters go through them (instead of skipping to the happy ending). It helps. The tone of her books may have changed (from the lifelong drama of Glitter Baby, Kiss An Angel or Honey Moon, to the peak-of-life and second chance romantic comedies of the Chicago Stars/Wynette, Texas line, and finally to the desperate soul-searching in What I Did For Love, Call Me Irresistible, and Great Escape), but the impeccable attention to detail and weaving of intricate relationships remains the same. She's good at what she does. And I hope she keeps at it.
Post a comment