SEP’s latest is different from her usual–but in a good way!
Heroes Are My Weakness
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
The dead of winter.
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.
Heroes Are My Weakness, at least in the beginning, has a very different feel to it than many of SEP’s other books. It’s a lot darker–very reminiscent of novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca with the creepy, Gothic architecture and gloomy atmosphere. The hero of the piece seems a lot more like a villain, and Annie, the heroine, comes off as a jumpy and paranoid creature who is letting life act upon her rather than taking action. There’s a whole lot of “poor me” and “he tried to kill me once, I’m sure he’ll do it again” going on in the first third or so of the book.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it at first. But at least it was nothing like The Great Escape, which went totally over the hill for me, so I was more than willing to keep going.
Somewhere before the halfway point was reached, though, I realized that there had gradually been a shift going on. Theo–whose point of view we see only sporadically and for brief periods; the story’s mostly told from Annie’s POV–becomes less of an evil caricature and more of a living, breathing fictional character (does that count as an oxymoron?). Annie remembers that she has a spine. The story starts to come together, and the characters start to (finally) act somewhat heroic at last.
The last third or so really made the book for me. I started making excuses to find more things to do while listening to the audiobook. I became totally invested in Annie and Theo. I completely got wrong who was the real “bad guy” (though I suspected the red herring all along. Obviously I was still in Call Me Irresistible mode.)
Annie’s a ventriloquist, and her puppets–extensions of her own personality–are a fun addition to the cast of characters. They pop up in her head constantly, with snarky advice and pithy observations. Two also literally become characters, and are both humorous and proactive. Annie’s got mad puppeteering skills. The entire group is also frequently put into inappropriate–but hysterical–positions by Theo when he’s left alone with them. Those were some of my favorite parts–seeing what author Theo was doing while all alone out at the cottage in his spare time.
Once we got to really know Theo, I fell totally in love. He went from being an antisocial, misogynistic shadow figure to being the guy everyone–Annie and the rest of the island as well–turns to in times of crisis. When we finally learned the truth of his past, it just broke my heart. (I really can’t say anymore without major spoilers. You’ve got to read it yourself ;)) He is a fantastic hero, and for me he made the book. I wish that we saw more from his POV; but it was definitely Annie’s book.
Though it had a shaky start, eventually SEP’s trademark witty banter made an appearance and the characters evolved into people I could really care about. (Seriously, no one does this like SEP. In several of her books, there are characters who I just can’t stand in the beginning, but somehow she always brings me around. It’s amazing.) It ended up being a solid four star, A- read for me.
Besides, heroes are totally my weakness too. Honestly, is that so bad? 😉
I received a complimentary copy for an honest review.