What is a hero? A person of outstanding qualities and noble character who is admired for their courage and achievements? Someone who is brave and true of heart like the mythical knight in shining armor? Readers of romance would answer in the affirmative and explain that typically, they expect all of the qualities mentioned above as well as a description of a handsome face and body to match. Author Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ strength lies in creating heroes and heroines that fit the romance requirements listed above but yet are just a bit…..off.
For example in her latest book, Heroes are my Weakness, she creates characters who are carrying some pretty hefty real life baggage in their psyche. This is part of what creates the “romantic problem” the two characters must overcome. (After all, it’s a bit difficult to fall in love with a person that you believe tried to kill you when you were a young teen.) For the reader, the difficulty lies in working past the inner narrative that Anne, the heroine, has with her puppets during the first third of the book. It may be a somewhat jarring device on the part of the author but it is effective. Eventually the reader begins to understand that the author is using this device to reveal the deep-seated and long-standing insecurities of her heroine that she must overcome in order to be in a healthy relationship. About the time that the reader learns to accept hearing puppet voices as part of the heroine’s personality, they start fading into the background and become ordinary objects. Annie’s relationship with Theo, the hero, has taken center stage. The reader happily realizes that the heroine is recovering her sense of self.
As for our hero, Theo plays a wonderful, dark and brooding “Mr. Rochester” type character to the insecure and desperate heroine. The secluded Maine island populated by interfering islanders who may or may not want the outsiders to be there adds some humorous complications to the two main character’s relationship woes. The islanders’ selfishness is the final catalyst that opens Annie’s eyes to Theo’s true character, that of a true hero. Annie also learns that she has the potential to rescue others as well.
This author’s stories and characters are customarily quirky and funny; filled with snappy dialogue that keeps the pace of the story moving. She engages the reader’s interest and manages to keep the tone light, even when addressing darker topics. Her heroes may have to rescue the “fair maiden” from a jam occasionally but usually, as in this book, they rescue one another.