I love the books of Susan Elizabeth Phillips. There was the one with the circus, the one with the southern belle trying to keep her house, the one with the unlikely on-set romance between a teen and an ageing co-star and then there were the Chicago Bulls all stars books which I wasn’t so thrilled about but read anyway.
This latest Romance book I had to put down several times during reading as it bored the hell out of me with cliches but then I stuck to it last night and I finally managed to finish it. And yes, it did make me laugh a couple of times but mostly it brought up two ideas in my head.
Idea number 1: Some girls might use this as a guide to get a guy out of their league and it won’t go well for them
Idea number 2: While this might seem like a love story to some, I saw some really dark and disturbing things in it which (if tackled) would have made this a great thriller book.
The Story (as envisioned by the author)
Come heck or high water, Gracie Snow is determined to drag the legendary ex-jock Bobby Tom Denton back home to Heaven, Texas, to begin shooting his first motion picture. Despite his dazzling good looks and killer charm, Bobby Tom has reservations about being a movie star — and no plans to cooperate with a prim and bossy Ohio wallflower whom he can’t get off his mind or out of his life. Instead, the hell-raising playboy decides to make her over from plain Jane to Texas wildcat.
But nothing’s more dangerous than a wildcat with an angel’s heart in a town too small for a bad boy to hide. And all hell breaks loose when two unforgettable people discover love, laughter, passion — and a match that can only be made in Heaven.
Target audience: bored housewives and elderly women
Plot summary in two sentences *(or more): Mousy woman ends up working for a hot stud and falls in love with him. In a drunken bout she offers her 30-year-old virgin body for him to deflower and even though he was reluctant at first, he goes for the offer Pretty-Woman Style. It helps that she has a bombshell body under her baggy clothes and with a cool haircut she looks pretty enough to bang. In the mean-time, the stud’s mother is being blackmailed into a sex trade with a town’s bully and asked for sexual favours in order not to close down a factory that could leave hundred unemployed. She falls in love with the bully after he gives her great sex and apparently he loved her too. Mousy woman finds out that the hunk had been paying her paycheck all along and decides that her worth as an independent woman had been threatened and decides to leave him. He performs a grand gesture asking her to marry him in front of an audience and then chasing after her car asking to give him another chance. She takes him back and they live happily ever after.
I think looking at this book through an objective lens gives us a few actual plot lines. Gracie Snow and the stud and the stud’s mother and the bully.
Gracie Snow and the Stud.
Gracie Snow is very much attracted to a guy out of her league and she knows it.
He was the embodiment of every man she’d ever dreamed about; all the high school boys who’d ignored her, all the young men who never remembered her name, all the handsome professional men who complimented her on her clear thinking, but never thought to ask her out for a date. He was a glittering superhuman creature who must have been put on earth by a perverse God to remind homely women like herself that some things were unobtainable.
She’s not aware of her own worth and puts herself down regularly. And a virgin at 30 is something almost unheard of these days! When the stud finds out she’s a virgin he has a reaction that almost made me gag..
He wanted to open those legs and see if she was as dried up as she claimed. .. Besides, even though he had almost twenty years of sexual experience, none of it was with an almost middle-aged old maid who’d probably have a stroke if she saw a man naked, no matter how much she might think she wanted to taste the forbidden fruit.
He sounds like the type of guy to avoid. And the so-called independent woman decides to fall in love with this self-centered stud because.. I don’t know, he was hot? He doesn’t seem to have any other redeeming qualities… and probably she was confusing lust for love. I think she’s suffering from some hormonal imbalance to make her behave so love-struck in just a few weeks after meeting someone.
A rush of exhilaration exploded inside her as she made up her mind. She was going to take the job as his personal assistant and savor every moment of the time she spent with this star-kissed man her heart chosen so unwisely to love. She would file away every look he gave her, every smile, every gesture. She would abandon caution and give herself to him, as much of her as be would accept. Maybe he would make love to her. Probably not. But either way, she was going to give herself to him without condition, knowing that when it was over, the best she could hope for was a treasure house of memories.
I get he’s hot stuff but still girl, hold your pants up and look it in the eye like a professional! But I suppose this is a romance book and romance has to start somewhere even for a mousy lady with a crush on a guy with a *cough* bulge…
He wore only jeans and boots. The sun sparked in his tawny hair and glowed on his bare chest. Her heart jumped at the sight of him.
And then her mouth went dry as her eyes slid over his chest to the arrow-straight line of golden brown hair that travelled from above his navel down into the open V of his jeans. She stared at the large bulge that had grown there. Had she done that to him? Her eyes flew to his.
At the same time, the guy was eyeing post-transformation Gracie with wolf’s eyes. He uncovered a candy and now that other boys wanted it, he wanted it more. His way of thinking is probably made to look over the top but he still sounds like a class A Jerk
If he wanted to keep facing himself in the mirror every morning, he had to set aside his misgivings about mercy fucking and do what needed to be done. She was his friend, dammit, and he never turned his back on his friends. That left him with no choice. The only way he could be certain the job got done right was to take charge of Gracie’s initiation himself.
So this is the point where the book is actually turning a bit dark for me. Some women do not recognise the signs of an abusive relationship and there are a lot of warning flags early on. Once the stud decides to “mercy fuck” her, he gets all possessive and jealous of other guys. This is actually one of the first signs that a relationship is toxic and needs to be ended quickly.
“Those boys are only human, and, the fact is, you were flaunting yourself.” ”I wasn’t!” “All right. Let’s just say you were doing some heavy-duty flirting.” “I was flirting? Really?”
Then he coerces her into agreeing to have sex with him and only him due to the fact that he’s got no-one else to shag and she’s available. What a way to seduce women.
I, on the other hand, am used to having a regular sex life, but since I’m officially an engaged man and this is a small town, I can’t just call up my old girlfriends and make arrangements, if you get my point.” “Yes, I, uh— Well, it’s certainly a problem.” “But it doesn’t have to be.” Her chest began to rise and fall as if she’d just run a long distance. “I suppose not.”
So after manipulating her into having sex, they seem to have a pretty OK-ish relationship. Until things go bad and you can see more of the red flags appearing on the horizon. When she threatens to leave him after finding out that her material independence had been threatened by him paying her paychecks, he gets violent and tries to have sex with her. She manages to fight him off and hurts her hands in the process.
His voice was barely a whisper. “I never did anything like that to a woman in my life. Gracie, I’m sorry. I’d do anything in the world to take back what just happened.” The mattress sagged next to her. “I couldn’t stand to hear you say you weren’t going with me, and I had to make you stop talking. Why are you doing this, Gracie? We’ve had a real good time together. We’re friends. There’s no reason for it to stop just because of a misunderstanding.”
This is abuser manipulation by the numbers. It felt like a page from Rose Madder where the man does something hurtful but then tries to blame it on the woman and then apologises. At this point she should have sued his ass and get the police involved. But nooo, she stays on and the next day she sees him flaunting his easily accessible women in a childish attempt to make her jealous. Then when he saw it didn’t work, he traps her on the stage and proposes to her in a grand gesture. She says no to the proposal and runs off (I was applauding at this point) and then he shouts abuse over the mic towards her.
He gets into a fight (proving that he can be a mean drunk), breaks some bones and trashes a bar and then in the morning, when sobriety kicks in, he decides he still needs to convince her that he loves her so he uses his fame to “break out” and hunt her down with a police car he had stolen. She speeds away when she sees it was him but caution makes her pull over. Imagine how different this book would have been if she crashed the car trying to escape him. Headlines: Obsessed boyfriend chases ex-girlfriend to her death!
But no, she pulls over and instead of staying in a locked car until cops arrive, she gets out and tries to run. HE FREAKING TACKLES HER!!
She screamed as he brought her down in the weeds with a bone-jarring tackle. She twisted as she fell, and when she landed she was looking up at him. For a moment, she knew nothing but pain and fear. Then she began to gasp for air. She had lain beneath him many times before, but they had been making love and she’d felt nothing like this. His brutal, unrelenting weight imprisoned her against the ground. The unfamiliar smells of stale beer and sweat clung to him, and .his unshaven jaw abraded her cheek, “God damn it!” he shouted, pushing himself up on his arms. He grabbed her, and lifted her shoulders from the ground just far enough so he could shake her as if she were a rag doll. “Why are you running away from me?” The veneer of facile charm and relentless affability had peeled away, leaving a violent, angry man who had been pushed over the edge. “Stop!” she sobbed. “Don’t—”
And then the police comes and takes him in cuffs. He also starts getting a beating from the cops. I was doing a small dance of victory of her finally having gotten ridden of that piece of trash when what does Gracie do? She jumps to his defence and tells the cops to stop hitting him. She protects the fu£^er!!
He gets off with a fine or two and some community service and they both get married in the end. UMMMMMM! The guy has the markings of a psychopath! I would have busted his ass with a restraining order and moved faaar far away from him but she, she decides to marry him. Grossed out. I supposed this goes for romance these days.
This isn’t a romance. It’s a codependent horror story about a spoiled selfish man’s devolving into an abusive, misogynist asshole and the woman who loves him despite how horribly he treats her and who cannot escape him.
The Suzy and Wayland story
This was one of the side plots. The stud’s mother (Suzy), gets asked if she’s willing to do everything to get the town factory to not close down. She agrees to go on an intimate dinner with the owner of the factory, gets taken to his house where he mentions that an arrangement could be made for her to be his mistress and instead of telling him to go and shove it somewhere, she AGREES! She is OK to being manipulated into a promiscuous situation where she’s always given the option to leave and she chooses to stay and be a freaking VICTIM! WTF
And then when he assaults her in a hot tub, she’s still placid and decides to take it for the good of the town… I was reading this section going like “Why the hell doesn’t she slap him? Why did she get in the freaking bath tub the first time if she didn’t want to be with him? WTF is she doing?”
He nipped her there, not painfully, but with enough strength to remind her that he was in control. She remembered that stallions frequently nipped the mares they were covering, sometimes even bringing blood. At the same time, a dim voice told her that she only needed to rise from the water for him to let her go. But the voice was too amorphous for her to hold on to as his hands glided over her shoulders and palmed her breasts. “Lean back,” he whispered. “Let me play with you.”
She didn’t want it to feel so good, but it had been too long, and as his warm, soapy hands circled her breasts, she couldn’t resist. She would permit this intimate caress for a moment, and then she would draw away.
The love-making if I can call it that was so rapey afterwards I felt like sending the woman a counsellor to deal with her trauma. And just to remind you – all of this turns out OK in the end ’cause he said he loved her.. and she stayed with him…
Out of nowhere, a hand touched her outer thigh. She jumped. Because she could see nothing, hear nothing, the hand seemed disembodied, as if it were coming from a phantom lover, something not quite human, demonic, even. It brushed over the patch on her hip, and she stiffened.
She’s confused love with her body’s response to him. And he assumed that just ’cause she was wet and ready that she was having consensual sex with him. Watch this TED talk about Unwanted Arousal if you want a small lesson in what’s OK and not OK for a woman.
All in all – one of the WORST BOOKS by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and due to the abusive nature of the stud, worst book of the year award.
Usually, at the end of these novels, there’s this pleasant feeling as you close the book and you imagine the couple’s happy future. Instead, I’m imagining how Bobby Tom’s struggles to find meaning and direction in his life after having to quit the NFL due to an injury — well, that’ll no doubt be taken out on Gracie.