Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Review: Heroes I Really Love to Hate

You gotta say this for Susan Elizabeth Phillips. That woman can seriously create characters you love to hate. Remember Sugar Beth from AIN'T SHE SWEET--and she was anything but sweet? Remember the perfect, incomparable Ted Beaudine from CALL ME IRRESISTIBLE who is God's gift to women, but he was such a complete asshat, I wanted to set the book on fire before Susan could show me what a great guy Ted really was?

Well, she's done it again, folks. She's accomplished the miracle of miracles. She has redeemed that heartless groom-jilter Lucy Jorvik and paired her off with the perfect punishment, a complete douche canoe named Panda, who rides a motorcycle, has the table manners of a 3 year old, and whose idea of a charming pick up line is, "Are we going to do it or not?"

Seriously, I thought I was going to light this book, THE GREAT ESCAPE, on fire even quicker than I was going to light Ted's book. Susan just is that masterful at creating characters that seem so real that if they did walk off the page, the first thing you'd do is bitch slap them for being such utter tools.

Fortunately I just managed to keep my fiction and reality separate long enough for Susan to pull this rig around again, and by the end of the book, I was all, "Panda is awesome." Okay, I probably wouldn't go that far. I still wanted to light him on fire a little bit, but at least I understood what was going on with him and he was totally in his right to be a big fat douche. Lucy I adored, even if she did jilt Ted. Then again, I was still remembering what a freaking little tool he'd been in the last book and I wasn't too worried about his broken heart or ego as it were. What I liked most was visiting with the characters from FIRST LADY, a book I adored, even if I think Matt was also a bit of a tool.

A theme perhaps? I'm not sure.

Still all told, this is a skill. The hero you love to hate. Usually if I hate a hero, I don't really care for him even after the story is all wrapped but with Susan's books, we're okay in the end. It's good. And I also felt that way in Lisa Kleypas' SUGAR DADDY, and if anyone had told me Gage was going to be the hero of that book, I would have scoffed in their face. It's a skill...and a talent. Taking a very flawed human being and revealing how he is lovable. I couldn't put the book down and I was satisfied with the ending and how everything turned out.

Has anyone else read SEP's latest? Anyone agree or disagree with me about Ted...and her latest gift to womankind, Panda? What's your favorite SEP book? Any heroes you love to hate you want to talk about?

29 comments:

Haleigh said...

With a name like Panda and a pick up line like that . . . . wowza. I may have to track down this book just to see how she pulls it off!

I haven't kept up on SEP's contemps, so I'm not quite following all the characters, but she's a fave of mine, so this is a good excuse to go all the way back to First Lady and get to reading!

Though "It Had to be You" is still my favorite of hers. The whole Chicago Stars series, really. Though "Natural Born Charmer" and Molly and Kevin's stories were favorites too. Yeah, I definitely need to go back to reading her.

TerriOsburn said...

I think I'm more tolerant of hard-to-like heroines than heroes. I loved AIN'T SHE SWEET though IT HAD TO BE YOU runs a close second. But when a hero is the total douche in the beginning, I struggle to keep reading. Probably because if I wanted to encounter a jackass, I could simply walk outside. Or come to work. I'm more likely to give a heroine a pass, though not always.

I had no problem falling for Gage in SUGAR DADDY, but then I adore Hardy and was fortunate in that I knew he wasn't the hero of that book when I picked it up. IF I'd read the book the moment it came out and didn't know the line up, I'd have been furious.

Haleigh said...

Probably because if I wanted to encounter a jackass, I could simply walk outside.

*sprays diet coke across desk*

so sadly true :)

MsHellion said...

I'd almost say THE GREAT ESCAPE was *almost* more women's fiction than romance. I mean, there's a romance of sorts between her and Panda (geez, what a name, I cannot get over it), but there are a number of threads of other women's lives going on that get resolved...and it's more Lucy's book. What does Lucy want? What does Lucy want to do? Panda is just more of a pain in the ass while she figures that out--and she gets his goat too, so that's nice. I did enjoy how she tortures the guy. Repeatedly.

There is a scene near the beginning where Panda does something that is so horrifically toolish that I went, "No F-ing way that SEP had this guy doing this unless he's faking. He's gotta be up to something." And he was. And about 30 seconds after he did it, the heroine figured it out too and tortured him about it later. So some of his toolishness comes from a misguided need to "protect" Lucy. But you still want to kill him.

Anyone notice that contemporary heroes seem to be more toolish in books nowadays, but the historical heroes...aren't really. It doesn't feel like the same degree of toolishness. *LOL* Am I not reading the right historicals...or am I reading historicals with "beta" heroes and contemporaries with "alphas"?

MsHellion said...

Hal--definitely start with FIRST LADY. I think that one might put you in a good mood for the rest. I also adored WHAT I DID FOR LOVE. It's completely stand alone, which you have to love, and has a nice parallel with the Brad/Angie/Jennifer debacle. You'll be going, "Yup. Angie right there." And the hero is like...Gerard Butler, only a better actor.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hellion, you made me snork out loud (SOL doesn't work as an acronym for this, alas!)!

And Terri O, I'm glad I'd swallowed that coffee before reading that "walk outside" line. Hahaha!!

SEP is masterful, isn't she? I have to confess though that working so hard to like characters is, well....work. Grins. So I have to be in the right mood for SEP. Intrigued by this new one though. Thanks for the "heads up" on it!

MsHellion said...

SEP also had a non-toolish guy--he had been a tool in his youth, but was now just a nice guy who perhaps yes, did try too hard at times...but he was so nice to read about comparatively that he made a nice foil to Panda.

I don't know. I'm totally not selling this book. SEP is going to ban me for life from meeting her. *sighs* I mean, pretty much all her heroes rub me the wrong way when I meet them, but that's the point--they're supposed to be alpha and obnoxious until you realize, "I guess they're not that bad." And as Terri said, it certainly does sound like real life. *LOL*

Maybe her heroes are here to appreciate the heroes you have in your life. You can think, "My SO wouldn't dare be this much of a tool because he'd know I'd kill him" and you'd appreciate them more. Yes, no, maybe?

MsHellion said...

Jeanne, I agree, you sorta have to be in the mood to read SEP, but that's almost for any author. *LOL* I read a variety enough that I have to think, "Do I want sweet or sassy? Contemporary or paranormal?"

Marnee Bailey said...

I haven't read SEP in a LONG time. I read the Chicago Stars series, too. But I haven't kept up with her either.

And Panda is quite the name. Yikes.

I'm with Ter, though; more likely to give a heroine a pass than a hero. I can usually deal through the heroine's POV, hating the hero, as long as his POV isn't irritating.

MsHellion said...

That could be the key, Marn. When we were finally in Panda's POV, you realized he wasn't that bad. It was when he was in HER POV that he was the worst. *LOL*

P. Kirby said...

I don't know. I'm totally not selling this book. SEP is going to ban me for life from meeting her. *sighs* I mean, pretty much all her heroes rub me the wrong way when I meet them, but that's the point--they're supposed to be alpha and obnoxious until you realize, "I guess they're not that bad."

No, you're not...selling it. :) But...in fiction, I only tolerate jerks if they're funny, and rarely as out-right romance heroes. I adore the scoundrel with a heart of gold archetype, e.g. Captain Mal from Firefly. True Blood's Eric, an unrepentant vampire, is delicious (and snarky).

But I'm much less tolerant in romance; the odds that Mr. Alpha Testosterone Poisoning is going to "change" and be a good mate seem skewed toward "don't bet on it." Mileage, of course, does vary.

Janga said...

I never miss a book by SEP. She's one of the few authors for whom I'm willing to pay hardback prices, but The Great Escape is not one of my favorites. I was really disappointed that Lucy and Teddy (I know it's Ted now, but I still think of him as Teddy)didn't end up together, and so Call Me Irresistible and TGE were probably never going to be faves. I do love First Lady though, and I really like Fancy Pants. Dream a Little Dream is my top fsvorite.

SEP is the only writer I read regularly that not infrequently has scenes that make me cringe in books that I otherwise love. This Heart of Mine is a favorite, but that scene with Molly and the sleeping Kevin--ick!If genders had been reversed in that one, SEP would have been burned in effigy--figuratively at least.

Haleigh said...

Ohh, I did read WHAT I DID FOR LOVE and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the only contemp I've read in a while, actually :)

Janga, I *almost* said "This heart of Mine" is my favorite, because I love Molly so much, but I too am so skeeved out by that scene that the book falls to an "almost favorite" level.

TerriOsburn said...

Okay, this is one I haven't read. Now I'm dying to know what this scene is. But I know we don't want to post spoilers. So I'm demanding Hal email me about the scene! LOL!

MsHellion said...

I thought I read it, but clearly blocked it...so if Hal or Janga email Terri with the scene, please copy me. *LOL* I assume it's sort of seduction while they sleep thing, but it must be even worse than that. *LOL*

Janga said...

Hal, SEP redeemed herself for me when she had Molly use "Slytherin" as her curse word. I loved that so much I could forgive a lot--but I've skipped "that scene" in two rereads.

TerriOsburn said...

Now you're just torturing us. And after that comment, I'm sure Hellie has already left her office to go buy this book. LOL!

Maureen said...

Okay! Okay! I did it, I bought First Lady...as soon as I finish the Sophie Littlefield book I'm reading, I'll read it!

Sheesh!

I'll want a complete list of which book to read next, etc... No historicals, please...

Damn it, last time you guys did this to me I read like 12 Eloisa James books in a row... It's YOUR fault if I don't reach my writing goals this week!

Maureen said...

Wow, where did everyone go?

MsHellion said...

Most of us are still in a faint on the floor that you actually bought a book some of us suggested.

And I'm sure somebody is looking up that "icky" scene to see if it really exists. *LOL*

P.S. Eloisa has another book coming out August 28th. It looks awesome!

Maureen said...

I guess I better get to all the SEP books before the EJ's new one!

Hey! I take recommendations! Hence the big bag full of EJ's books!

fsbuchler said...

Eloisa's next books IS awesome! You will love it. I have to say again that I had picked "the biker guy" who looked so out of place at Ted and Lucy's rehersal dinner as the guy she would run off with! Now I'll get the rest of the story after I finish some reviews I've promised to do.
Janga, I think "Dream a Little Dream" is also my favorite SEP book. I don't know why it is so often overlooked in favor of some of her other books. I do love her work, but "Dream a Little Dream" is like a little lost gem! And I do mean that as a hint!

Maureen said...

Sigh, how many of these SEP books do I have to buy and read before I'll be caught up?

irisheyes said...

SEP is definitely a favorite of mine. And she does excel at the awful heroes who you end up loving at the end.

Another good one is KISS AN ANGEL. Everyone hated Alex. The thing about SEP, IMHO, is that she excels at the grovelling scenes. You can forgive a hero just about anything if he grovels long enough and sincerely enough to satisfy even the harshest critics.

I change my favorite SEPs all the time. I'm usually waffling between IT HAD TO BE YOU, MATCH ME IF YOU CAN and HEAVEN TEXAS. I also love WHAT I DID FOR LOVE and KISS AN ANGEL.

She also does really awesome secondary romances. In THE GREAT ESCAPE I really would have loved to see more of her secondary romance. You always see stories about girls who were nerds, overweight, or ostracized when they were teens, but rarely do you see a story about a guy who was like that as a teen and then became a really sweet hunk when he grew up. I liked Mike.

MsHellion said...

fsbuchler, I was wondering if there had been a biker guy in the previous book that I'd forgotten about. I was tempted to go back and look. *LOL* And I'm glad to hear that Eloisa's newest is everything that I'm hoping for. :)

MsHellion said...

Irish, I'm so relieved. *LOL* I totally didn't want this day to turn into a "I avoid SEP because her heroes are jerky" fest. Though admittedly that is sorta the tone I set. I only meant, hey it all works out in the end.

It does take a phenomenal groveling scene to make it work out. I think this is what she is going for. Drama. HUGE DRAMA. I think the smaller the "conflict" (of sorts) the more conflict you need between the characters, and what we had was a perfect daughter who didn't think she was living her authentic life, being her real self--and boom, she meets a man who clearly doesn't care about being remotely liked. Bound to stomp on some toes.

TerriOsburn said...

Mo - I don't think you want an answer to that question.

Michelle Holman said...

My favourite SEP book is "Just Imagine", her only historical that I've ever read - or seen for that matter. I also agree with fsbuchler about "Dream A Little Dream". I loved Rachael and her clunky shoes and borrowed 1950s dresses. And I have to say I agree about "toolish" heroes: I like flawed men who make me laugh.

MsHellion said...

Hi Michelle! Thanks for stopping by! And I didn't realize she'd written a historical! Holy cow. I have to go check that one out! Thanks!

And I adore dresses from the 1950s. I'm sure I wouldn't have liked the underwear it took to wear them, but the dresses are always so pretty!

I do love a man who can make me laugh. As Marilyn Monroe said, "If a man can make a woman laugh, he can make her do anything." *LOL*