Call Me Irresistible: A Novel
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
William Morrow Paperbacks
5 spangles out of five
Hah! Finally read a book that has been recently released!
Okay, so I didn't read it, not exactly. I listened to it. I had a loooong solo car trip to make and I tend to try to fall asleep at the wheel, so listening to novels is the best way to go. (An interesting lecture is also good, but one never knows how drone-worthy the lecturer will be.)
Shannon Cochran narrates this, and believe me, she puts oomph into her performance, differentiating the characters expertly and providing a satisfying Texan drawl or British accent when needed.
The worst thing about this book is that I'll have to buy a print version as well. Maybe I should make the excuse that I'll mark this up. You know, writers (especially RWA writers) are forever slashing color highlights through books, marking passive voice, conflict points, descriptive passages vs. dialogue, etc. Yeah, I'll do that. I need to buy a print copy.
But I'll mainly be buying it just so I can reread the introduction of Ted Beaudine as he arrives in the church for his wedding rehearsal. Ted (we remember him from Fancy Pants, right? Last we saw him he was something like eight or eleven years old) is a perfect man. No, really. He's gorgeous, he's at the top of his form, he's wealthy, he's genius-level brilliant, charming, and he's mayor of Wynette, Texas. He's also about to marry Lucy Jorik (from First Lady), who is Meg Koranda's (Glitter Baby) bff.
I wish I could give you the exact wording, but as he enters the church, the sun backlights him with a halo. Trumpets blare a fanfare (they're practicing; it's just a coincidence). Birds sing, the stained glass lights his path like it's tossing rose petals in front of him, etc etc. Perfect. So gloriously, OTT perfect that I was howling in the car. SEP treats him like this several more times in the book. "Don't you think it's weird?" Meg asks people, but they all regard her blankly.
Meg, of course, is anything but perfect. She (like most SEP heroines) is gorgeous (she doesn't realize it) and the daughter of wealth. SEP's pattern is to take a (usually) wealthy young lady who needs to be taught A Hard Lesson and rip out every support system she possesses. Then when you think things can't get worse, they get worse. And then they get worse from there.
If we didn't know that SEP's heroines can all dig deep within themselves and claw their ways out of their dire predicaments, we might close the book. But the fun—and let us be honest, the inspiration—of SEP's narrative is watching these heroines work hard. Bit by bit they learn tough lessons about themselves. They have to find and use their native courage against tremendous difficulties. They prove themselves to a world that has turned against them. And slowly they begin to discover their unique gifts, the ways only they can contribute to the world.
Kinda like Wonder Woman, right? Well, phooey on you. I think it is.
Almost any SEP novel you read will suddenly throw passages of heavenly poetry your way. This book is no exception, and I wonder what I missed by listening to it instead of digesting it word by printed word. These will be the kinds of things I'll highlight. It's this poetry that is one of the aspects of SEP that sets her so far apart from the ordinary crowd of romance writers.
Also, SEP is one of those writers who can really peel back character like an onion until you get to the Deep Truth which must be revealed so the character can not just grow, but blossom. I've been noticing that sometimes SEP throws in a couple too many layers—on rare occasion you say, "Get on with it!"—but this doesn't happen often and even those extra layers are worth exploring. (Though editing them out wouldn't really harm the book.) They're rare. Rare. (Just wanted to repeat that.)
And oh yeah, the sex scenes are ooey-gooey without being anatomical treatises. SEP is one of the few who can pull that off. Believe me, you haven't really read a hot sex scene until you read how the Perfect Man delivers Perfect Sex. (Which oddly makes it not so perfect, as Meg discovers.)
This is a second-generation book in that it deals with a bunch of kids resulting from some of SEP's earlier romance novels. More than a few of the heroes and heroines of those books show their faces as well. Wynona, TX is getting a little crowded. And there's at least 2 titles that I missed reading that would explain who some of these folks are. (I've read the rest. I think.) (And no, you don't need to have read any of these books to fully enjoy this one.)
Do read the Jenny Crusie/SEP "interview" on this book's Amazon page. Hie-larious!
All in all, a terrific read! Now all I have to do is actually read it.