Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I used to think that my favorite women in fiction were written by Nora Roberts. They are strong women who have dignity and the courage to fight for what they want. Well, sorry Ms. Roberts, but there's a new favorite in town: Susan Elizabeth Phillips. SEP (as she is often referred to) doesn't write romances, she writes women's fiction, good women's fiction. As with her peers Jennifer Crusie and Jennifer Weiner, her stories aren't about the "action" between a man and a woman (not that this particular aspect is missing, mind you) but rather the journey that the woman takes to become the woman she wants to be. Meg from Call Me Irresistible is her most compelling leading lady yet in a long list of awesome women.

Meg is daughter of Hollywood elite parents (from SEP's Glitter Baby) and is considered to be a spoiled rich girl. She carries no responsibilities and lives her life jumping from one exotic locale to the next for fun. (Think Nepal, not Monaco.) Her best friend, Lucy, a former president's daughter, is about to marry Ted Beaudine from Wynette, Texas, the local Golden Boy and PGA champ. When Meg arrives in Wynette to stand up at Lucy's wedding she makes a horrible discovery: Lucy is marrying the wrong man! With one look, Meg believes with all her heart that Lucy is not marrying the right man for her. Chaos ensues with Meg left to take all the blame. Now she's stuck in Wynette - a town that hates her - and since her parents have decided to cut her off financially, she's got some serious bucking up to do. The worst part? Ted Beaudine has made it his life's mission to make her miserable...and he looks so good doing it.

I loved Meg. Plucky and full of sass, her life is looking pretty lousy but she doesn't let it drag her down. She's attracted to Ted, yes, but when she looks at him she sees a pretty unhappy man instead of the town hero (and mayor). That makes her want to help but only a little bit since he pretty much hates her. Her family and friends cut her off from any help to make her grow up and grow some resources of her own and she does; she takes menial jobs but makes the most of them and even starts crafting her own jewelry line. The hardest part about living in Wynette for Meg really is maintaining her dignity in the face of those catty women who are just trying to protect what's theirs: Ted.

Ted was a hard read. He's a popular man who always knows the right thing to say or do but he's still an introvert. He doesn't emote, even with Meg, and at the beginning of the book, I thought he was pretty awful. He took his frustration and pain from being jilted out on Meg just like everyone else when it wasn't her fault. Bringing Meg down many pegs made him a bit too happy for my taste. I liked how the reader's understanding of Ted mirrored his own; Ted's self-awareness needed some time to kick in.

SEP's next book sounds like it'll be about Lucy, the runaway bride. I can't wait to see what happened to her after she fled Wynette.

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