Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My Copy: ARC courtesy of HarperCollins
Add to: Goodreads
Synopsis: The dead of winter.
An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A sinister house looming over the sea . . .
He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes. It's going to be a long, hot winter.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ is one of those authors I’ve always want to read, but never have because I didn’t know where to start. When I received a copy of Heroes Are My Weakness, I knew this was my opportunity! I’m glad I took the plunge because I liked it and at one point took a picture of a scene and sent a text to my sister with the words, “hubba hubba.” If you’re wondering, it was the scene in which our hero, Theo, is dressed as a Regency dandy.
We have good character development. Annie Hewitt is forced to spend two months out of the year at Moonraker Cottage on Peregrine Island due to a contract made by her mother and her mother’s then ex-husband. Annie doesn’t like the area because it reminds her of a summer she wishes she could forget. When her funds run short, she has no choice but to see if there’s a hidden treasure at the cottage. Annie is spunky and a bit dramatic, but that might because she’s an actress. She’s also a ventriloquist and along for the ride are her puppets: Leo, Peter, Scamp, Dilly, and Crumpet. I adored her puppets! Then we have Theo Harp, he’s dark, brooding, and very much your typical hero. When we first meet Theo, we aren’t sure what to think and even throughout Heroes, I wasn’t sure about him, but knew he wasn’t the monster Annie makes us think. We have a few secondary characters who play a role including Annie’s puppets and a few local islanders. One of them is Jaycie, Theo’s housekeeper and a former playmate of Annie and Theo. There’s also Jaycie’s daughter, Livia, who is mute and witnessed something no child should ever see.
Narrative is third person and Phillips does a good job with the descriptions of Peregrine Island and its inhabitants. I found it easy to picture myself at Moonraker Cottage and feel the spookiness of Harp House. Phillips uses elements of Gothic literature in Heroes Are My Weakness and this was probably my favorite. Both Theo and Annie interweave snippets of well known Gothic novels when conversing and if you haven’t read the books, but have only watched the films (such as Jane Eyre), it’s easy to pick up the references. Phillips at times tries to give the landscape a spooky feel, but at times she falls short. I do wish Theo and Annie had decided to investigate the elements but alas we’re left to make the assumption they did.
What I really liked about Heroes was Annie’s puppets! I really enjoyed how Annie was able to be herself around them. There’s one particular scene where Theo saves one of them and a hilarious conversation ensues with Crumpet letting Theo know how he is and Annie is mortified. The most touching scenes involve Scamp and Jaycie’s daughter, Livia. I know a few might be put off with Annie’s conversations with the puppets, but I truly see them an extension of who she is because she hides aspects of her true self. The only way to really showcase who she is, is to do it via her puppets. It’s the same with Theo being an author in the horror genre. As a writer who isn’t afraid of the macabre, he’s able to funnel the thoughts and feelings of what people think of him into a piece of fiction.
I debated with the rating between a three and four. In the end, I decided on a three for two primary reasons. The first has to do with the attraction between Theo and Annie. It felt forced and at no point did I feel their attraction. In a romance book (or one with romantic elements), I always anticipate the attraction between our two main characters and these two just didn’t sizzle. Their relationship felt more like old friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time and are awkward at first but then fall into old habits. Then there’s the whole mystery behind who’s been targeting Annie. For me, it was a no brainer and I won’t go into detail regarding who it because I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone. I admit, I wasn’t surprised to learn the identity and despite the hints to throw us off, it was pretty easy to figure out the identity.
Overall, Phillips’ Heroes Are My Weakness was a satisfactory read. I just wish the Theo and Annie had had more chemistry. I really liked the Gothic theme and of course, Annie’s fanciful dreams that can be traced to well known Gothic novels (Jane Eyre and Rebecca come to mind). If you’re a fan of Gothic novels, I’d recommend Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Heroes Are My Weakness.