This right here is a contemporary comic Gothic romance novel. Equal parts Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey, and likely other nineteenth century novels, mostly British, that I should have read while at university, Heroes Are My Weakness features a tortured hero, an innocent in over her head, schemes, machinations, a forbidding landscape, and a surprisingly unannoying plot moppet.
Unemployed, impoverished, sick, and freezing, Annie has arrived on an island off the coast of Maine in January to take up temporary residence in a small cottage. Owing to inheritance stipulations, Annie must occupy the small house for 90 days each year. Failure to do so will make possession of the cottage revert to the larger estate on which it sits. The main house is occupied by Theo, her childhood love and tormentor, as well as his beleaguered housekeeper. Theo is brooding, brusque, and the kind of person who, in the dead of winter, decides to ride his horse shirtless. (Note: Theo is shirtless, not the horse, the horse is wearing a frock coat.) Essentially, Theo is Mr. Rochester if there was a much less freaky explanation for his conduct.
Annie settles in and, as is the way of Susan Elizabeth Phillips books, forms a community around herself, an improvised family. Off-island, she is a ventriloquist who teaches lessons to school children using her puppets. On-island, the puppets are along for the ride and represent elements of her personality, chiming in with opinions and unhelpful information. It is as twee as it sounds, but Phillips kinda, sorta pulls it off as she is very good at being simultaneously sincere and whimsical. Plagued by intrusions at her cottage, Annie and Theo draw closer as they sort out the threat to her safety, work through their issues, and untangle their pasts.
Heroes Are My Weakness was mostly enjoyable and, as expected from Phillips, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, but there was a lot going on. The sundry machinations of just about every character get pretty thick on the ground and it felt like everyone had a big secret and ulterior motives. On the whole it worked reasonably well, but Phillips has other books I would recommend more highly.
Also by Susan Elizabeth Phillips:
- It Had to Be You
- Heaven, Texas
- Nobody’s Baby But Mine
- Dream a Little Dream
- This Heart of Mine – only Kresley Cole has ever made me angrier
- Match Me If You Can
- Natural Born Charmer – This is the book I recommend more highly.