RT Critiques The First Chapter Of The Upcoming Susan Elizabeth Phillips Release

The RT web team has been abuzz today about the upcoming Susan Elizabeth Phillips release Call Me Irresistible (aka Ted’s book) after SEP posted the first chapter on her website.

The editors and interns just had to take a look at the excerpt and this is what we learned from chapter one. First, there are lots and lots and lots of old faces that will make an appearance. The daughter from 1987’s Glitter Baby is the heroine, the son from 1989’s Fancy Pants is the hero and other cast includes the characters from First Lady, Lady Be Good and more. Second, the hero Ted Beaudine is perfect and the heroine Meg Koranda is not. And third, the book starts with Ted marrying Meg’s best friend Lucy.

We had so many opinions around the office that we thought we would weigh in.

RT Web Editor Morgan Doremus: I have to admit that this first chapter made me feel a bit apprehensive for several reasons. First, I am not a big fan of the story’s concept in general. The hero (Ted) apparently is going to fall in love with the maid-of-honor (Meg). The excerpt makes it look like they are days (or even hours) away from Ted and Lucy’s wedding and somehow it is not Lucy that makes it down the aisle, but Meg is the one who catches Ted. Best friend ends up with the fiancee ... that's a pretty big stumbling block on the rocky road of romance.

This got me thinking about the other plots that SEP has worked on and the type of impediments that her characters overcome to get to the happily ever after. I soon realized that most of the time, the plot devices in a Phillips’ novel revolved around a problem with the heroine: the heroine is boss (It Had To Be You), the heroine is too bossy (Lady Be Good and Heaven, Texas), the heroine is considered too old (Nobody’s Baby But Mine), the heroine is impulsive (This Heart of Mine) the heroine is from a rival royal house and they must overcome a feud that has been taking place since the Russian Revolution (Kiss An Angel). All perfectly excellent books without a single almost-married-your-best-friend plotline.

The second thing that makes me a bit uneasy about Call Me Irresistible is the huge cast of characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing previous favorites. But too much is just too much. We can just call it the Christine Feehan Dark Celebration Syndrome. (In this book, the reader is literally dragged around a village where all 13 families from the previous Carpathian books have gathered.) The idea of SEP trying to get all of her fans favorite characters into one book seems like it will severely hamper the current story.

So overall, while SEP is one of my favorite authors, I am going to have to take a wait-and-see approach to this one. And I will be VERY interested to get a hold of it early 2011 when it releases.

Assistant Web Editor Whitney Sullivan: I am officially withholding judgment until I get more of the story. I did have to ask Morgan if vintage gladiator sandals existed. (The answer was yes, a la Mae West and the vintage Silver Screen style.) And this first chapter does seem like it could have done with a bit more polishing, but I am leaning towards ecstatic glee that I can expect a new SEP novel as early as next year.
Two factors are keeping me from being an impartial judge:
ONE - Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of only two authors to my make Top Ten Favorite Books not once but three times (Nobody’s Baby But Mine, It Had To Be You and This Heart Of Mine … And honorable mentions go to Match Me If You Can and Ain’t She Sweet). The only other person to land on that list so many times is Jennifer Crusie (Bet Me, Welcome To Temptation and Getting Rid Of Bradley). So I am willing to cut SEP a bit of slack and wade through some “bumpy” chapters on sheer principle of it being a novel by SEP.
TWO -  I am much less familiar with the families of Lady Be Good, Fancy Pants and First Lady than I am with the Chicago Stars books. So this idea that Ted and Meg are meant for each other doesn’t offend me outrageously. I mean it’s not like she’s breaking up Dream A Little Dream’s Chip and Rose.

So my temporary verdict is: I want the novel. The complete novel. Because if the world were fair, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books would be produced like this: SEP’s Brain --> SEP’s Fingers -->SEP’s Critique Partner -->SEP’s Editor -->ME!

RT Intern Lizzie Poteet: I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The end. If she writes a book, I buy said book, and roughly 99.9% of the time, I love said book. Have there been exceptions to my adoration of the author who can make me laugh out loud (LOL as we kids often say) on a busy bus? Well, yes, there have been books by SEP that I did not love. Unfortunately, Glitter Baby is one such book, and I am afraid based on this excerpt that Phillip's newest book, featuring Glitter Baby's daughter, will be another of those books that fall into "Not a Fan" section on my bookshelf.

Why do I have apprehensions? Simple. One, Ted seems way too perfect. He's handsome. He's smart. He's gifted. He's nice. He's the best lover this side of the moon. SEP better give that boy some flaws before he is sainted. Two, while Ted may be too perfect, Meg is too much of a screw up. She is thirty, without a job, without ambitions, and with a sharp mouth that seems to do more harm than good. So while Ted's perfection balances out Meg's imperfection, I just wish the characters were a little more nuanced in this first chapter.

But I still have hope. After all, it was an excerpt of the first few pages. And even then, it still managed to make me LOL.

The verdict: While all three of the RT web team loves Susan Elizabeth Phillips, it was unanimous that Call Me Irresistible starts out with a potentially problematic premise. Make sure to read the first chapter and let us know what you think in the comments.