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REVIEW: What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Dear Ms. Phillips: What I Did For Love

I count you as one of my favorite romance authors. I practically camp out at my local bookstore whenever your books are released. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this one.

Georgie York is best known for her role as the spunky Scooter Brown on America’s favorite sitcom "Skip and Scooter." Although she no longer has the bright red Orphan Annie hair or the trademark curls, Georgie still reigns as America’s sweetheart. Even a series of box office flops can’t seem to diminish her public appeal.

It’s not just the poor box office numbers that are plaguing Georgie. She’s also got a Brangelina-esque problem to worry about. Her movie star ex-husband Lance Marks left her for sexy do-gooder actress Jade Gentry. Barely surviving the heartbreak of her husband’s abandonment and the subsequent divorce, Georgie is shattered to find out that Jade is also pregnant. With paparazzi everywhere, Georgie goes to Vegas for a change of scenery.

Bramwell Shepherd is the Skip to Georgie’s Scooter. His career is going nowhere fast, and he’s only got himself to blame. He follows Georgie to Vegas where the former co-stars attend a party together and unintentionally drink some sort of drug laced beverage. One minute, they’re drinking and gambling. The next, they’re waking up together only to realize they got married Ross and Rachel style. In an attempt to avoid more bad publicity, Georgie convinces Bram to agree to a fake marriage for one year in exchange for half a million dollars and better press by association.

Like many of your books, What I did For Love is about second chances. A second chance at love, a second chance at a career, a second chance as a father, and so on. Although it’s a theme that touches upon most characters, it was better executed with some than with others. After some initial misgivings and despite some irritation with cranky housekeeper Chaz, I enjoyed reading about her second chance at happiness. I also enjoyed the subplot with Georgie’s career driven father. Falling under the dislike category are the Brangelina ex-husband and new wife. For a man who has been the catalyst of Georgie’s own second chance at love, it was disappointing to discover this character was so absurdly shallow and cheesy as to call into question the intelligence of our protagonist.

I noticed something right away and it’s something that jarred me from the story. I found myself comparing Georgie and Bram to two of my favorite characters from Honey Moon. Just like Honey, Georgie became America’s sweetheart as the lead on a wholesome family tv show. Like Honey, she was infatuated with her jerk of a co-star.   Other similarities include growing stifled with her image and wanted a change in her career.

As for Bram, he wasn’t driven by the same demons as Eric Dillon, but he did show a similar selfishness and self-destruction in his youth. Like Eric, he too is trying to escape his past and atone for his actions. But while Eric acted liked an ass because he felt more than a little self-loathing, Bram’s destructive behavior in his youth was basically due to his desire to party too hard.

Like Honey and Eric, Georgie and Bram are an odd couple. Bram has his amazing good looks complete with chip on shoulder. Georgie isn’t conventionally beautiful, but she does have a likability that’s hard to resist. Both go their own ways only to be reunited years later and fall in love. There are of course many differences among them of which include the absence of Honey’s earlier May-December romance, roller coaster symbolism that’s kind of WTF, and the heavier tone that weighs down Honey Moon. But . . . it was just enough that I couldn’t avoid immediately spotting the similarities, making the comparison, and ultimately finding Georgie and Eric a little lacking.

Despite the comparisons, I did like Georgie and Bram to some degree. They’re by no means my favorite of your protagonists, but they each have a vulnerability that is compelling to read.   For example, we find out pretty quickly that Georgie hates Bram with a passion and has ever since their tv show years. But we’re also told that:

Georgie had loved Skip Scofield. She loved everything about him. His big heart, his loyalty, the way he’d tried to protect Scooter from the Scofield family. The way he’d eventually fallen in love with her silly round face and rubber-band mouth. She’d loved everything except the man Skip turned into when the cameras stopped rolling.

I love that description. It says so much about the 16 year old girl Georgie used to be. The girl who had trouble distinguishing between reality and fiction. The girl who hadn’t always hated Bramwell Shepherd, but who had, in fact, imagined herself in love with him.

However, that was years and several difficult life lessons ago. Georgie and Bram haven’t been secretly in love with or lusting after each other all this time. They went their separate ways when the show ended, and gladly. Years later, Georgie still hasn’t forgiven him for his behavior toward her. And while Bram’s resents Georgie out of some misplaced sort of jealousy, Georgie’s anger toward him is very much deserved. Their relationship from resentment to distrust to trust to love is accompanied by your trademark humor. It didn’t work for me as well as your other books, but it’s still a very quick and easy read.

Other readers may be more amused than I by the lengths Georgie and Bram will go to in order to advance their careers and save face in the public eye. They may also be amused by the Hollywood setting and by what seems like a realistic portrayal of paparazzi and life as a celebrity. From lunch at The Ivy to mansions in the Pacific Palisades, the Hollywood setting was convincingly executed.   However, this book didn’t entirely click for me for several reasons.   The Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie characters were jarring as was the inevitable comparison of Georgie to Jennifer Aniston.   This sort of thing may amuse others, but not me. And don’t even get me started on the SARS scare.

And although I appreciated Georgie and Bram’s vulnerability, I didn’t entirely sympathize with them. Georgie is a successful actress, she’s rich, and loved by millions, but she’s unhappy because the paparazzi have hounded her, turning her heartbreak over her divorce into a public scandal.   But, as it turns out, the ex-husband was a complete ass.   Why exactly was she so heartbroken? I would have been happy to be rid of the guy.   And yeah, she’s not happy with her career, but did I mention that she’s frickin’ rich?   Ok, so people don’t take her seriously as a dramatic actress. Too bad.   Do something instead of just complaining about it. I guess I’m just not enamored enough of the celebrity lifestyle to find Georgie’s utter devotion to saving her public image- lie though it may be- a little sad.

I admired Bram’s determination to get his career on track, but I had some trouble connecting with him too. Part of that is because he threw it all away years ago, something which he can blame no one but himself.   The other part is his use of Georgie to get ahead in Hollywood. It’s that mutual use of each other for their own careers that I found distasteful, and which prevented me from truly enjoying this story as I wanted to.

I would recommend this to your fans.   For anyone new to your work, I would advise them to start with one of your earlier books.

B-

:) Joonigrrl/Leslie

This book can be purchased in hardcover from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers beginning January 27, 2009.

Leslie S

can usually be found hunched over her ebook reader or lurking in the romance and sci-fi/fantasy sections of her local bookstores. She discovered her love of fantasy at a young age, reading everything from Piers Anthony to Robert Aspirin and C.S. Lewis. At the age of 12, she picked up a little book called The Thorn Birds, and after crying for five days straight, decided that she liked the romantic elements, but needed a happier ending. Her first tentative visits to the romance section brought her to such favorites as Linda Howard and Judith McNaught where her love of the romance book was born. She then turned to Brenda Joyce, Lisa Kleypas, J.D. Robb, Anne Stuart, and as the years passed, many more. She currently prefers paranormal romance, urban fantasy, traditional fantasy, historical and the occasional YA.

29 Comments

  1. Lorelie
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 06:58:38

    just enough that I couldn't avoid immediately spotting the similarities, making the comparison, and ultimately finding Georgie and Eric a little lacking.

    Hello, Fruedian slip. :) Looks like you made a pretty big connection.

    I haven’t read Honey Moon, so I think I’ll still be trying this one out.

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  2. vanessa jaye
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 07:13:52

    Haven’t read Honey Moon, either. But I’ve had my eye on this one for a couple of months now.

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  3. joanne
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 07:45:05

    I was afraid the Hollywood connections would keep it from being a story of hers that I love.

    An SEP new release is something I always look forward to but reading the first chapter of this one (on her site, if I recall) made me see too many real-star connections too quickly. What also popped out at me was a kind of Meg Ryan/Russell Crowe scenario and Bram just made me wonder if he could be redeemed enough for me to care about him and his HEA.

    Eventually I’ll buy it but I won’t put it ahead of other 2009 new releases on my list.

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  4. Azure
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 07:45:11

    Amazon has a “look inside” feature which allows for the reading of up to about fifty pages, so I’ve read part of this book and what I’ve read leads me to agree with this review. I haven’t read Honey Moon, but I don’t know how crazy I am about Georgie and Bram so far. Then again, I couldn’t stand Cal Bonner through a good chunk of Nobody’s Baby but Mine the first time I read it, and now it’s one of my favorite novels, so maybe reading the whole book will change my opinion.

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  5. Danielle
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 07:54:14

    I have to admit that I have all of her books in my TBR pile except one — Just Imagine which I read and enjoyed. Looks like I’ll be getting this book too.

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  6. Jane
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 08:28:56

    @joanne The hollywood setting is what keeps me away too. (Plus, in a guilty confession, I rather like the do gooder Angelina).

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  7. joanne
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 10:05:33

    Jane: guilty, too. I don’t understand the ‘whys’ of it but she almost always makes me grin. Jolie’s movie WANTED was beyond gawd-awful-guilt-inducing-comic-book stuff… and I loved every frame that she was in.

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  8. roslynholcomb
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 10:38:30

    I’m a huge SEP fan, and I’ve read Honey Moon. I hadn’t planned to buy this one in hardback anyway, so I’ll wait on it.

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  9. Lissa
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 10:40:35

    This really has nothing to do with the book reviewed here – I am not familiar with this author, though the premise of the book sounds interesting – but I have to admit that I actually like Angelina and hate the other one, who to me is quite selfish and boring and needs to move on; she should start by getting over herself and her supposed career.

    Angelina was who she was; before, during and after whatever occurred with Brad. She is a strong woman, making no excuses for any of it and standing by what she believes in. And she is not doing it to further her career, most of what she does with the UN is done out of the spotlight. I admire that in her.

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  10. Patty L.
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 12:08:29

    I am a huge SEP fan and have loved all of her books. Recently I read Glitter Baby and the worst thing that I could say about that book was that is was set in the early 80′s. LOL

    I don’t mind the Hollywood premise or the Brangelina reference and actually feel that it may bring it all a little more to life. I will never be rich, famous, etc., so I don’t mind visiting another “world” through a book.

    BTW I think Jen Aniston is great and I thought she handled herself well during her divorce. Angelina and Brad can’t help their love for one another and I believe that they are all fine with the outcome. Angie has done wonderful things for the UN and Brad with his New Orleans projects. They have the ways and means to make a difference on a larger scale then most of us. I commend them both for their service to our world.

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  11. Susan/DC
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 12:08:40

    Thanks for the heads-up about this one. I’ve loved some SEP in the past and found others not quite so lovable, but I’m unwilling to spend HC prices before I know whether or not I absolutely love the book. The cover is gorgeous, but I think I’ll wait for the PB and hope it has the same cover.

    As for Angelina, she definitely has a larger-than-life personality. As with Princess Diana, I certainly don’t know the truth about their motivations for their good works and I don’t care. If they were only doing it to get publicity, there are far easier ways to generate press that don’t involve traveling to war zones. I can only admire their willingness to speak out against land mines and for children.

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  12. Keri M
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 12:28:26

    If you haven’t read any of SEP, I wouldn’t start with this one or Honey Moon to me they are just not some of her best work. One of my fav’s was It Had to Be You or Nobody’s Baby But Mine. To this day I can’t look at a box of Lucky Charm’s without grinning for the scene out of NBBM. Keri

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  13. Joonigrrl/Leslie
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 15:55:47

    Hello, Fruedian slip. :)

    Oops! haha, you’re right :)

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  14. Wandering Chopsticks
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 17:04:39

    Thanks for this review. Love SEP and am willing to spend money for her hard covers, but don’t really like the Hollywood angle. And blech, don’t like Jennifer Aniston. Now, if the heroine was more like Angelina, I might have coughed up the dough. ;)

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  15. EC Sheedy
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 17:43:38

    I completely agree with Keri on NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE. A flat out fabulous book.

    I am dedicated SEP fan, so I will be buying this one. What I love most about her is her humor. I’ve always found a laugh or smile somewhere in her books. I heard her speak at a conference a couple of years ago, and the woman appeared to be as warm as her books.

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  16. Barbara B.
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 18:11:21

    OMG! Brangeloonies at Dear Author?

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  17. Joonigrrl/Leslie
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 19:30:17

    I am a huge SEP fan and have loved all of her books. Recently I read Glitter Baby and the worst thing that I could say about that book was that is was set in the early 80's. LOL

    Although it was a bit dated, I really enjoyed Glitter Baby too. Well . . . I enjoyed it when the book was focused on Fleur and Jake. I just wish we had gotten more page time devoted to their romance, and less of Fleuer’s parents.

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  18. Joonigrrl/Leslie
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 19:36:40

    What I love most about her is her humor. I've always found a laugh or smile somewhere in her books

    This is also what I enjoy most about SEP. I thought this one wasn’t quite as spot on with the humor, but it did elicit more than a few smiles and laughs.

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  19. Evangeline
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 19:47:33

    @Barbara B.: lmao!

    Brangelina vs Jennifer Aniston still sells tabloids after four years. It’s a given you’ll find fans of either side in any sort of social setting.

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  20. Keishon
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 20:26:33

    SEP is hit or miss for me. Loved Kiss An Angel and Nobody’s Baby But Mine and that’s been about it. I’m hoping my library will get a e-copy of this.

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  21. Kaetrin
    Jan 27, 2009 @ 00:35:30

    I’ll get this one in either ebook format or in paperback. I have read all of her others (except Glitter Baby, I think ??). The first book I read was Breathing Room and it was such a surprise to me – I loved it and immediately went hunting for all of her other work. I’m sure I’ll like this one too, even though it may not be my favourite.

    As for Brad and Angelina and Jen (and John?). Love em all. Good luck to them. Most of the story is media hype anyway. I don’t think Jen is actually as “boring” as the media paints her. Depending on what mag you read, either one of them is anorexic, neurotic, stunning, happy, miserable, etc. So, I choose to believe the good stuff and chuck the rubbish.

    Brad made some recent comments in a mag interview which I thought was very sensitive (sorry to go so far off topic!, well, obviously, not really!) – he basically said that Mr. & Mrs. Smith was made over a long period of time and he and Angie fell in love after he left Jen and not before, that he still talks to Jen and likes and respects her and he of course, loves and adores Angie and his kids. Sounds like there wasn’t as much of a story there as the media would have us believe…

    Great review. Thx.

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  22. Anita
    Jan 27, 2009 @ 23:43:38

    Hi
    I’ve read all of SEP’s works and found this one a tad tepid. Yes, sparks fly between the h and H but not enough to burn the pages or keep my butt pasted to my lazyboy. This is the second ever SEP book where I skipped chunks of paragraphs and pages. The other being Honey Moon.

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  23. Anita C.
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 02:33:03

    Phillips can be a little uneven, but I still read everything she puts out (except a few of her early ones). Newbies should start with the first three books in her Chicago series (these were written in the 90s, I believe):

    It Had to Be You
    Heaven, Texas
    Nobody’s Baby But Mine

    The second one is the best, I think; absolutely sidesplittingly funny – great dialog, wonderful characters.

    P.S., I got these titles from my reading journal (which I started on 1/1/91) and I notice two Phillips books which I couldn’t bear to finish: “HotShot” and “Kiss an Angel.” Just a warning.

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  24. Marissa
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 10:47:25

    That’s funny. Kiss An Angel is one of my favorites by her! My order is:

    This Heart of Mine
    Match Me If You Can
    Heaven, Texas
    Natural Born Charmer

    I love almost all of the rest of hers too! And I agree, I didn’t like the comparisons between Jennifer Aniston Angelina Jolie. I like the characters to stand on their own, not be based on real life people. I did think the book was really good though.

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  25. Jane
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 11:29:21

    @Evangeline Yes, I am not immune to these types of stories.

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  26. MoJo
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 11:58:26

    Kiss an Angel is the only SEP on my romance keeper shelf (which has a total of 7 books).

    HotShot was the first “romance” novel that taught me that a romance novel could be more than a romance, so it has a special place in my heart, too.

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  27. Deb Kinnard
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 20:11:17

    My SEP “personal best” list:

    Heaven, Texas
    Nobody’s Baby But Mine
    Match Me If You Can
    the Rachel/Gabe book I can’t find anymore — darn those friends I lend books to!

    Could NOT get into Fancy Pants, which I read eons ago as an uncorrected proof. It just didn’t engage me with the characters, but everybody has a first book, and I believe she’s hit her stride since then.

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  28. April
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 07:58:56

    Thanks for this timely review. I’m on a major Susan Elizabeth Philips binge right now. I recently discovered her with It Had to Be You and have been rushing to get every book of hers I can find since then. I can’t believe I never heard of this excellent author! Who else was I missing?!

    I love her excellent combination of humor, sexual attraction, crazy situations, and genuine love.

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  29. alyssabelle
    May 04, 2011 @ 05:41:14

    What I Did For Love was an interesting read but like the writer of this review, I too, spotted many similarities to Honey Moon.
    As a matter of fact, many SEP books seem to have the same plot line for a couple of years. For example, Glitter Baby, Honey Moon and What I Did For Love with the exceptions of a few elements. Just a side note but I found the Dash- Honey romance early in Honey Moon unnecessary but it seem to mark SEP’s descend into more ‘depth’ in her stories. However, I felt that the supposed-to-be-touching scenes were lacking something and that their build-up was not written well and destroyed my overall experience of reading rhe book.

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