Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ newest novel What I Did for Love has been a long time coming. It’s set in Hollywood, loosely like her recent re-release, Glitter Baby. The stories are in no way tied together, but you might see some familiar characters. Ms. Phillips is one of my favorite authors, though I’ve noticed many of her more recent books would fall into “women’s fiction” rather than romance. (This makes me sad.) As usual, Ms. Phillips’ novel has a wealth of well developed characters, and the hero, Bram, and heroine, Georgie, are quirky and fun to read.
Georgie York is a Hollywood has been. She won her place as America’s sweetheart playing Scooter in the show Skip and Scooter. She hasn’t done anything big in seven years (since the show ended), and each film she’s been in since has been worse than the last. However, what really has Georgie down is her actor ex-husband’s actions. Georgie has surprising strength, but I felt that either she wasn’t completely developed, or I didn’t have a absolute grasp on her character. She seems to deceive herself a lot, though she does protect her emotions.
One thing I wasn’t too keen on was how Georgie often played the victim. She’s so pathetic and sad – but then in the end becomes this emotional pillar, without much of a rhyme or reason. Though I suppose that could be attributed to actually falling in love? I did, however, really like how Georgie drew on her Scooter character. It was a fun trait.
Bramwell Shepherd is a really fun hero. He played the kind and debonair Skip, but was the exact opposite in real life. Bram is misunderstood by pretty much everyone. There seem to be only two people who see Bram for who he truly is – and one is blinded by her hero worship. The thing is, Bram has changed a lot, but he acted so badly starting fourteen years ago, that nobody can look past that. (Yes, Georgie and Bram were on the tail end of being child stars.)
I liked that Bram tried, but he wasn’t desperate. It hurt, but he was willing to let everyone believe the worst of him. I think part of it was that he was so horrid before, protests to the contrary weren’t believable. Still, I found it a bit predictable. I liked that Bram was vulnerable, and human. He’s quite matter of fact, and rather revels in his nefarious characterization everyone has attached to him. It was nice that Bram was a broken character who comes into his own. And actually is pretty much changed when the novel begins. Nevertheless, Bram’s inner reprobate does still exist. His maneuvering gets him photographed at lunch with Georgie, and his machinations end up with the two getting married. He’s charmingly rogue-ish.
I liked the wide variety of secondary characters, though some, like Meg Koranda (the child of Fleur and Jake from Glitter Baby) seemed a bit superfluous. That being said, I liked Chaz (Bram’s housekeeper) and Aaron (Georgie’s assistant). And thought that their romance was very cute and sweet- and yes, foreseeable. The same with the romance between Paul (Georgie’s father) and Laura (Georgie’s agent/ex-agent). Lance (Georgie’s ex-husband) and Jade (his new wife) exactly fit the roles they were supposed to play, but Rory Keene I think was my favorite secondary character. (And dare I hope she’ll get her own novel?) Yes it does seem like all the characters are Georgie centered, but Bram holds his own. It had to be that way. (And it was nice to see how Ms. Phillips used the characters to reinforce her story line.)
I really enjoyed the themes that Ms. Phillips had throughout her novel. It was interesting to read all the subtext, and especially complicated, as Georgie generally had a Skip and Scooter script running through her head – whether an actual episode or ad libbed – concurrently with the present. It was also nice how so many of the secondary characters interacted with each other, and how they were developed.
One thing I found a bit off was the lack of romance throughout the novel. (Again – the women’s fiction angle?) I actually felt that Paul and Laura got the most for their story – and the best emotional connection, which is a bit sad because they have rather small roles. I would have liked a bit more introspection on the part of Georgie and Bram. They realized that they got along well, and were incredibly compatible sexually… but there was little emotionally. Aside from general human concern, I wasn’t 100% sure that they cared for each other until pretty much the bitter end. Still, the antics that Georgie and Bram get into are entertaining, and they draw you in. While the way the two get together is unusual, its believable and makes sense for the two of them.
The ending, however, was wonderful. I liked the dramatic finish, along with the fact that Ms. Phillips took the reader to a natural conclusion. The way she had Georgie and Bram act was very well planned, and their split might be one of my favorite parts. It was nice that all the character issues were resolved, and of course there was the requisite wild-eyed, dramatic declaration of love by the hero. Bram’s was actually rather complicated, and happened in stages.
I actually did enjoy the novel very much, and I believe read it in one sitting – it was hard to put down. I’m sure I don’t need to recommend this book to fans of Ms. Phillips – you’ve probably already read it.
It’s not easy being famous when your life is falling apart… Georgie York has been dumped by her movie star husband, her own film career is tanking, and her public image as a spunky romantic heroine is taking a serious beating.
What should a down-on-her-luck actress do? NOT go to Vegas…NOT run into her detestable former co-star—dreamboat-from-hell Bramwell Shepard…and NOT get caught up in a ridiculous incident that leads to a calamitous elopement. Before she knows it, Georgie has a fake marriage, fake husband, and maybe (or not) a fake sex life.
It’s a paparazzi free-for-all, and Georgie’s non-supporting cast doesn’t help. There’s Bram’s punk-nightmare housekeeper; Georgie’s pushy parent; a suck-up agent; an icy studio head; and her ex-husband’s new wife, an international do-gooder who just might win the stupid Nobel Peace Prize!
As for Georgie’s leading man… Bram, with his angel blue eyes and twisted black heart, has never cared about anyone but himself. Still, he’s giving the performance of his life as man in love—thanks to the half a million dollars she’s paying him. It was official. She’d married the devil. Or had she?
Two enemies find themselves working without a script in a town where the spotlight shines bright…and where the strongest emotions can wear startling disguises.
Listen to Ms. Phillips read the first chapter here.