Avon, $7.99, ISBN 0-06-103209-3
Contemporary Romance, 2003 (Reissue)
Susan Elizabeth Phillips not-so-middle name must be Overrated. I dare anyone to name me one Susan Elizabeth Phillips book that has a heroine who doesn’t come off like a crack house version of a waifish Judy Garland archetype filled with archaic sexual contrivances and neuroses – go on, I challenge you. Breathing Room is no different. It’s a badly written soapbox that sees the author more interested in spewing her philosophy and principles. Unfortunately, using crackpot characters to support one’s point isn’t exactly a good way to make converts out of readers.
The heroine Dr Isobel Favor is… how shall I say it? If you take Dr Laura Schlessinger and a heated frying pan, smack Dr Laura with the frying pan a few times, heat a burning chopstick, shove the chopstick up her nostrils, and perform homegrown lobotomy on the spot, you’ll get Dr Isobel. At least Dr Laura baby has the gumption to pose nude. Isobel should be so freaking lucky. Cheated by her accountant, dumped by her guy who calls her sexually inept, humiliated by the media, and now despised by her once-faithful fans, our heroine flees to Italy. She decides to have a one-night-stand with a gigolo named Dantes, shrieks even before the orgasm is close that she’s a harlot and fallen woman, and then flees like the ultra-annoying bunch of nerves that she is. Why can’t those lovely Italians run her down and spare me my misery?
Our Dantes is actually Lorenzo Gage, everybody’s favorite movie psycho. Of course, he finds that sticking his penis into a short-circuiting frigid queen is so fun, it makes him see the light. Along the way, the both of them counsel spouses in marital troubles – hah, that’s so rich – and other jolly fun that makes it very clear to me that people with free advice are often those who could use those advice themselves the most. I’m also bombarded with annoying soapbox moments about the author’s opinion on marriage, divorce, pregnant sex, handcuffs, and oh, how can I forget? EMBRACE THE CHAOS! Susan Elizabeth Phillips has spoken, people!
The characters speak as if they are just one step away from starring in their own The Celestial Prophecy. The plot is disjointed and ridiculous. The characters, especially Lobotomel, are pure agony to follow because they aren’t anything close to realistic characters, just bags of ticks and contrived neuroses for the author to tell us all to EMBRACE THE CHAOS. And it’s okay for your lover to counsel your ex and your sister in matters about love and sex when she can barely have sex herself without desiccating from the effort. Or something.
You say Breathing Room, I say Toilet.