Sunday, December 4, 2022

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips


So this ended up being one of the strangest romances I've read recently that wasn't intentionally being strange, but before I talk about that, I'm going to warn you that this book review is going to have some spoilers in it because I really can't convey how flipping weird this book is without them. You have been WARNED.

I bought KISS AN ANGEL after reading and obsessing over SEP's other book, AIN'T SHE SWEET? I was *this* close to writing her off as an author I wanted to read for good after trying and despising the first book in her Chicago Stars series, so when AIN'T SHE? ended up being a total laundry list of all of my favorite tropes, with some sizzling sex scenes and a great enemies-to-lovers romance to boot, I thought maybe I ought to give good ol' Ms. Phillips a second try. Nay, even a third.

Cut to me starting KISS AN ANGEL. And at first-- for like 60% of the book-- I was super into it. Arranged marriage? Yes. Cold-hearted hero? YES. Heroine who's a bit of a ditz but still knows how to serve up some ownage custard at supper time? YESSSSS. Also, maybe this is just aughts The Simple Life nostalgia, but there's something vastly entertaining about seeing a prissy, fastidious woman have to work in the dirt. Maybe that's my own internalized misogyny speaking, idk, but seeing Daisy struggle to work at the circus cracked me up.

Alex is a jerk hero just like Colin from AIN'T, but they're jerks in different ways. Colin was a pretentious intellectual living in a Southern town that didn't appreciate his affectations, and he had good reason to hate the heroine (who was also a jerk and nearly destroyed his life when he was a teenager). Alex is a jerk because he has trauma from family issues, and has decided to use his new wife as an emotional punching bag. That's less amusing to read about and it made it hard to like Alex, even though SEP did a really good job with the chemistry between them. Gradually, though, he begins to realize that she's not the high-maintenance piece of fluff he envisioned her as and things between them slowly, slowly, slowly start to thaw at a rate that is still probably slower than our current climate crisis.

And then--


Daisy has, like, magical ESP with animals which let her hear their thoughts and, like, JOIN SOULS. I'm not kidding, it's literally described as that in the book and has her sleeping in tiger cages WITH the tigers and asking the animals for relationship and life advice. WHAT. Girl, that's not Oprah, that's a fucking tiger. If you're that hard-up for relationship advice, phone a friend, Jesus.

Things get weird with the hero, too. Like, this-is-my-original-character adolescent teen girl fantasy weird. I thought Alex was plenty attractive when I thought he was a poor, down-on-his-luck circus performer but apparently the author didn't think so. He's also a DOCTOR, a professor of art, an expert in Russian iconography, and-- I kid you not-- actual royalty. He's descended from the Romanovs. Let that sink in. It's not enough that he can perform with a whip and ride horses in the circus. He's His Royal Highness Doctor Professor Horsewhip McGee. I am literally wheezing right now, and not from desire. From lols. WHAT THE ACTUAL FANFICTION IS THIS??? That's like something I'd think up when I was seven.

I also got kind of annoyed that the author dropped some secret baby in here because that's LITERALLY my least favorite trope, and it kind of left an ill taste in my mouth the way that first Bridgerton book did because Alex tells Daisy over and over and OVER that he doesn't want children, that he has so much emotional trauma from his abusive history that he doesn't think he'd be a good father. And Daisy is like, nod, nod, I totally understand, that's too bad, and then has the nerve to be shocked and unhappy when he doesn't cry tears of joy when she tells him-- a month after she finds out herself, mind-- that she's pregnant. And then Alex is portrayed as evil incarnate for suggesting an abortion.

Now, don't get me wrong-- the way Alex did it was in keeping with his jerk behavior-- but this is where I kind of stopped liking Daisy. After this, she runs away and abandons him after telling him she loves him and he opens up to her. She betrays him and then she rejects him and has the nerve to tell him that she doesn't love him anymore. All over this ONE THING that he told her-- all the way at the near beginning-- was a total deal-breaker for him. So even though I have one foot firmly planted in the Alex Is a Jerk Camp, I'm also Team Don't Squeeze a Knife and Then Scream at It for Being Sharp. You knew what you were getting into with this dude and you said you were okay with it. No take-backsies.

I ended up finishing the book and I did ultimately like it but mostly for the first 2/3 that charmed me and in spite of the last 1/3 that made me go WAT. I'm actually surprised that more reviews aren't talking about the things that I took issue with. Did you not find these things weird???

3 out of 5 stars

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