The Great Escape, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

>> Monday, September 10, 2018

TITLE: The Great Escape
AUTHOR: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

COPYRIGHT: 2012
PAGES: 448
PUBLISHER: William Morrow

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Related to First Lady

Where do you run to when your life has fallen apart?

Lucy Jorik is a champ at never embarrassing the family she adores—not surprising since her mother is one of the most famous women in the world. But now Lucy has done just that. And on her wedding day, no less, to the most perfect man she's ever known.

Instead of saying "I do" to Mr. Irresistible, Lucy flees the church in an ill-fitting blue choir robe and hitches a ride on the back of a beat-up motorcycle plastered with offensive bumper stickers. She's flying into the unknown with a rough-looking, bad-tempered stranger who couldn't be more foreign to her privileged existence.

While the world searches for her, Lucy must search for herself, and she quickly realizes that her customary good manners are no defense against a man who's raised rudeness to an art form. Lucy needs to toughen up—and fast.

Her great escape takes her to his rambling beach house on a Great Lakes island. Here, she hopes to find a new direction . . . and unlock the secrets of this man who knows so much about her but reveals nothing about himself. As the hot summer days unfold amid scented breezes and sudden storms, she'll also encounter a beautiful, troubled beekeeper; a frightened young boy; a modern-day evil queen; and a passion that could change her life forever.

In this dazzling follow-up to her New York Times bestseller Call Me Irresistible, Susan Elizabeth Phillips tells the funny, touching, enchanting story of a young woman searching for her destiny... and of a damaged man who doesn't believe in second chances.
The Great Escape is the story of Lucy Jorik, the older daughter from First Lady. Lucy is engaged to be married to a genuinely nice and absolutely perfect guy. She's been listening just to her head, which is telling her that of course she loves him and of course she should marry him, but her heart is not in it. Unfortunately, Lucy does not decide to listen to her heart until right before the wedding is supposed to take place. Like, about-to-walk-down-the-aisle right before.

In a panic, Lucy just takes off, and in a very SEP move, gets a rough-looking, extremely rude and grumpy biker to give her a ride away from the church. The guy is Patrick Shade, aka Panda (yet more WTFery), and they end up spending a fair bit of time together. Patrick (sorry, I refuse to call him Panda) doesn't want to be taking care of a woman he sees as a spoiled princess, but instead of having a conversation with her and levelly explaining to her that she needs to be on her way, he decides he'll be a complete arsehole to her and make her want to leave on her own. Immature idiot.

You might be guessing that I absolutely hated this book at the start. Not Lucy so much (yes, her running away from the church is stupid, but it felt understandable to me), but Patrick and the dynamic between them. But mainly Patrick. I just found it hard to accept a ‘hero’ who’d have bumper stickers on his motorcycle reading ‘Gas, grass or ass, nobody rides for free’ and ‘Don’t trust anything that bleeds 5 days a month and doesn’t die’. You can argue all you want that he doesn’t really mean it, or that he only put them there to get a rise out of people, but he still put them there, and I find that unacceptable. I despised him.

But, but, but... this is par for the course for SEP. Her setups are so often idiotic and even her best characters so often start out hateful, that the sorts of things that would make me toss other authors' books aside with no compunction just make me grit my teeth and carry on, hoping to get to the other side.

And you know what? There was another side here, and one that made the rough start worth it. There’s a reason for Patrick's meanness (a good one), and he actually feels guilty about it, and feels he should apologise. He ends up being someone I mostly liked and who I thought was good for Lucy.

Because Lucy's journey was the best thing about the book. She starts out as a bit of a spineless wonder, but then it became clear that her goody-goody behaviour and reluctance to make a fuss arose from a huge sense of obligation to her parents, a fear that she needed to deserve their love, otherwise she might lose it. And that's when it started making sense why SEP chose to have her heroine be that character from First Lady. Until that realisation, I was wondering what was the point of taking that tough-but-vulnerable amazing character and have her supposedly be this idiot, but it made sense that Lucy's character would develop that way. Even her immaturity and delight in stuff that was really pretty juvenile made sense. That was all stuff she'd missed doing when she felt she had to turn into the perfect daughter and not embarrass her parents.

I even loved (don't judge me!) Lucy’s assumption of the identity of Viper. I’ll be honest, when she first starts fantasising about being this tough biker chick called Viper, who doesn’t give a shit, I thought it was pathetic. But it turned into a way for Lucy to stand up to Patrick (and everyone else, really). There’s a lot of ‘Lucy would have been nice and caved, but Viper didn’t’, until it became second nature for Lucy to be that stronger person and Viper wasn't needed any more. It was actually great to see.

So yeah, I'll never be Patrick's biggest fan, but Lucy was such a good character that the book worked for me.

This is already going on too long, but before I close, I should also mention how much I liked the secondary characters. SEP always has a secondary romance (it was actually a couple of them here), and she seems to feel she can go less traditional with them than with her main characters. These ones were particularly nice.

MY GRADE: A B.

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