Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Brooding English Actor

Sharron writes:

So I read this story a whole lot of years ago. I can remember it clearly
enough to know I adored it; not enough to actually remember the bloody
title. Or author. Or any character names.

Our hero: distant, brooding English movie actor with a secret childhood
trauma. His speciality? Horror movies (including the Slasher Charlie series,
Blackbeard, and Dybbuk, which was his breakout role). He plays monsters, in
short. Totally gone off women because of all the women who wanted to sleep
with the monster. He shagged most of them, then went off them once he
realised they didn’t want him, they wanted safe!scary sex.

Our heroine: Competent, intelligent and the only organised person in a
horde of artistic personalities. Helping friends out by taking a low paying
job as part of their production of a play. She drives a temperamental MG,
which has somewhat of a starring role in the story.


There is also a (secretly) crazy director and a plump and comfortable best
friend of the hero, who is an actress in the play, and the BF’s husband
(also an actor?).

Our setting: the aforementioned play, which is about a monster, before
opening night. It’s set in the US somewhere.

Our story unfolds and heroine sees hero; uncomfortable attraction on her
part, distant disdain on his. Things progress, it is literally a dark and
stormy night, her beloved MG won’t start, she ends up at his place, a big
old house in which he grew up. Mutual but unexpressed attraction occurs.
Also tea.

Crazy director discovers the visit occurred and warns her our hero is

Sometime later, she goes to a marathon of our hero’s movies, despite being
genuinely scared by horror films, and returns to the dim and deserted
theatre…only to encounter our hero, shirtless, experimenting with
greasepaint as he works on the monster’s makeup for the play. He guesses
she’d been to see his movies; she reluctantly admits it. Sex ensues, hot
but uncomfortable as they are on a prop bed. They finish, he leaves without
a word. She is embarrassed/ashamed/what have you; he is deeply pissed off
and storms home, thinking her just another woman who wants to bang the
monster. Then suddenly! Revelation! She had sex with him not because she was
afraid of him, but in spite of it!

Time runs on, our heroine gets minorly hurt in a bunch of accidents at the
theatre which crazy director implies may not have been accidents at all.
Duhn duhn duhn…

She ends up at our hero’s house in (or maybe after?) a moment of crisis,
and enters his unlocked abode. There is a darkened stairway and a creepy
closet on a landing halfway up. So of course she goes to look in it.
Suddenly, she’s pushed inside and the door slammed and locked behind her!
It’s scary and oh so dark, but she finds some matches on the floor and
lights one. The inside of the closet is covered in monsters, scribbled in a
child’s hand. She is super scared and panicky (claustrophobic?).

Eventually, our hero finds her, and there is much relief and meeting of the
minds and romance and revealing of childhood secrets (his mother used to
lock him in the closet for hours at a time and the monsters were his
protection from the terrifying dark. Then his parents were killed in a car
wreck and he wasn’t found for several days). Much compassion and love and
sweetness ensues.

Later, she’s almost killed in an ‘accident’ and then the theatre burns
down (maybe only partly?) and for a moment, she believes it might have been
our hero. Mortally offended, his trust betrayed, our hero spurns her.

It turns out to have been crazy director all along and after a series of
events I don’t remember, they end up on a plane to England together. And he
promises to have her beloved MG shipped after them.

The facts: It appeared in a book with two other stories (I think it was
first?) that made absolutely zero impression. The book might have had a
yellow cover with a creepy stalkerish inset picture, and possibly was a
Silhouette Shadow?

Anyone have any ideas as to title/author? HABO, ‘cause I’d love to read
this again.

That is so much detail, I bet some half asleep Bitchery reader will name it within .02 seconds. Why aren’t there more actor heroes, by the way? What’s up with that?


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  1. 1
    Anu says:

    The Monster in the Closet by Anne Stuart, hero Sebastian Brand, heroine Emma Milsom?

  2. 2
    Lavinia Kent says:

    Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  The hero is definitely right, not sure about the rest.  It takes place in a rented villa in Italy, I think.

  3. 3
    Jody Goswitz says:

    Mary Jo Putney’s the Spiral Path.

    From Fantastic Fiction:

    Mary Jo Putney’s contemporary romance blends the glamour of the movie industry with a compelling tale of the strains that can tear apart real life and true love. British-born Hollywood sex symbol Kenzie Scott is larger than life, from his sex appeal to the tragedies in his closely guarded past. Devoted to the craft of drama, Kenzie insists on making talented American newcomer Raine Marlowe his costar in his next big-budget film. The chemistry between them is incredible, on and off camera, and when their work is done they tumble into a breathtakingly beautiful affair—and a heartbreakingly brief marriage. Then, just as divorce papers are about to sever the legal ties between them forever, Raine persuades Kenzie to sign another agreement—a professional one to play the lead in her upcoming first venture as screenwriter and director. Amid the labyrinth of lies that makes up both her film and his reality, Raine learns the bitter truth that makes Kenzie so devastatingly perfect for the role of the tortured hero she’s cast him in—and struggles to find a happy ending for their love.

  4. 4
    Rhian says:

    It’s definitely not Phillips’s Breathing Room – the hero is very similar (brooding actor, famously typecast as the bad guy in all his films) but the rest is quite different.

    I’ve not read it, but Anu’s suggestion of The Monster in the Closet seems more likely, as it was in a collection with two other stories and is a Silhouette Shadow.

  5. 5
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    No idea, but I was a theatre major and I want to read this!

  6. 6
    Barb says:

    Another vote for the Anne Stuart “Monster in the Closet”.

    From FictionDB:
    It was Sebastian Brand’s job to terrify people, and he did it very well—but only on the screen. Or so Emma Milsom hoped. Because someone was stalking her, someone who wanted her dead, and it was her heart’s deepest desire to cast dangerously appealing Sebastian in the role of savior—and spend forever in his arms.

    This was in an anthology volume in the old Silhouette Shadows line, published in Oct 1992.  The other authors in the book were Helen Myers and Heather Graham Pozzerrese.

  7. 7
    Debbie Q says:

    I agree with Jody. It sounds very much like Mary Jo Putney’s The Spiral Path. At least that is what popped into my mind.

  8. 8
    CHH says:

    It’s not The Spiral Path.  The actor’s issue was quite different and there was nothing about horror movies in that book.

  9. 9
    Sandi M says:

    Here is an image of the cover of the Silhouette shadows anthology with Monster in the Closet

  10. 10
    FD says:

    I remember reading this one, it was a hell of a rollercoaster read. I’m sure it’s an Anne Stuart too.  She’s pretty much the QUEEN of ambiguous hero plots, no?
    Plus I’ve the Susan Phillips in my bookshelf right now, and (while it too is an awesome book) the heroine definitely did not drive an MG.

  11. 11
    LisaC says:

    Sometimes I’m puzzled by the responses. This HABO was amazingly detailed and still there are odd responses like “except it takes place in Italy”?!?!? Things that make you go hmmm.

  12. 12
    hapax says:

    @LisaC—in all fairness, I track down quite a few of these half-remembered books at the public library reference desk, and you’d be surprised how often one gets very detailed plot descriptions, that turn out to be wildly inaccurate or a conflation of two or three different books.

    (E.g., I had a patron a couple of days ago looking for what turned out to be Lloyd Alexander’s PRYDAIN books, but she described all the characters as being dwarves, it taking place in medieval Italy, several other plot details wrong;  the only reason I twigged to it was that she mentioned “the Princess’s bauble”, which was a very distinctive term characteristic of the story.)

    Besides, read-alike suggestions are always nice, too.

  13. 13
    Nadia says:

    Yes, the Anne Stuart book.  I have it in my monstrously book-laden closet.

    I also have “Breathing Room,” love the hero.  I stopped reading Putney years ago (did not like the abused wife book, figured her move to contemporary wasn’t for me), but that one sounds interesting.

  14. 14
    willaful says:

    Another interesting actor book: Darkly I Listen by Katherine Sutcliffe.

  15. 15
    Phyllis says:

    Definitely not the Putney, because I’ve read it and I haven’t read this monster one. Could be Stuart, sounds sort of like her.

    And why there aren’t more actor heroes? I think we’re all jaded by the big love stories that fall apart because the actors start a new big love story with someone else.

  16. 16
    Cher Gorman says:

    I think it’s Anne Stuart’s book as well.  I tried reading Mary Jo Putny once – The Burning Point with the abused wife -tossed the book across the room and haven’t picked up one of her books since. 


  17. 17
    Tina C. says:

    I think we’re all jaded by the big love stories that fall apart because the actors start a new big love story with someone else.

    True, but then there are some actors that have been in love with and/or married to the same person for a very very long time.  Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi were together from when they were teenagers until he died.  Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward celebrated at least 50 years together before he died.  Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross have been married since 1984, so they’ve surpassed the 25 year mark, too.  Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, while not married, have been together for more than 25 years.  So there are a few high-profile movie stars who do seem to find someone that they love deeply and they make it work, despite the stresses and temptations of the lives that they lead.

  18. 18
    JaniceG says:

    Definitely not Breathing Room, which I consider one of the worst of SEP (Honey Moon and Just Imagine being tied for the worst).

    @Nadia and @Cher: Agree about Putney’s contemporaries but the more recent Guardian books are actually pretty good.

  19. 19
    Cher Gorman says:

    I LOVE Breathing Room.  It is one of my favorite books by SEP.


  20. 20

    Breathing Room is my fave SEP too. It’s not Darkling, I Listen, either. I have both books and the plot doesn’t match at all.

  21. 21
    Phyllis says:

    I don’t know about all of them, but do know that Joanne Woodward was Newman’s second wife and he married her about 5 minutes after divorcing his first wife. I am not saying that divorce and remarriage is wrong, just that he was noted for his devotion to his wife…

  22. 22
    Suze says:

    I enjoyed Suzanne Brockmann’s actor book, whose title I’m too lazy to google, that came out early on in her Troubleshooters career.  Jed?  Jeb?  Alcoholic actor hero, secret-screenwriter heroine (who also runs her family’s office supply business).

    But I have to agree, I’m fairly cynical about movie star marriages.  They seem so ephemeral, and I don’t generally buy the HEA.

  23. 23
    hope101 says:

    I have no idea about the original book, but it sure does sound Anne Stuart-y.

    This is definitely NOT Breathing Room.

  24. 24
    hapax says:

    @Suze—that was HEARTTHROB, the actor’s name was Jericho, and his co-star Susie McCoy gets namechecked in practically every one of her other titles with a Hollywood connection.

    (It’s my favorite of her non-Troubleshooters titles, and one of my favorites overall, can you tell?)

  25. 25
    JamiSings says:


    I don’t know about all of them, but do know that Joanne Woodward was Newman’s second wife and he married her about 5 minutes after divorcing his first wife. I am not saying that divorce and remarriage is wrong, just that he was noted for his devotion to his wife…

    Me being all off topic again, sorry, but I can’t help but play devil’s advocate here. Who knows what was going on with wife #1 for years before the divorce. My SIL and her husband were sleeping in separate bedrooms for YEARS before she finally left him – and even then it was only when he was so raging drunk that for the first time he became physically violent. She moved in with my brother that same night.

    And what about Tom Hanks and his wife? Or Jay Leno and his bride? (I feel bad because I don’t know their names. Just that there’s never any reports of divorce or Jay sleeping on the couch.)

  26. 26

    Broody British actors? Long-term fidelity in the face of celebrity? May I just pen a quick love note to Alan Rickman, molasses-voiced dreamboat extraordinaire, who’s been with his girlfriend/partner for yonks? Oh, Alan… You can dress up like Rasputin and tune my glass harmonica any day.

  27. 27

    Or was that Mesmer? Well, I’m not picky, Alan—come dressed as whomever you like.

  28. 28
    MaryK says:

    It’s definitely the Stuart.  I remember the greasepaint scene and the fire she briefly thinks he started.

  29. 29
    willaful says:

    Darkling I Listen was intended as a suggestion, since someone asked why there aren’t many actor heroes.  The actual question was solved on the first answer, I thought.

  30. 30
    Alexandra says:

    OMG, I remember reading this novel and being totally shocked and disturbed by it. I may have been already in my twenties, but I think I’d never read a contemporary romance before, or at least not many. And I didn’t like the hero being such a broken character.
    But yes, it definitely is the Anne Stuart one, with “Sebastian Brand”.

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