Harlequin Lightning Reviews, The Sarah Mayberry Edition
The thing I like most about Mayberry’s characters is their self honesty and the sense that these individuals could be real people. They aren’t fantasy creatures but instead, like Borrill’s characters, there’s a sense of normalcy about them (even if they are artists, chefs, or business people). Their interactions rarely are over the top and it’s like Mayberry is simply serving as the narrator of a real life couple which is really one of the best fairy tales of all. I recommend starting with Anything For You, which was my favorite.
Maddy Green is a dancer who has been told that she hasn’t been able to recover to the tear to her ACL and that she must “hang up her slippers.” Max Laurent left dancing to care for his father. His father has just passed away and Max is ready to start his life anew (not going to say what, it’s a bit of a surprise). Maddy, who feels totally adrift, runs to Max with whom she had a wonderful friendship before he left at the pinnacle of his career. I never really understand why Maddy would go to Max despite her fond memories. The two hadn’t really ever kept in touch. But Max had held a torch for Maddy and when she came to his home in Paris, he wasn’t about to turn her away. This is really a lovely story and one that I didn’t think that I was going to enjoy as much as I did. The story started out a bit slow but Maddy and Max were different and the differences ended up being intriguing. The plot is fairly simplistic and focused more on showing Maddy falling in love with Max, Max dealing with his long buried feelings, and the two not communicating very well about their desires to each other. They both play the overly sensitive artist at times and I thought the ending was a bit sappy but there’s a bit of poetry in the story that mirrors the spirit of the characters. B
This is for the Top Chef fans out there. Tory Fournier is the daughter of a famous chef who has brutally pushed her all her life to be the very best. Her father had a signature restaurant in New York and rather than hand it off to Tory, he closed it. While Tory says she understands, it is easy to see how her efforts to please her father have left her at once driven and vulnerable.
Ben Cooper trained at the Culinary Institute with Tory but he was scholarship and she was food royalty. He presumed that she was rich and snooty and aimed to take her down a peg. Tory returned the favor by setting up a humiliating experience that Ben never forgot. Of course, living well is the best revenge for Ben and he has gone on to run an award winning restaurant in Antigua.
Tory has just penned a very popular cookbook on Caribbean food and is ready to open her first restaurant that focuses on Caribbean flavors. She agrees to go on a cruise to the Caribbean and be the celebrity chef on the cruise. It’s her first visit to the Islands.
The story does address why Tory should be considered a serious Caribbean chef without ever having visited there, I never really bought it in part because Tory came from a well off family and it just doesn’t make sense to me that she wouldn’t have taken the opportunity to visit before. The other thing that bothered me was that this must have been part of a Harlequin mini series because there was an underlying suspense thread that was unresolved and felt very disconnected to the book. The ending of the book was one of my favorite because it didn’t lead to an instant marriage but two individuals addressing what seemed to be an impossible type of long distance relationship. B-
Anything For You
This was my favorite of the three Mayberry books (and as can see above, I liked the previous two). Sam Kirk and Delaney Michaels have been best friends forever. They turned their friendship into a successful business partnership by way of publishing an extreme Sports magazine. The problem is that Delaney has been in love with Sam for as long as they have been friends. Because she’s been in love with him but he thinks that they are just buds, her whole life has felt like it has been on hold. Delaney wants a family and it’s not going to happen while she is in love with Sam. She decides that she is going to cut the ties to Sam entirely. She is going to sell her apartment (which is in the same complex as Sam’s). She wants to be bought out of the business. She’s going to move out and move on. This crushes Sam and not because he secretly harbors feelings for Delaney other than friendship but she has been such a part of his life, he can’t imagine his life without Delaney.
Watching Sam flail about for an explanation for why Delaney is leaving him was really amusing.
He shrugged sheepishly. “Okay,” he conceded. “You know I’ll be jealous as hell when you get married and have kids,” he admitted.
She looked startled. “Jealous?”
“You know-”cause things won’t be the same anymore,” he explained awkwardly.
Delaney’s eyes dropped to the carpet and she hunched a shoulder. “No, they won’t.”
“But I don’t see what any of that has to do with leaving the business,” Sam said. He might be about to lose most of Delaney, but he would cling to what little he had left. If she stayed in the business, she would always be a part of his life, no matter what.
“It’s too all-consuming, Sam,” she said. “We live for this place. How am I ever supposed to meet someone when all I do is eat, sleep, breathe Mirk Publications?”
“Then we’ll get a sales assistant. You can do half days. Whatever it takes,” he countered.
“No. It wouldn’t work. I’m a control freak, you know I am. And it’s thinking about the business when I’m not here that’s part of it, as well. I’d still be doing that if I owned half of it. I need a complete break,” she said.
There was a determination in her tone, a firmness that he recognized. Delaney had made her decision. Without talking it over with him. Without consulting him in any way. She’d simply gone away, and come back determined to do her own thing.
He started to get angry. “And where does that leave me?” he asked. He hated the fact that he sounded like a sulky kid, but that was how he felt, so he might as well own up to it.
The two of them try to have sex to “save the friendship” and one needs only guess as to how that ends up. What really made this story for me was the slow realization that Sam actually did love Delaney. He just didn’t know how to define it in his life. A-