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REVIEW: Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry

Dear Ms. Mayberry:

Immediately after reading your latest, Suddenly You, I knew exactly what my review of it should say:

“Yet another well-done book by Ms. Mayberry with appealing characters and a sweet love story.”

However, DA readers expect a bit more. And while their time would be better spent reading your prose than mine, here goes.

Suddenly You Sarah MayberryThe hero of Ms. Mayberry’s latest contemporary romance is Harry Porter whom readers may have met in All They Need. I hadn’t read All They Need prior to reading Suddenly You and didn’t need to. (I’ve since then read All They Need and enjoyed it.) Harry looks fierce—he’s covered in tribal tattoos, sports rings in his ears, has bulging muscles, and wears biker boots. But, though he looks like a bad boy, he’s one of the sweetest (but not at all beta) heroes Ms. Mayberry’s created.

Harry is 30 and enjoying the hell out of his footloose life. He’s got a cool car-a 1972 HQ Monaro GTS-, a job he shows up for and then leaves without a care, a no fuss little house, good buddies, and all the women he wants—even though he only wants them for a night or two. One Friday night, as he’s headed for a night on the town, jamming to Midnight Oil and thinking about burgers and beer, he sees a broken down car on the side of the road. It’s an ugly yellow and he recognizes it as that of Pippa White, an ex-girlfriend of his best friend Steve. Harry stops to help her, even though it’s a little awkward; Pippa and Steve broke up when Pippa got pregnant and refused to get an abortion. The last time Harry saw Pippa was six months ago when, inexplicably to him, he’d stopped by the hospital when she’d had her daughter Alice. But he’s always liked Pippa and he’s a mechanic, so offering her some help with her car seems like the right thing to do.

Harry diagnoses the problem—a blown head gasket—and offers to call a tow truck for Pippa. She won’t let him; in fact, she is fairly resistant to any help from him at all. It takes all of Harry’s charm and determination to just get her to let Harry give Pippa and Alice a ride home. Harry doesn’t like leaving the car but Pippa assures him she’ll take care of it. Harry drives Pippa and Alice home and is somewhat appalled to see what a dump it is. Harry knows that Steve and Pippa parted poorly—Steve has complained bitterly about Pippa sicing the government on him to get more money out of him—but Harry is sure Steve is giving Alice and Pippa enough money to live safely and comfortably. Harry is so sure, in fact, that later that night, while partying at their favorite bar with Steve, he tells Steve about Pippa’s expensive car problem. Steve clearly doesn’t care a bit and this, Harry finds, does not sit well with him.

When, after a few days, Harry realizes Pippa still hasn’t had her car towed, he goes to tell her she really needs to or else it could get impounded. Pippa is dismayed—she tells him she thought she’d have a few weeks to deal with the problem. Suddenly, Harry realizes Pippa can’t afford to have her car fixed. He asks her bluntly what she’s going to do and she, unable to lie, tells him the truth.

She gave a short, sharp laugh. “You always were honest to a fault. Okay, you’re right, Harry. I can’t afford to fix the car right now. I’m scraping some money together but the gas bill came in and I figure we need hot water more than we need a car. So maybe the council will impound my car and I’ll have to live with that until I can figure something out.”

Pippa shrugged as though she didn’t give a damn but her cheeks were pink and her shoulders tense….

“What about Steve?” Because it seemed to him that was the next natural step, no matter the tensions between them.

“No.”

One word, very firm….

“I’ll ask him. If it’d make it easier for you to swallow.”

He didn’t know why he was making a federal case out of it. It was her car, her life. She was free to do whatever she liked. Certainly none of it was his responsibility. So why was he offering to be her mouthpiece with his best mate?

Pippa sighed. “It’s incredibly generous of you to offer, but you don’t want to do that.”

“I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t mean it.”

“I know. But it won’t make any difference. Steve won’t want to help me.”

“Look, even if Steve’s pissed with you, he’ll step up.”

“It’s nice you believe that, but since he’s gone to the trouble of falsifying the books for his business to avoid paying child support, you’ll understand if I don’t hold my breath on that one.”

He was ready to jump to his mate’s defense. No way would Steve turn his back on his responsibilities. Alice was his kid, after all. His daughter.

Something stopped him before the denial left his mouth, however.

Maybe it was the world-weary note to Pippa’s voice and the steadiness of her gaze.

Or maybe it was the memory of the utterly blank, disinterested expression on Steve’s face Friday night.

Harry decides to fix Pippa’s car himself, even though he’s not sure why he’s doing so. The reader knows why he’s doing it. Harry is such a good guy—there’s just no way he’s letting Pippa and little Alice struggle when he can so easily aid them. He also tries to talk Steve into manning up and is upset when Steve says there’s no way in hell he’s helping Pippa or Alice; as far as Steve’s concerned, once Pippa decided to have a child Steve did not want, that child is all Pippa’s problem. Harry decides that if Steve isn’t going to help Pippa, he will. He begins to spend time with Pippa and Alice, fixing all the broken crap in her house. Pippa gives him dinner each time he comes over and slowly the two become more than just friends.

I’ve just realized I love this book so much I’m recapping. I’ll stop now.

Here are ten fab things about this book:

1)    Alice is adorable and yet real. She poops, she screams, she keeps Pippa up at night, and yet, she makes me want to be a grandma. It’s easy to see why, although she makes him nervous, Harry falls for Alice too.

2)    Pippa (like many of Ms. Mayberry’s heroines) has a vibrator and, when there’s not a man in her life, takes good care of herself. Her sexual self is integral to who she is. She’s not a MILF—although Harry would disagree—she’s a mom very comfortable with her sexuality. (I loved her lingerie.)

3)    Harry’s friendship with Steve—even when he thinks Steve’s being a total dick—always matters to Harry. Harry struggles mightily to work out a way to honor his friendship with Steve and have a relationship with Steve’s ex. Harry doesn’t want to have to choose between a woman and his friend—he wants to be true to both.

4)    The sex scenes are—according to me—the hottest Ms. Mayberry’s ever written. They are among the best I’ve read because they encompass all that Harry and Pippa and their relationship are. Plus they are just incendiary.

5)    Pippa and Harry don’t fall in love overnight or easily find their way to their HEA. Pippa doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes she made with Steve and she has Alice to consider. As hot as Harry is—and man is he hot—she’s thinking about more than just her love life. Harry, too, isn’t sure he wants true love. He genuinely likes his carefree life and, as enticing as Pippa is, he’s not sure giving it up will make him happy.

6)    Harry’s relationship with his father is realistic and moving. Harry’s always refused to work in his dad’s shop and he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to take the place over when his dad retires. The way his dad handles his disappointment and his love for Harry is lovely.

7)    For almost everyone in this book, money matters. Pippa works a shift job while trying to go to school and she thinks about every dollar she spends. Her mom is a retiree with a limited income. Harry’s family and friends—with the exception of his sister and her husband (the couple from All They Need)are all solidly middle class and comfortable being so. Pippa longs not for designer jeans but for enough money to pay the water bill. The people in this book seem real, grounded in the world we actually live in.

8)    Parts of this book are so funny I’m smiling about them still. Never has a tube of wood filler been so amusing.

9)    Did I mention the sex scenes? And, if so, did I say how well desire is portrayed? I think somehow lust is different from desire—the latter is more fraught with emotion. The desire in this book is sexy and real—I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want to be wanted in the way Harry wants Pippa.

10)  This story is all about true love. Not sappy, fairy-tale love, but the kind of love that makes people believe life is worth living. Every relationship explored in any depth in Suddenly You is one worth having. As Pippa says, when she explains to Harry what Alice means to her,

It’s sort of…I don’t know…opened my heart. Made life less about me. And I mean that in a good way. Loving someone and wanting them to be happy is a pretty great mission to have, in my book.”

In the beginning of this review, I said Suddenly You is “Yet another well-done book by Ms. Mayberry with appealing characters and a sweet love story.” But writing this review has made me realize that’s not what I’d say.

So here’s my one sentence review of Suddenly You:

“One of Ms. Mayberry’s very best books, with moving lovers, love scenes, and love. It’s a keeper.”

I give it an A-.

Dabney

 

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I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.

38 Comments

  1. Sarah
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 08:52:24

    Sold, sold, SOLD.

  2. Isobel Carr
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 09:34:17

    Ok, I’m sold (though please tell me somebody punches Steve in the nads!). I fricken ADORED Her Best Worst Mistake, but when I went back and read Hot Island Nights, I was sadly disappointed. But HBWM was so good I’m willing to try again.

  3. Ridley
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 10:33:55

    @Isobel Carr: Stick to her Superromances. They’re where she really shines, imo.

    I read this review mostly out of respect for Dabney’s time. She put all this effort into writing it, so I felt that I ought to at least read it. I didn’t read it, however, to decide if I wanted to get the book. That process was pretty simple: “Oooh! Mayberry has a new Superromance releasing! Better get my card out of my wallet…”

  4. Rosie
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 10:42:51

    Downloaded this book this morning. Can’t wait to read it! Excited to see the A review.

  5. Jane
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 11:16:42

    Buried Comment (Reason: My Comment Ruins Everything)   Show

    Am I the only one that sees the Harry + Pippa connection here?

  6. Ridley
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 11:20:34

    @Jane: Welp, that can’t be unseen.

    Thanks for ruining everything, Jane. You’re the best.

  7. Mom on the Run
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 11:46:34

    I find it incredibly hard to “review” a Sarah Mayberry book–they are just good books for so many reasons that have more to do with emotion than can be described with mere words. All They Need is my very favorite book (and I still can’t explain why) and I was excited to read this one because I wasn’t ready for that book to be over. Same with this one…too bad she already married off the other sister! And the total bummer is that the ereader version had an exerpt of another book at the end, so I was so sad when the book was done at 95%. The mark of a good author is to leave you wanting more, and Sarah Mayberry never disappoints in that regard.

  8. Sarah
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 11:49:48

    @Jane:

    As a royals enthusiast, I am thrilled to see this connection. Good eye!

  9. MrsJoseph
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 11:50:47

    @Sarah:

    What she said!

  10. Julie
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 12:03:06

    Ding!
    Another sale for Sarah Mayberry straight to my Kindle.

  11. Dabney
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 12:38:10

    @Isobel Carr: I didn’t like that book as much when I first read it. I just went on a Sarah Mayberry glom and re-read a bunch of her books, that one included. I liked it much better on the second read. It’s not one of my favorites, but it worked much better for me the second time around.

  12. Dabney
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 12:39:06

    @Ridley: You crack me up.

  13. Dabney
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 12:40:12

    @Jane: Well, the characters couldn’t be more different. Maybe those are just Brit names.

    It’s funny to consider though.

  14. Java
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 14:22:06

    I just finished this book and loved it! Yes, there’s the standard SM trope of being commitment-phobic, but the characters are real and funny. The cringe-worthy embarrassing moments and the realistic concerns about finances and family seem very genuine — not like being swept off your feet by a Greek tycoon or some of the bizarre Harlequin office romances that seem to be written by people who have never even stepped foot in an office.

    I always enjoy the Australian setting, since I have fond memories of a terrific visit there. Apparently Midnight Oil had other big hits that didn’t make it to the U.S. airwaves, to judge from Harry’s music selections.

    All They Need and All Over You are my other SM favorites.

  15. Java
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 14:32:05

    One other thing — I’m so glad this isn’t another story where the heroine ditches her glasses, goes on a shopping/salon bender, and transforms into Ms. Glamorous! Harry warms up to her vintage clothes and signature style as he gets to know her.

  16. FD
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 15:23:52

    Well, I would be sold, but I’m not waiting till January. I wish the publishing industry would stop treating the ‘not US’ portions of the world like a red-headed step child.

  17. Estara
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 16:57:04

    Dabney, you sound like I do when I write about Andrea Höst, so this sold me. It’s on my Reader as we speak.

  18. Dabney
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 17:28:31

    @Estara: I’d never heard of her. She has a bunch of books. What one would you recommend to try first?

  19. AnimeJune
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 20:15:48

    What a lovely review. I have a Mayberry on my TBR that I picked up at BEA. I’ll definitely be giving it a try.

    That being said, while I like that the author maintains interesting friendships in the novel, I seriously cannot understand why someone would want to continue being a friend with a man who would abandon his own child to poverty – to the point of committing fraud to get out of child support. That speaks to such a complete lack of morals, not to mention human empathy, that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to continue being their friend.

    In other words, screw Steve.

  20. Ridley
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 20:29:23

    @AnimeJune: I won’t lie, I do have the teeniest bit of sympathy for men who don’t want children being forced to pay support after the mother decides to keep the child. It does strike me as a little unfair.

  21. Jane
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 20:38:18

    @AnimeJune: Harry does question his friendship quite a bit. It’s part of his character growth.

    Coincidental names aside, I really enjoyed this one too.

  22. Frannie
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 20:41:30

    I love Sarah Mayberry’s books, and was delighted to read this review and discover there was a new one just waiting for me to hit the BUY NOW button at Kobo. I’ve found all of her books to be fun, sexy, intelligent, and, for this candian girl, slightly exotic because of the Australian settings.And, may of her books have a serious sub-theme, say, a parent with Alzheimers, which is addressed with understanding and compassion.

  23. Kelly C
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 21:20:53

    I would read this book even if I didn’t already auto-buy Sarah Mayberry just for the fact that the 2 leads are Harry and Pippa. Hilarious. Intentional or not. :)

  24. Tae
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 21:29:50

    sold! This sounds fabulous. I’ve been pretty happy with most Mayberry books and several I go back and re-read so this is a no-brainer to me

  25. Lana
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 21:57:47

    I read this book as soon as I could pre buy it from Harlequin. I loved, loved, loved it! It was a perfect contemporary romance in my books.

    (Also, I have a little trip planned for Australia in December, so I am enjoying Australian settings right now!)

  26. Kim T.
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 22:33:05

    Sarah Mayberry must be one of the most popular Harlequin authors of all time at this point. It’s impressive the following she’s acquired. I’ve just started reading Within Reach and her writing is amazing, as usual. I was a little concerned when I didn’t love love love More Than One Night, but I do always enjoy her friends-to-lovers stories (Anything But You, Her Best Friend, Best Laid Plains).

    Wondering when and if she’ll move to single-title mass market. I’m kind of curious how her work might change and grow.

  27. Estara
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 05:14:15

    @Dabney: Hmmm…. there’s a romantic subplot in most of her books but they’re not romances… How about trying the first book in her Touchstone Trilogy, Stray – which is YA portal science fantasy according to Sherwood Smith. I recced it on this month’s reader open thread and Marianne McA enjoyed it a whole lot. The free promotion seems to be over, though.

    Otherwise her newest, And All the Stars has a beautiful love story as well as lots of friendship. Ana at the Booksmugglers really enjoyed the book.

    Oh, and my previous comment was in response to your squee and (successful) attempt at explaining what works so well in this book, not in response to a similar writing style of both authors, just to clarify.

  28. Dabney
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 06:19:17

    @AnimeJune: @Ridley: As usual, in a Mayberry book, the characters are complex. Steve has his reasons for being such a dick. And Ridley, you’re not alone in that feeling.

    It is true that, in this case, the pregnancy was an accident despite the use of birth control. But Steve had always made it clear he didn’t want kids. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of grey area around a baby. They have to be supported. But, given that I am adamant it’s a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child, I wish there were some way men had that freedom too. The best answer I’ve come up with and have drilled in my sons’ and daughter’s heads is “Always use a condom” and “Don’t do anything anyone will regret in the morning.”

  29. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 07:49:04

    I read a Blaze by Mayberry & really loved it, but then I tried one of her Superromances and set it aside for some reason. I probably wouldn’t have bought this one but the review sold me like whoa. This sounds right up my alley. Thanks Dabney!

    I love you guys.

  30. Mom on the Run
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 08:31:55

    @Kim T.: I think More Than One Night was a victim of the word count monster–I really liked it, but there were a couple of things that could’ve used a little more resolution. I’d love to see what she could do with a single title longer book or a loosely connected series, because I think she could do something phenomenal in that arena.

  31. Shelley
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 17:16:15

    Yep! Love me some S and M! (I mean SM….)

  32. Tina
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 18:39:06

    @Jill Sorenson:

    Ooh, I am the exact opposite. I read a couple of SM’s blazes and was like…er….um… But her Superromances I could sop up with a biscuit!

    I finished this one and loved it. Always enjoy how much story and character exploration she manages to pack into such a smallish word-count.

    re: The ex-boyfriend: I liked how she portrayed the character. He was messed up and a jerk, but there was enough hinted at that as a reader you understood that there was probably more there than him just being an asshole. It wasn’t in your face and there were no anvils falling, but there was enough there to hint that there was more to Steve than just being a dead-beat dad with a Peter Pan complex. It is one of the things I’ve always liked SM’s writing because I think she gives the reader credit to understand that not all characters in a book need to be painted with a broad brush. There are nuances to people even unlikeable ones.

  33. Shelley
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 20:31:43

    @Tina:

    Surprisingly, I have liked the SR’s better than the Blazes (cuz I do like plenty of sex in my stories) but the SR’s have been awesome and I pretty much bawl like a baby every time I read one.

  34. November Recommendations from Dear Author
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 13:27:08

    […] Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry.  As Dabney, who reviewed it for Dear Author stated, Sarah Mayberry seems to deliver consistently wonderful contemporary romances. I apologize to everyone for ruining the story in the comments. To those who haven’t read the book yet, don’t read my comments.  Reviewed here. […]

  35. Annamal
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 18:08:15

    Dabney and Ridley, look at it this way, both men and women have a number of birth control options that they can choose to use or not use, women’s options just extend for a longer period (but considering the toll that pregnancy exacts on a woman’s body it doesn’t strike me as that fair a trade).

    It’s actually perfectly fair (sometimes not ideal for the people involved but perfectly fair).

    When a child is born it is owed support by *both* parents.

  36. Shelley
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 16:48:45

    @Dabney:

    “Steve has his reasons for being such a dick. And Ridley, you’re not alone in that feeling.

    It is true that, in this case, the pregnancy was an accident despite the use of birth control. But Steve had always made it clear he didn’t want kids.”

    I guess I’m not sure why there is even a debate about support of a child unwanted by one of the parents. During sex, there is an expected risk of pregnancy even when using birth control (documentation included with all forms of birth control state a failure rate). Two adult people chose to have sex therefore they chose to deal with the consequences of a pregnancy in an adult and responsible manner. I realize this is a totally idealized view but it doesn’t make it any less right.

  37. Dabney
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 18:27:10

    @Shelley: Legally, I’m right with you.

  38. Dabney’s Best of 2012 list
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 09:39:12

    […] You by Sarah Mayberry review by […]

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