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REVIEW: Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry

Dear Ms. Mayberry—

I think your novel Hot Island Nights is splendid—I love the rapport between Elizabeth and Nathan—and I was happy to learn your new self-published novel Her Best Worst Mistake is a companion/sequel to that tale. Her Best Worst Mistake chronicles what happens between Elizabeth’s wild best friend Violet and Elizabeth’s stuffy ex-fiancé Martin when the latter is dumped by Elizabeth eight weeks before their wedding. Violet and Martin loathed each other in Hot Island Nights… or so they thought.

Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah MayberryOne doesn’t have to read Hot Island Nights to enjoy this book, but it was fun to read them back to back. In the beginning of Her Best Worst Mistake, Elizabeth who has always been a very good girl, abandons both her pressuring grandparents and their protégée, Martin, and runs off to find her birth father in Australia. There she hops right into bed with the super hunky Nathan and is on her way to hot sex and happy ever after. When she leaves England, she leaves Violet for whom Elizabeth functions not only as a best friend but as her family and Martin who, having pulled his way up from a poor North London estate sees Elizabeth as

… a million miles from the girls he’d grown up with. She always knew the right thing to say or do. She was beautiful, refined, elegant. Her love had been the final seal on his success.

Neither Martin nor Violet have ever approved of the other. Violet thinks Martin is an uptight, controlling, dullard whose ambitions have limited Elizabeth’s ability to have fun and discover what she—Elizabeth—really wants from life. Violet constantly criticizes Martin to Elizabeth and every time the three are together, Violet snipes at Martin. She knows she does it, but she just can’t stand the guy.

At the ripe old age of twenty-nine, she should probably have grown out of goading people for sport, but for some reason she never tired of poking Martin with a stick to see how long it would take before he growled and snapped.

For his part, Martin thinks Violet is excessively outrageous and loud. He thinks her wardrobe is right out of the “Playboy catalogue,” she does nothing but calls attention to herself, and is a brat to boot. Once he realizes Elizabeth has truly left him, he tells Violet,

“There are many things I will miss about sharing Elizabeth’s life, but spending time with you will not be one of them. I can honestly say that I have never been more…relieved to think that I need never lay eyes on a person again. Was that polite enough for you, Violet, or should I drop a few four letter words in there so you feel more at home?”

But Martin is wrong about Violet. She’s not a self-absorbed bitch and, in fact, when she thinks about how devastated he must be having been dumped by the woman he’s dated and loved for six years, she decides to check up on him and brings him a bottle of peach schnapps as a sympathy gift. Martin is nasty to her and refuses her offering, but she leaves it for him anyway. Later, at his very lonely house, he sips the drink and begins to wonder why the hell she brought him that particular present.

He didn’t usually have a sweet tooth, but when he’d tried schnapps for the first time at a West End bar last year he’d discovered that there was something about the sweetness of the peach and the heat of the alcohol that appealed to his palate.

He lifted the glass to his mouth again, then stilled as it occurred to him that Violet had been there that night, too, lolling against the bar in a purple sparkly dress that had been too short and too tight and too bright.

And when she’d gone looking for a pity gift for him, she’d bought him peach schnapps, out of all the options open to her at the off-license.

Which meant it was either a coincidence… or she’d remembered that night and how much he’d enjoyed the schnapps.

He downed the last of the drink.

It was probably a coincidence. There was no reason for her to remember such a small, insignificant detail about him. Certainly there hadn’t been anything special about that night to mark it in her memory—it had been a night like any other, one of many times he’d socialized with Violet for Elizabeth’s sake….

He reached for the bottle and poured himself another drink, almost filling the glass this time.

As though he’d opened a floodgate within himself, a storehouse of Violet-tinged memories fell out. The fact that she hated escargot but adored truffles. The fact that she’d once queued for days to buy tickets for a George Michael concert. The fact that she absolutely refused to learn the names of any players for any of the country’s football teams, even though it required a concerted effort to forget the headlines and news reports focusing on the country’s national obsession….

“Shit.”

Martin, drunk on schnapps, shows up just as Violet is closing up her boutique, the wittily named Violet Femmes, and demands to know why she bought him peach schnapps. That question leads to explosive sex on Violet’s couch after which both Violet and Martin are appalled at their behavior. Martin does a fast walk of shame out the door while Violet hides in her bathroom. Martin tells himself it was a

… stupid, impetuous act, driven by ego and peach schnapps and undeniable curiosity.

Violet is consumed by guilt. She has broken a cardinal rule: never have sex with your best-friend’s ex. Elizabeth has been the most important person in Violet’s life ever since Violet’s ghastly father and step-mother kicked her out of their house and lives when she was nineteen because of her “Jezebel” ways.

And Violet had just repaid Elizabeth’s loyalty and love and thoughtfulness and generosity by fucking her ex-fiancé on the couch.

Both are sure it will never, should never happen again, but, the next time they see each other, at a dinner party a month later, they are out the door, in Martin’s vintage Jag and polishing his backseat until the windows are completely fogged over. Again, Violet is furious at herself for betraying Elizabeth. She tells Martin,

“Let’s just agree that this was yet another stupid, impulsive mistake that happened for God-only-knows-what reason and leave it at that. You go your way, I go mine.”

Martin, however, has begun to see the situation differently. He realizes he’s falling for Violet and, from his perspective, having a relationship with her has, at this point, nothing to do with Elizabeth. He isn’t sure how someone as outré as Violet will fit into the straight-laced, ambitious lawyer life he has created for himself but he’s unwilling to give her up.

A few days later, he drops by her shop and the two begin seeing each other every night. The sex is fabulous–there’s a lot of sex in this book–and they enjoy each other’s company. And yet, though Violet talks to Elizabeth every week, she never tells Elizabeth she’s seeing Martin. Not only does this bother Martin, it bothered me.

I get it’s bad form to sleep with your best friend’s ex. However, in Her Best Worst Mistake, Elizabeth is now over the moon happy with another man. She’s the one who ended her relationship with Martin. Plus, Elizabeth really loves Violet. I was sure if Violet told Elizabeth, “Hey, it turns out I was wrong about Martin. He’s really a great guy, he treats me like a queen, and I think I might love him. Is that OK with you?” Elizabeth would have given her a double thumbs up.

Fortunately, Violet’s character is so well-written that, even though I found her behavior frustrating, I understood it. Violet has already lost her family of birth. Their rejection of her scarred her deeply. She is terrified of losing her family of choice: Elizabeth. I enjoyed watching Violet—I can’t resist—bloom under the patient care and love Martin gives her. When she doubts her own worth, he makes her see what a wonderful woman she is. At one point, she sobs,

“I don’t deserve you.” His arms tightened around her, a fierce, indomitable band of muscle and sinew. “You do, Violet. And I deserve you. We’ve both more than earned our chance at happiness. And I will not feel guilty about grabbing it with both hands, and I won’t let you feel guilty, either.”

Martin, who really did limit Elizabeth, turns out to be just the man to free Violet from her injurious past. I loved their story—Ms. Mayberry, yet again, you’ve written a novel with heart, heat, and healing. Plus, you worked in an offhand reference to Tenzing Norgay. I stand in awe. This book gets a flat out 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.

34 Comments

  1. library addict
    May 10, 2012 @ 14:08:28

    I haven’t read the first story, but this one sounds like fun. Adding to my To Buy List as I have promised myself no more purchases for the week.

  2. Little Red
    May 10, 2012 @ 14:22:29

    Never read anything by Sarah Mayberry but this books sounds to be really good. Consider it bought.

  3. Little Red
    May 10, 2012 @ 14:30:48

    @Little Red: I mean “book”.

  4. ClaudiaGC
    May 10, 2012 @ 14:40:18

    I so loved this book! When reading Hot Island Nights, Martin seemed so bland and dreary and I developed an immediate dislike for him. So, I was actually surprised when he was the hero of this book. But it turned out so well! I love it how we see this uptight man loosen up.
    I hope Ms.Mayberry will do more novels like this in the future.
    And the reference to Tenzing Norgay made me grin from one ear to the other. :)

  5. Jody W.
    May 10, 2012 @ 14:43:15

    SOLD! To the woman with 1-click turned on on her Kindle…

  6. Ella Drake
    May 10, 2012 @ 15:25:27

    I was sold, but then I couldn’t find it on the Nook :(
    Still, I’m going to track it down and get it. Looks like she has it on Smashwords, according to her website.

  7. Tatty
    May 10, 2012 @ 15:55:02

    @ Jody W. – the curse of Kindle 1-click, for what I spent with Amazon in April I could have bought the Furla handbag I’m coveting but telling myself I can’t afford.

    This one was more of a B for me. Partly because I often find myself wishing that SM’s characters had a bit more joie de vivre. Also because, as a Brit, there were some cultural anomalies that jolted me out of the moment – e.g. Martin isn’t that much younger than me, so he wouldn’t have paid tuition fees at a UK university at the time he studied (Buckingham aside).

    Then again, that’s probably just me needing to cheer-up a bit too!

  8. Sarah Mayberry
    May 10, 2012 @ 16:21:09

    @Ella Drake: Ella, the book *will* be available on Nook, I believe, since it’s been accepted into the premium catalogue at Smashwords. But apparently it takes a while for Smashwords to “push” the book out to the e-tailers it services. It should be available on Apple, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Nook any day now. Fingers and other moveable body parts crossed.

  9. rachel
    May 10, 2012 @ 16:21:22

    I really loved this book. The wild child/stuffed shirt is one of my very favorite pairings in romance and I am always on the lookout for it. Sarah Mayberry’s writing is such a great combo of sexy and fun and has totally become an auto-buy for me.

  10. Jinni
    May 10, 2012 @ 16:31:21

    Is this digital only. If, so, another one I won’t get to read. Am I the last person who likes paper?

  11. Courtney Milan
    May 10, 2012 @ 16:38:37

    I did a double-take at the review headline, thinking: “Wait, I didn’t know Sarah Mayberry had a new Blaze out–I was just in Target and didn’t see her in the line-up!”

    Huzzah!

  12. Karina Bliss
    May 10, 2012 @ 16:51:39

    Bought this as a treat to enjoy once I’ve hit a word target. Damn you, Dabney, for the tease. I also loved Hot Island Nights, so really looking forward to this.

  13. Ruthie
    May 10, 2012 @ 17:31:23

    I enjoyed this one, too. Hot Island Nights is my favorite Mayberry Blaze, so I was delighted to read the other side of the story!

  14. Julie
    May 10, 2012 @ 18:06:11

    @Jody W.:

    Yep. My Kindle knows me so well it could probably click on some of my auto-buys and download them for me with absolutely no problem!

    I was away for the weekend by my lonesome, and re-read Hot Island Nights followed quickly by Her Best Worst Mistake. Was great having no interruptions!

  15. Rosie
    May 10, 2012 @ 18:07:47

    I loved this one. When I read Hot Island Nights earlier this year, I really didn’t think to myself “I want Martin and Violet’s story!” But I’m glad we got it. They’re a fantastic couple.

  16. Mandi
    May 10, 2012 @ 18:22:45

    Thanks for this review…I wasn’t aware of this book. And now I must read it :)

  17. Faye
    May 10, 2012 @ 18:50:58

    Bought and read! What a perfect little story. This was just the kind of contemporary I’ve been on the lookout for.

  18. pamela
    May 10, 2012 @ 19:38:46

    Thanks for this review – I read almost no contemporaries but I might give this a shot because our taste in historicals seems almost identical based on your reviews and list of your tabs.
    OT: are you going to review the latest Meredith Duran book?

  19. Carin
    May 10, 2012 @ 20:22:46

    I read Hot Island Nights and this book back to back and really enjoyed both! I wasn’t really fond of Martin in Hot Island Nights, but I got over that pretty quickly in Her Best Worst Mistake. I really enjoyed how the two stories fit together. I also thought the sex scenes in Her Best Worst Mistake were terrifically well done.

  20. Renda
    May 10, 2012 @ 20:23:26

    Bought it and loved it over the weekend. But it needed closer proofing. The wrong it’s/its a number of times as well as a closet/closest issues and a few more I can’t remember. Still plan on getting the companion Blaze.

    But loved everything else about it. Tightly edited. No info dumps. Short, but managed to show the evolution/growth of the characters perfectly. Appreciated that there was no magical family reconciliation.

  21. Tina
    May 10, 2012 @ 20:52:17

    @Renda:

    But loved everything else about it. Tightly edited. No info dumps. Short, but managed to show the evolution/growth of the characters perfectly. Appreciated that there was no magical family reconciliation.

    The lack of magical family reconciliation was a huge strong point with me for her book The Last Goodbye as well. I just bought this as well. Was jonesing for a new contemporary

  22. Dabney
    May 10, 2012 @ 22:03:26

    @pamela: I did. http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-a-reviews/a-minus-reviews/review-at-your-pleasure-by-meredith-duran/

    I don’t think she has another one coming out until later this year. God, she’s great!

  23. Ella Drake
    May 11, 2012 @ 06:37:08

    @Sarah Mayberry: @Sarah Mayberry:
    Thanks for letting me know!

  24. Isobel Carr
    May 11, 2012 @ 08:41:10

    Read this last night after seeing the review and loved it. I’ll try Hot Island Nights this weekend. My only real quibble is that book didn’t feel like it was set in London (aside from some heavy London scene setting in the first couple chapters). I know Mayberry is Australian, but some of the word choices (e.g. sweater) and food choices (e.g. mac-n-cheese) felt strangely American and made it hard to keep up the illusion that these were English people living in London.

  25. Carrie
    May 11, 2012 @ 11:37:10

    Yay! I’m so glad you liked it. I really enjoyed Hot Island Nights and was looking forward to this one. Mayberry does an amazing job of getting depth into her relatively short books.

  26. Juliana Ross
    May 11, 2012 @ 13:09:42

    I bought this last night (on Kobo’s Canadian site FYI so it is available there) and read it in one go. For the record I haven’t read Hot Island Nights (though I did glom through nearly all of Sarah’s backlist last year) and I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything as a result.

    I absolutely LOVED this book and hope to steam through Hot Island Nights as soon as the kids are settled tonight!

  27. FD
    May 11, 2012 @ 14:01:52

    @Tatty: I picked up the fees thing too and spent a few moments thinking about it. He’s mentioned as having been at Trinity which is an Oxford college, so it is in fact true that the grants and loans offered even then wouldn’t actually cover the whole expense, tuition fees aside. The missing out on a government grant for living expenses bit is baffling though – if anyone qualified, he would.
    In addition, they require a guarantor/proof that you can cover the costs, which he’d have struggled with. What made me really blink was the idea that he’d had two jobs while studying – lovely bit of characterisation but working outside of the summer is deeply disapproved of even now.

    Anyway teeny background niggles aside, I thought it was a lovely jewel of a book. Violet’s issues felt perfectly organic to the character and I thought that the way Martin came to realise that he’d let her social background mislead him as to her emotional fault-lines was particularly beautifully done.

  28. Anna Cowan
    May 12, 2012 @ 09:19:16

    I just drunk-purchased it! Looking forward to waking up and being all, WHAT??

  29. Loosheesh
    May 12, 2012 @ 17:41:10

    Great review (definitely not “mean and smug” :-P) of a wonderful book. Elizabeth was right, Martin really is a “lovely man”.

  30. Anna Cowan
    May 12, 2012 @ 21:16:43

    turns out some drunk purchases are a good idea! Really enjoying this book. Though I have to agree with @Isobel Carr – when Violet calls Elizabeth’s “cell” that really pulled me out.

  31. Pamela
    May 16, 2012 @ 18:36:48

    Thanks for the review. I loved this book! A very quick and satisfying read!

  32. Reading List of What Dabney read in April and May
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 09:14:30

    [...] so loved Ms. Mayberry’s latest (my review is here), I’ve been gobbling up her earlier books. Thus far I’ve read and thoroughly [...]

  33. Guest Post: Difficult Heroines by Molly O’Keefe
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 04:02:46

    [...] Mayberry,  author of Her Best Worst Mistake (reviewed here) comes at it a different way. “Romance is full of difficult heroes,” she says. “It’s [...]

  34. Gisele
    Jun 01, 2013 @ 08:06:14

    I loved your review! I’ll start read it today – yes, I’m putting Kristen Ashley’s Fire Inside in a limbo, but it’s only because I want to have a new one of hers next to me for a little while. hahaha.

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