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REVIEW: All They Need by Sarah Mayberry

Dear Ms. Mayberry:

I almost feel bad recommending another book of yours.  I feel like to continually recommend the same author time and again may read inauthentic to readers but your voice and the stories that you tell really resonate with me. I think you really know how to capture and express a modern women that feels very authentic and relatable to me despite the fact that these books almost always take place in Australia, many thousands of miles away.

All They Need by Sarah MayberryAll They Ever Need is the romance of a love shy heroine and a surprised by love hero.  The interesting thing (and perhaps one of the challenges of this book) is that they don’t start out that way.  When we first see Melanie Hunter and Flynn Randall it is at a high society party. Melanie is married and Flynn is trying to avoid people wanting money from his father. Flynn muses, as he watches Melanie attempt to help a couple retrieve something from a fountain:

She was easily the tallest woman at the party—at least six feet tall—with broad shoulders that would put a lot of men to shame. Her breasts were full and round, her hips curved. As much as Flynn was wary of Owen’s naked ambition, he’d always liked the other man’s wife. There was something about Mel Hunter that al ways made him want to smile. Maybe because she was often smiling herself.

This party marks the beginning of the end of Melanie’s marriage. The smiles she had worn so often had become diminished by years of verbal and even some sexual abuse toward the end. Melanie had had enough of Owen Hunter and she leaves him. She uses her divorce settlement to buy rental cottages on Mornington Peninsula, a vacation retreat and begins the process of rebuilding her life, from the inside out.

Eighteen months later (and from prologue to the first chapter), Melanie’s divorce is final and Flynn re-enters the picture.  Only this time Flynn is bringing a girlfriend with him to stay at Melanie’s cottages while he looks at run down, but famous property nearby.  Flynn used to be a landscape architect but when his father starting exhibiting signs of early Alzheimer’s, Flynn sold his business and took up the reins of the family company.  Flynn strongly misses his connection to the earth and the lure of the once famous Summerlea estate gardens.

Whether it was his father’s illness or his own myopathy, Flynn missed the signs of seriousness of his girlfriend and he ends up hurting her fairly badly when she proposes marriage to him and he turns her down.  (I’m going to circle back to this at the end).  Flynn continues to visit Summerlea estate and during his visits gets to know his neighbor Melanie much better. His attraction to her is slow but intense and while she returns the feelings of attraction, Melanie never wants to get married again.  It wasn’t like Owen was a bad man when she met him. She had no idea he had money (they met backpacking around Europe) and they fell in love young. But Owen had ambitions and when Melanie was introduced to his circle, she never quite fit in. She was too tall, smiled too much, laughed too loudly.  She didn’t know which people to suck up to and at what points.  Her identity became so eroded during her six year marriage that the institution itself is an anathema to her.

Flynn, on the other hand, begins to see in Melanie and in their connection- their mutual love for the land, their green thumbs, their pleasure in manual labor out in the hot sun – the things that would make a loving and lasting marriage like the one his parents enjoy.  He voices his understanding of Melanie’s fear of marriage, but never really internalizes it. Perhaps he believes that the only natural conclusion to their relationship would be a permanent union.

What I expected, but did not get, was a mental acknowledgment of Flynn’s position with Melanie vis a vis his girlfriend’s position with him.  Perhaps it is because his past girlfriend never entered his thoughts anymore, even though he was pained by their breakup.  Flynn was a nice guy and was genuinely remorseful that his lack of perspicacity led to someone he cared about being emotionally hurt by his actions.

The other thing that I wanted to see was Melanie with Flynn living his Melbourne lifestyle.  Melanie’s issues with Owen stemmed from her inability to fit in and I really would have liked to see Melanie navigating the Melbourne society with Flynn.  With Flynn’s position, she would have had to make an appearance now and again. Instead, she couldn’t even eat lunch in a popular Melbourne restaurant with Flynn.

However, those two issues were not enough to bring the book out of recommendation territory.  I loved Melanie’s character (and Flynn too).  She stuck her shovel in the dirt and rebuilt her life.  She had a great blue color family and the scenes which involved her brothers and her mother (who never met a tight pair of pants she didn’t love) were totally enjoyable.  While Flynn is wealthy, much of the story is centered around Melanie’s blue color roots and her working class family.  Her father is a mechanic who owns a small auto repair shop.  They all band together to help Melanie refurbish her cottages.  Flynn has to prove to these guys he can fit in with them and I loved that turn about.

Melanie and Flynn’s romance felt very real. It didn’t happen immediately but they developed feelings for each other based on mutuality of interests and not just their strong physical attraction.  While other Harlequin Superromances leave the bedroom door only slightly ajar, that is not the case with the Mayberry books. The physical consummation of their relationship was important to the furtherance of the plot in part because while Melanie was okay with giving her body to Flynn, she struggled being emotionally vulnerable.  The subplot of Flynn’s father’s Alzheimers provided a good example of how hard a loving relationship can be but how important it is to trust and love the other partner enough to feel safe in one’s vulnerability.  B

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

22 Comments

  1. SHZ
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 04:33:57

    Here in Australia we have no choice but to read about American women all the time!

    I really, really loved this one. If the best books are coming from the same person, then what are you supposed to do but recommend them? I look forward to your Sarah Mayberry reviews.

    I can see your point when it comes to the girlfriend and re-entering Melbourne society, and wonder if this mightn’t have been easier to deal with in a longer book?

    What I always like about Sarah Mayberry’s stories is that the characters are people I could get along with in real life, people I’d want to be around. Mel and Flynn were wonderful on their own and even better together.

  2. Rosie
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 05:26:03

    Love this author and plan to read this book soon! Every time I read one of her stories,I get completely absorbed in her writing and characters. This sounds like another winner.

  3. Liz Talley
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 07:00:37

    Nothing wrong with recommending good books by the same author, especially as one as talented as Sarah. I love her books, too, and this one sounds right up my alley because I love gardening…and I have a blue-collar background…and I love the description of the heroine. Sarah blogged yesterday on the Superauthor loop about one of the scenes in the book that stemmed from her own gardening project. She has such a fun way of telling both her fictional and factual stories :) Thanks for the review.

  4. Joy
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 08:29:42

    “I feel like to continually recommend the same author time and again may read inauthentic to readers”

    Actually it makes me more confident that the author is very, very good. I first tried Mayberry because of the recommendation here and have not been disappointed.

  5. Gretchen Galway
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 09:01:46

    Ooh, a new one! I’m also a fan of Sarah Mayberry because of DA.

    I skipped the review because I like to read without any expectations, but I’ll just say I’m glad to see her name is now big and nicely-fonted on the cover.

  6. Kristal
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 10:11:03

    Jane, your auto-correct has rendered blue collar as blue color (twice) – which makes those sentences peculiarly amusing!

  7. Elyssa Papa
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 10:32:09

    Oh! A Sarah Mayberry book is out. I’d sort of forgotten that she had a new release, so thanks for the review and bringing this book back to my attention.

  8. Jeannie
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 10:44:27

    I’ve only read one other book by Ms. Mayberry, a Blaze called She’s Got It Bad, and I really liked it. I remember thinking the whole time I was reading, this is a Blaze? Not that it lacked heat, it had that in spades, it just didn’t fall into that same type of writing as a lot of the other Blaze books I’ve read. The heroine was so unique and different, and I identified with her instantly.

    I haven’t tried a Super Romance yet, but I think it’s time I did. This one sounds like a great place to start.

    And, @Jane, I visit DA every day to read the reviews and such. It doesn’t bother me in the least that you recommend an author over and over. It shows that she’s consistent with her writing, and personally I think, how much she respects her readers as well.

  9. JMM
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 13:54:49

    I liked it well enough… but IMHO, it lacked real conflict.

    Flynn was nice.
    Melanie was nice.
    His parents were nice.
    Her family was nice. (There was a slight bit of tension between Melanie and her sister at one point, but it really didn’t go anywhere.)

    The blurb states that Flynn came from the society she left behind (because Rich Society People are Not Nice), but there was no evidence Flynn had anything in common with the RSPs – save that he went to ONE party.

    And IMHO, the entire side story of Flynn’s father “battle” with Alzheimers disease was glossed over.

  10. Janet W
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 14:56:35

    Thanks Jane: now I think I’m honour bound to actually try a Mayberry: I’ll check here for good recommendations for a starting Mayberry. Site impossible to navigate and really, who has time to click and hope for information? Maybe it’s me but I prefer sites that KISS (Keep It Simple…)

    Based on, in part, all the favourable reviews here, I tried a Sarah Mayberry and it was OK, if I’ve got the right author. The heroine was substituting for her sister (in hospital w/broken leg) and the hero was an equivalent of a Navy SEAL (all apologies if I have wrong author *I did try to find out by going to the author website* BUT this website is almost my least favourite kind to navigate. The only thing that would make it more annoying would be music. I’m supposed to click and guess how to find information about Mayberry’s books? It’s a very attractive picture but imo, unnecessarily “cute” to navigate.

    http://www.sarahmayberry.com/

  11. Jane
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 14:58:30

    @Janet W: No, that author is Karina Bliss and the title is Stand In Wife, a book I liked quite a bit despite the madcap feel to it.

    As for Mayberry’s website, not my favorite.

  12. sarah mayberry
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 15:23:48

    @JanetW After spending a small fortune getting my site redone, I’m disappointed to learn readers are finding it hard to navigate. If you care to try again, there’s a menu to the right of the picture with the options for navigating the site in a more traditional way than via the photograph. I guess I need to talk to my designer… Sorry for the confusion.

  13. Jeannie
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 15:59:44

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with Janet. I didn’t find Sarah’s website difficult to navigate at all. The only disadvantage I saw was the width of the page which, depending on your computer’s settings, could force the menu on the right out of view until you scroll over. When you click on “books” it brings up everything in a nice clean screen where you then click on a cover and it takes you to that individual title. The excerpts pop up when you click “read an excerpt”. I especially like the “Behind the Scenes” feature for each book. It’s always fun to know little insights the author shares, IMO anyway. Very nice and tasteful, Sarah.

  14. Kate K
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 17:44:16

    I think the key word you used here is “real.” Everything in this book felt so authentic, from Flynn’s family pain to Melanie’s quirky gardening interests. This book worked for me on so many levels and IMO is one of Sarah Mayberry’s best.

  15. Ridley
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 17:53:48

    @sarah mayberry: The “mystery meat navigation” on the front page is the problem. It looks very fancy, and I’m sure it set you back a bit, but it’s bad web design.

    Also, that front page is sort of a waste. You shouldn’t make people have to click through a splash page before they get to informative content. Instead of the mystery meat photo, your front page should always feature your newest release and what’s coming soon (when applicable.)

  16. SHZ
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 18:09:51

    @Jeannie:

    +1 on the “Behind the Scenes” feature. That’s something I wish more authors would do. I don’t need a life story, but it’s nice to see how books came to be. I haven’t had a problem with the website, but then I don’t know the first thing about web design.

    When it comes to the lower level of conflict in the book, that was something I liked. Not everyone’s relationships have to come with high drama. I found Mel’s struggle to get into a new relationship more than enough conflict for this story. It was a change of pace, definitely, but I liked that there were two good people here who deserved each other.

  17. J A
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 10:20:22

    Looking for clickables in a pic annoys me too, so I scrolled right. That’s not Mystery Meat in my book. Also, no Flash, no music, no popups or popbottoms (you know, at the bottom of the screen) and no floating thingie I’m supposed to click so it follows my cursor around until I can’t hit “Back” fast enough. So no, not anywhere near the most annoying website ever.

    However, Sarah, for those who can’t see the menu on first glance and do not scroll right, couldn’t it be underneath the photo? One hopes that would not be a difficult or expensive change.

  18. sarah mayberry
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 13:50:16

    @JA Thanks for that feedback. Much appreciated. I will pass all this onto my designer and see what we can do. A menu across the bottom of the screen would certainly solve the problem of different sized screens not finding the more traditional menu on the right. I want to add a Coming Soon page and a button for people to click to join my newsletter, too. So it’s a bit of a work in progress, but we’re getting there. Hopefully!

  19. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 14:16:10

    Sarah’s website is amazing. I love the design. I didn’t have to scroll right. Maybe shrink that clickable pic and make the menu bigger/more visible.

  20. Joan Kilby
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 16:33:28

    To me, if an author continually gets good recommendations that means she’s a terrific writer and Sarah Mayberry is definitely that. I love how Sarah teases all the emotional nuances out of a scene and makes you feel as if you’re right there in the hero or heroine’s head and heart. I loved All They Need. Mel and Flynn found love because their relationship was about who they were deep inside rather than what strata of society they came from.

  21. Kay
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 21:25:10

    @Jane: Thanks for recommending this latest Mayberry! “Heartwarming” sounds so trite, but it was. I appreciated how, as they reclaimed their gardens from abandonment (his) and mistreatment (hers), their romance followed suit. Perhaps Melanie will have an easier time going out to lunch now that she’s feeling more secure, though that particular restaurant might not ever be her style.

    Maybe there will be a sequel involving the ex-girlfriend? I want Hayley to find someone good (for her)!

    @J A: I second your feedback: it would help to have the menu down below. (My default window just isn’t that wide.)

  22. Ros
    Dec 25, 2011 @ 03:52:38

    So, I stayed up way too late last night reading this and now I will be tired and grumpy all day. Oh well, it was worth it. I loved this book. I loved that the conflict was all internal and I wanted so much for Mel and Flynn to get their happy ending.

    Two things irritated me a little bit – Flynn’s former girlfriend, which seemed to me entirely superfluous to the plot; and the last chapter. Mel’s turnaround was very abrupt and I wanted more than just the scene in the supermarket to show me that it was real and would work. I would rather have had more from that chapter than the epilogue.

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