Harlequin Lightning Reviews, Sarah Mayberry Edition Part II
My first introduction to Sarah Mayberry was Anything for You which was a huge success. Marg, a commenter, said that it was one of the best friends to lovers iteration she’s read. “I loved how the story was not about Sam finally ‘noticing how hot his friend is’ but rather realizing the depth of their relationship. ”
I went on to purchase the additional books available at Fictionwise. There is a trilogy of books devoted to individuals who work on Ocean’s Boulevard, a soap opera shot in LA. The series is: Take on Me, All Over You, and finally Hot for Him. Reading them in order does provide nice continuity but it’s not absolutely essential (I read Hot for Him first). Mayberry’s men have that “male sound” in that they often think about their smaller head (I think I remember one of the heroes commenting about how the little guy is in charge of the social activities). Her women are bold and once they figure out what they want, they aren’t adverse to dragging the men with them. Mayberry also has a slight wit that makes me grin from time to time reading the dialogue. Interestingly, with all this discussion about tropes, two of the stories feature a sort of enemies turned lovers which I usually don’t like but did in these cases.
The one complaint that I have about the Mayberry books is that the emotional conflict, while brought up in new and different ways, is generally the same. One character does not want to get into a committed relationship and the other one does and that eventually leads to their break up. The reasons for why the people don’t want to be in committed relationships are always different but it’s the same emotional overlay. Finally, Mayberry is Australian and her books and her characters have a distinctly foreign sound to them which I don’t particularly mind.
Take on Me features Sadie Post and Dylan Anderson, old high school classmates who knowingly and unknowingly inflict horrible high school damage on each other which they both use to propel them forward. To some extent Sadie has come to represent all those who despised, mocked and looked down on Dylan Anderson because of his undiagnosed learning disability. Dylan destroyed Sadie when he humiliated her on prom night, further cementing her already dim view of herself. They both overachieved and Sadie is now a lithe, attractive soap opera producer and Dylan is a screenwriter. He’s ready to break out but jumps at the idea of working on Ocean’s Boulevard for a short time, particularly since he can then get revenge (although it’s not very well thought out). It’s clear, though, that the two of them have some inescapable chemistry and after a few weeks of sparring, they fall into bed but only after sorting out their HS differences (which I appreciated). The conflict comes down to one party being reluctant to commit to a long term relationship. B-
All Over You is the story of bombshell and scriptwriter Grace who is considered the ugly duckling in the family. She’s a little rounder, a little less perfectly put together than her three sisters. Four years ago, she suffered a terrible betrayal at the hands of her fiancee and one of her sisters. The two had been having an affair for six months before Grace found out. This event, combined with years of being the not-as-pretty-one in the family, led to Grace climbing onto the celibacy wagon where she stayed for four years. Recently, she has been fantasizing about Mac Harrison, a former star of Ocean’s that left for six years and then returned. Mac has his own issues due to the fact that he tried to break out of the soap star typecast but was unable to. He feels a bit beat down and really wants a chance at directing some of the shows in hopes that being a soap star isn’t his only career choice. At first, Grace shuns Mac when they meet and Mac is offended. Finally, he confronts her and they both admit their attraction to each other. Grace’s past insecurities keeps her from fully opening up with Mac. This one had a really moving ending but I was caught off guard by a couple of scenes that where I wondered if that could really happen, i.e., Grace goes scuba diving without any training and Mac gives Grace a back rub that leads to sex despite a terrible migraine. A few too many WTF moments for me. B-
Hot for Him tells the story of rival producers, Claudia Dostis of Ocean’s Boulevard and Leandro Mandalor of Heartland. (I think it’s Heartland). Claudia is burning with rage at Leandro given that he discovered her secret wedding plans for the show and then had the gall to duplicate it. OB and Heartland are constantly in competition for fans, ratings, and awards. Claudia’s determined to have success at any cost and that means no meaningful relationships. She has her bed buddies (I loved that). In fact, she finds herself in a celebratory mood and texts her “friends” only to find out that they’ve hooked up in long term relationships while she was working and not watching. That leaves her unsatisified with a side of prime Greek beefcake pressed up against her. Leandro has decided that he’s ready for a relationship and begins an all out pursuit of Claudia, accusing her of being a coward. Leandro and Claudia fall into love with each other but Claudia does not want to have children and Leandro does. Claudia’s reason for not pursuing motherhood is understandable and some might disagree with the ultimate resolution (there is no baby epilogue though) but it fit for Claudia and Leandro. B