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REVIEW: Cruise Control by Sarah Mayberry

Dear Ms. Mayberry:
Only one book left after this one to review. Cruise Control is one of my favorites of the Mayberry collection so I was surprised to see the Goodreads rating to be a 2.5 out of 5. One of the readers said that it was “raunchy” and it is very sexual but the sexuality was symbolic and well integrated into the storyline. Or maybe I just have a preference for raunchy reads.

Cruise ControlAnna Jackson discovered she had breast cancer at a young age. Her mother had died from it. For Anna, it was a wake up call. She left her law practice and determined to live a new life, one that took chances.

“You mean you’ve quit law?” Mary said. She sounded scandalized, as though Anna had just confessed to running a string of hookers.

….

“I guess I decided that there was more to life than work,” Anna said.

Mary opened her mouth to argue, but maybe she saw something in Anna’s face because she shut it again without saying a word. The look she shot Anna was equal parts confusion and concern.

Anna knew what she was thinking-’Mary simply couldn’t understand how anyone could turn her back on a prestigious, lucrative career to become a glorified taxi driver. For a split second Anna considered telling her. But it was her business, her very private business. Anyway, it wouldn’t take the other woman long to find out why Anna had quit her job and turned her life around. The Sydney law community was big, but not that big. Mary would go back to the oak-lined offices of her firm and ask the right people the right questions, and within an hour she’d know.

“Breast cancer,” someone would tell Mary in a hushed tone. “Went off the rails, threw it all in.”

She changed her hairstyle, her job, and her clothes but she hadn’t really done anything. One day, she picks up a ride and in the rearview mirror, sees him staring at her legs in the reflection and for the first time in a long time, Anna feels the stirrings of desire. Marc Lewis, a computer solutions magnate, is attracted, but somewhat against his will. He’s come off a messy divorce and maintains that his libido has not control over him. Their brief encounter in the car is completed and both go on their way, dismissing their attraction as nothing of importance. But circumstances bring them together.

Anna tells her brother that she wants to have more fun. That she has a list of things that she wants to do that will fulfill her new motto of laughing more and worrying less but she’s somewhat stalled and so she seeks out her brother for advice.

“I’ve only slept with three men,” she blurted, getting the foul deed over and done with. “And I’ve never had sex outside of a bedroom.”

It was Danny’s turn to stare. “Anna, you’re thirty-two years old. That’s barely one man per decade of your life. And it’s not like you’ve been married or anything. What have you been doing?” he asked.

She could feel embarrassed heat climbing into her face. “Okay, I’m a freak. I was a late bloomer. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was almost out of law school. And I always used to think that there was plenty of time to catch up. Work seemed more important. And saving for the future. And lots of other stupid, nonfun stuff. That’s why I need your help now,” she said.

“Is this about to get really weird?” Danny joked.

Danny suggests that Anna loosen up and seize opportunity where she finds it.

Anna said defensively. “And he’s an arrogant pig, too. I could never have sex with a man I didn’t like.”

“Arrogant pigs are great in bed. Trust me.”

“Danny, all he’s after is sex.”

“Which is so offensive when all you want to do is play tic-tac-toe with him,” Danny said wryly. “Just think about it for a second, Anna. Let yourself go there. You’re an adult, he’s an adult. You both want the same thing. What’s stopping you?”

Marc and Anna inevitably end up having an explosive affair that goes from one night to stand to one night stand. At some points of the “sex only” relationship, it superficially seems that they don’t even like each other much when what is happening is that the two are finding that they can barely be without the other – which is really what they don’t like. I loved the title of this book because both Anna and Marc struggle for control over their own lives, then the others life, ultimately realizing that control is pretty illusory.

Anna’s embrace of life stems out of her real fear of losing it but she’s not able to balance actually living versus her need to control the outcome. This becomes the source of major and seemingly irreconcilable conflict between herself and Marc.

There is a sweet secondary storyline involving Anna’s brother, Danny, a manwhore whose homosexuality has been a secret for a long time. How he decides to come out and his father’s reaction to it is quite lovely. B+

Best regards

Jane

This book is out of print but used copies can be purchased from online vendors and the ecopy can be purchased in the Best of the Makeovers Bundle.

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

7 Comments

  1. Sayuri
    Dec 06, 2008 @ 15:29:31

    Ohh this and the hotel one are the only ones I haven’t read of SM. I looks really good too. Arghhh! I hate this recession.

  2. Moth
    Dec 06, 2008 @ 18:08:40

    I’m going to bold the parts that are bugging me:

    “Anna, you're thirty-two years old. That's barely one man per decade of your life. And it's not like you've been married or anything. What have you been doing?” he asked.

    She could feel embarrassed heat climbing into her face. “Okay, I'm a freak. I was a late bloomer. I didn't lose my virginity until I was almost out of law school. And I always used to think that there was plenty of time to catch up. Work seemed more important. And saving for the future.

    Re: “What have you been doing?” Ok, I’m sure in context this is jokey banter or whatever but to me, this whole exchange just seems really offensive. I’m not a prude and I have no problem with one night stands and no problem with people saving themsevles for marriage. But that’s the point. There is no one right number of sexual partners.

    This exceprt just seems to be swinging the wrong way. A woman shouldn’t be embarassed for being sexually active. But she doesn’t have to be embarassed for not being experianced either. I mean, sheesh! The woman went to law school, she had a career. I don’t think she was “wasting her time” just because she wasn’t collecting notches on her bedpost. This scene is probably not as bad in context of the book but wow. Just wow. And the “catch up” thing! As if there’s a quota of sexual partners you have to meet in your lifetime and you’re some kind of failure is you don’t. This attitude is just really disturbing to me.

  3. Jinni
    Dec 06, 2008 @ 18:15:50

    This was the one of my least favorite Sarah Mayberry books. It’s good for a Blaze, but not her best work.

    I hate to sound like one of those teachers who talks about living up to potential – but I expect more from the better authors. The ones who I know aren’t good – I give a pass.

    @Sayuri – you should sign up for paperbackswap.com. I’m sure my copy as well as many others is posted. If that’s too much trouble e-mail me at jinniblack AT gmail DOT com and I’ll send you my copy.

  4. Jane
    Dec 06, 2008 @ 18:53:41

    @Moth: I can see how this might bother you but for this story, it fit Anna’s narrative. She felt like she had not had the sexual experiences she wanted to have at her stage in life. It was part of her grasping for “life”. It’s part of her maturation process of coming to grips with her illness, her mother’s death, and where she felt she needed to be. Her brother was admittedly a little promiscuous and therefore his attitude toward her sexual stage was appropriate in the book.

    But obviously, if this bothers you, it bothers you. I don’t think that every book needs to affirm one choice over another.

  5. Moth
    Dec 06, 2008 @ 21:18:04

    Re: “I don't think that every book needs to affirm one choice over another.”

    I’m not advocating one sexual attitude over another by any means. Whatever floats your boat as far as I’m concerned. I just find the way this scene reads very problematic when taken out of context.

    Lots of sex, no sex. It’s all good, but don’t shame people for their decisions. To me, this almost seems like shaming her into having more sex. But again, out of context so maybe I’m just overreacting. *shrug* I am a little worried now about the Mayberry on my TBR pile now, though.

  6. Jane
    Dec 06, 2008 @ 22:28:02

    I guess the reason that it didn’t bother me is that I never have found Mayberry to be pushing one sort of sex agenda over another in the course of her books.

  7. Diana
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:22:01

    I haven’t read this one. Thanks for reviewing it. I recently bought Sarah Mayberry’s Below the Belt and Amorous Liaisons. Can’t wait to read those.

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