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.
Anna 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+