Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Review: One Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry

One Good Reason
By Sarah Mayberry
Publisher: Harlequin (Superromance)
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Four and a half Stars

Sarah Mayberry is writing some of the best contemporary romance available, and she’s doing it in category romance. One Good Reason features Jon Adamson, the older brother of Tyler Adamson, hero of The Last Goodbye (February 2011). Jon has spent the past ten years in Canada where he owned a successful construction business specializing in high-end housing. After the death of his abusive father, he has returned to Australia to work in his brother’s furniture design business.

Gabby Wade is the office manager in his brother’s company. She loves her job, but she has spent the past four years in an emotional limbo, never moving past the fact that her three-year relationship with Tyler ended because he could not give her the trust and openness she needed, the trust and openness he has given so freely to the woman he married.

From the moment they meet, Jon and Gabby clash. She finds him rude and insensitive, and she’s concerned that he may be taking advantage of Tyler. He thinks she’s humorless and defensive, with the looks of a sexless teenager and enough attitude for a dozen of her size. Clearly, they are destined to fall madly in love, and they do, but only after a journey filled with laughter, poignancy, hot kisses, and heartbreak.

Mayberry’s books are relationship stories about adults who have histories, flaws, and dreams. Gabby’s mother and sister are not characters in the book; neither is Jon and Tyler’s father. But all of them are part of the stories of these two people, and in only a few words, Mayberry reveals a great deal about the family connections. Gabby’s easy friendship with the guys in the shop, her somewhat surprising close ties with Tyler and Ally, and Jon’s relationship with Tyler are major threads in the story, but they add to rather than distract from the growing relationship between Gabby and Jon.

Jon’s history as an abused child is not merely a ploy to win sympathy for a self-contained and taciturn hero. The guilt that has tortured him for all his adult life, his struggle with alcohol, his determination to avoid long-term relationships that require responsibility and commitment—all of these are the result of the physical and emotional abuse endured by the boy he was. While Gabby’s past is less painful than Jon’s, it is equally clear that her prickly independence is the result of having been brought up by a mother determined to teach her daughters to be self-reliant in all situations.

One scene in particular illustrates what sets Mayberry apart from many writers I have tried and given up on. Early in the novel, Gabby makes a misstep on a ladder, and Jon is there to grab the ladder and Gabby: “A bare five seconds of contact. Long enough to tilt her world off its axis.”

I have seen similar scenes turn into instant realizations of one-of-a-kind, never-ending love, and I’ve seen them turn into steamy, never-before-experienced sex.  Instead Mayberry turn it into a moment of insight for Gabby.

“I don’t even like him.

But she was wise enough in the ways of the world to understand that sometimes it wasn’t about liking the other person. Sometimes it was about pure animal attraction. And apparently, whether she liked it or not, the animal in her was attracted to the animal in him.”

Later Gabby learns to like Jon and still later she admits she loves him. There’s also plenty of steamy sex later, including a sizzling desk-top scene, but the sex, the liking, and the love are all part of a credibly developing relationship between these two people.

I’m always bothered when a reviewer raves about a book and then fails to give it the highest possible grade, so I’ll add that I gave One Good Reason 4.5 rather than 5 stars because in every scene with Gabby and Ally being “just us girlfriends,” I was saying to myself “Really? Gabby slept with her husband for three years and now the two women are best friends?” The question of jealousy that cuts both ways is briefly addressed once, but the girlfriend scenes pulled me out of the story nonetheless. But that’s a minor flaw in a book I loved. There’s another Mayberry book, All They Need, scheduled for release November 1, and I can’t wait to read it.

I must add that if you have never read a Harlequin Superromance, August is a great month to give one a try. One Good Reason is the only release I have already read, but three more of my favorite Super authors have August releases: Karina Bliss, Stand-in Wife; Helen Brenna, Her Sure Thing; and Beth Andrews, Feels Like Home. Brenna and Andrews are Rita winners, and Bliss’s What the Librarian Did was on many Best of 2010 lists (including mine).

Do you read categories? What are your favorite lines? Favorite authors?


quantum said...

Interesting Janga!

I do remember my old headmaster (who studied under Rutherford at the Cavendish ) used to say 'Fear the man who knows one book'

I discovered the wisdom of this when submerged under textbooks on nuclear physics as an undergraduate! and have rediscovered it in later years, especially when dabbling in new subjects!

I rarely trust advice without evidence of quality. In general I will listen carefully to advice from someone who has achieved success and will then assess and test if possible before adopting it. What is good advice for one person can be totally wrong for another! *grin*

Thanks for the review of Sarah Mayberry's forthcoming book. I have read some of her work and liked it. I particularly enjoyed 'Below the belt' about women's boxing and your assessment of 'One Good Reason' rang true in my memory. *smile*

I have a couple more waiting to be read but will add 'The last goodbye' to the 'TBB' (to be bought) list as it seems it should be read before 'One Good Reason'

Janga said...

Q said, "What is good advice for one person can be totally wrong for another!"

A good reminder, Q, for writers as for others. I'm generally suspicious of claims that there's only one way to do something.