The Other Side of Us
By Sarah Mayberry
Publisher: Harlequin (Superromance)
Release Date: January 2, 2013
Musician and sound engineer Oliver Barrett considers himself a happily married man until one day he swaps cars with his wife and discovers that she is involved in an affair with an old boyfriend and has been since six months after she and Oliver married six years ago. Reeling from the mix of anger, grief, and humiliation resulting from the breakup of his marriage, Oliver distances himself physically from his problems by leaving Sydney for the beach house a thousand miles away that he and his older brother have inherited from an aunt. He hopes the time he plans to spend getting the house ready to sell will give him some much needed emotional distance from the events that changed his life.
Mackenzie Williams is a television producer recovering from an automobile accident that almost claimed her life. Mackenzie has retreated to her beach house, next door to the house of Oliver’s aunt, where she is going through the long and painful rehabilitation required by the multiple injuries she sustained. She pushes her body to its limits and sometimes beyond, determined to reach the point where she is able to return to the job that has become her life.
Oliver, a considerate neighbor, introduces himself to Mackenzie so that she won’t be concerned to see evidence of life in the house that has been vacant for a year, but her surliness convinces him that he should avoid her. Unfortunately for his intentions, Oliver’s schnauzer, Strudel, and Mackenzie’s dachshund, Mr. Smith, find each other far more congenial than do their owners. In fact, Mr. Smith turns into a regular escape artist in his pursuit of Strudel, a fact that exacerbates the conflict between the dog owners. It’s not until Oliver helps Mackenzie when her house is inundated by storm runoff that the two establish friendly relations. As they spend time together, the attraction between them grows, but they both have to deal with baggage from their pasts before they are ready to commit to a new life they can share.
Oliver is wonderful—smart and sexy and generous with a sense of humor and a love of music. Add to these qualities his love for his dog, his songwriting skills, and his chestnut red hair, and you have a near perfect hero in my opinion. I adored him from the start. Mackenzie was more difficult to like. While I found her tenacity and courage admirable, I was put off initially by her self-absorption and coldness. But I changed my mind about her gradually, and the ending where she took action rather than meekly accepting Oliver’s fear-motivated choices pushed her high on my list of favorite heroines.
Characters are always the most important element in my response to fiction, and Mayberry is among the very best at creating characters who become real and significant. The choices Oliver makes when he discovers his wife’s infidelity, for example, are choices I can see men I know making in his circumstances. I love that both the hero and heroine are adults who have lived long enough to have experienced life and that their experience includes but is not limited to sex. I love that this is a book about two people developing a relationship not about strangers who fall in lust at first sight and never seem to have anything in common other than desire. And the fact that Oliver and Mackenzie achieve their HEA only after effort on both their parts and that their HEA includes professional and personal success made me want to cheer loudly. Readers who define action in terms of explosions, literal and figurative, may not understand the appeal of Mayberry’s books, but if you read contemporary romance because you are interested in relationships with all their complexities, challenges, and rewards, I highly recommend this book. That’s my usual response to a Mayberry book.
Harlequin Superromance is my favorite category imprint. A number of my autobuy authors write for this line. I was delighted when I learned that beginning in January 2012, the stories in this line would be longer and more complex. And the books I have read have more than fulfilled my expectations. I’ll follow today’s review with other January HSR reviews