Know how you read some authors who have “arrived”? This means that whenever you think on what book sounds good to you, you think, “I think I want to read a Nora Roberts, or maybe a Stephen King. Maybe a Dr. Seuss!” Yeah, that kind of arrived. Sarah Mayberry arrived in that venerable position for me personally years ago, and the other day I was pining for a book to just friggin lift me up, you know? I needed a romantic pick-me-up because some scifi reading just did not do it for me recently and a current favorite series isn’t hitting the spot for me either, unfortunately. To avoid the onset of panic of not enjoying said book as much as I’d like to, I thought, “Self, you need a Sarah Mayberry.” Turns out, when I flipped to the store on my Kindle, I actually needed two.
Her Favorite Temptation
Harlequin Super Romance
january 1, 2013
Blurb via Goodreads:
Two people facing crossroads in their lives discover friendship and love in this touching novella by fan favorite Harlequin Superromance author Sarah Mayberry.
Leah Mathews has always been the good sister, the favored one who could do no wrong. But as her thirtieth birthday looms, she’s ready to step out of her parents’ shadow and make changes in her life. Shes even more inspired by the sexy musician who moves in next door and his seize-the-day attitude. And tempted to take comfort in his arms…
Will Jones is facing the prospect of losing the career he loves–and possibly his life–to a sudden illness. When he meets Leah, he feels a powerful connection to her, and flirting with a smart, beautiful woman seems like the perfect way to spend the weeks before his risky operation.
But as their relationship heats up, Leah still doesn’t know the truth about Will’s situation. Will their bond be strong enough to face the challenges yet to come?
It should be first noted that this book is really more of a short story and it coincides with a more recent release, Her Favorite Rival, which I also had to have. And devour much like this one. Funnily enough, I ended up reading Her Favorite Rival first, but Her Favorite Temptation ended up being my favorite. You can read either book first as their timeline of events is simultaneous.
Leah has been training to be a heart surgeon and now that she’s almost completed the training for a highly stressful career (most notably, one her parents, both doctors, prefer her to have), she’s decided to take control of her life and go for a different field instead, one that truly inspires a passion in her for medicine and helping people. Going against the grain with her parents for the first time in her thirty years, she’s sick with that added stress and the guilt that’s slowly but surely heightened over the years at their collective treatment of her sister Audrey. Feeling in part responsible for her sister’s situation with their parents, Leah tries to make their parents see the light. In the midst of this increasing turmoil in her life, and unhappy at how little she’s in control of her own, she meets an enimagtic man next door, an apartment usually reserved for corporate rentals.
OK, this is really a short story, so before I go off and spoil the entire short goodness of it all, let’s just say I loved it. Now you can go forth and read with complete confidence, right? Pffft, nope. Mayberry continues to excel in the art of engaging the reader emotionally, without being forced, cliched or any of that anti-reading-good times stuff. This is why I keep coming back to her books. Eventually I need to read about characters that care about one another and learn to in realistically evolving ways. Probably my only complaint about doing so in this shorter format is there wasn’t enough time to properly address the parental aspects of Leah’s problems, though the reader is not left clueless about it.
Still, the core of the story, the beautifully rendered romance between Lea and Will, is as solid as you can want it to be in a romance story. What I appreciated about their individual situations was that neither of the two’s problems negated the other. It’s pretty easy to look at someone in Will’s situation and say that his problems are worse, therefore Leah should have nothing to complain about. She’s a successful doctor, after all, she’s extremely smart and to the world she would appear to have everything. Mayberry takes two completely separate sets of problems, though, Leah’s and Wills, and shows how the two of them coming together can make even the most painful or scary life awakenings easier to bear. That the beauty of the human ability to emphasis and care is always an important aspect to practice. I absolutely love how Mayberry manages this every time. Leah and Will’s situation struck the most poignant with me because who hasn’t faced or feared facing the health problems of a loved one?
Her Favorite rival
Harlequin Super Romance
September 3, 2013
Blurb via Goodreads:
A new meaning for office politics Audrey Mathews has worked hard to get here. Now she’s up for a promotion and nothing will stand in her way—including Zach Black. He’s hot, smart and the competition. When they’re assigned to the same project, she’s shocked at how much she actually likes about him and how much she misjudged him.
Before long Audrey is seriously falling for Zach—and indulging in an affair that’s against company policy. And the stakes rise when it’s clear only one of them can get ahead. So where do they draw the line between competition and love? Especially when she doesn’t want to lose either the promotion or the guy .
I actually read Her Favorite Rival first of these two intertwined stories because office romances happen to be one of my most favorite contemporary romance tropes. Leah is facing some strenuous uphill battles at the moment. She’s worried about the safety of her job due to the arrival of a new CEO at her long-time job, Makers, where she’s worked her way up since the age of nineteen in the warehouse. She sees Zach (the Man with the Golden Ass – the story’s words! :D) as her main competition to a promotion and at first steadfastly refuses to cut him an ounce of slack in that department. She knows it’s harder for a woman to succeed in their line of work, so she puts in plenty of extra before and after work hours to make sure she’s noticed. In the process, she has to learn to work with Zach and discovers some things she assumed about him aren’t true. Left with a suddenly crumbling protective facade, she grows in awareness of the younger man.
On the other side of the equation is the ongoing dilemma between her and her family, and then Zach with his. I could say that Zach is the least developed of the two characters, but he actually has just as much time to show the readers why he too is so determined to succeed in life. I think Audrey just had a more relate-able family dynamic for me personally. Whereas Audrey’s differences with her family haunts her just as much as she tries to blow it off, Zach’s problems with his mother have always shaped his romantic relationships to the side of the bad. Much like the story preceding it, Her Favorite Rival shows how two people with very different sets of problems can enable the other to see the best possible outcome in each situation. Leah is a successful adult with every reason to be proud, but a shady teenage past haunts her still. Zach too has a troubled past, and the two help one another see why they can’t continue to let said situations hold them back.
We’re clued into why Lea and Audrey’s parents are the way they are, but I found this to be the only part of either story I wished for a more concrete resolution on, an understanding from their parents more than anything, and I think that’s just the natural kid in me wishing for it. Other than that, I kind of wished these had both been longer books (though to be fair, it’s still amazing how much reading satisfaction is still packed into these stories). There’s a scene or two in Her Favorite Rival that I felt were a little monotonous (the golf tournament being one), maybe a little predictable (the conference events that make Audrey mad) and wished for something a little more exciting to move the story along, but for the most part I was very emotionally satisfied with the main aspects of each story – the romance. I can safely say I’ll be continuing to seek a Mayberry or two or twenty out in the future.