passion rating: hot
For many a woman of my advanced age--50--the mere mention of Harlequin romances engenders painful memories of crappy books with silly covers read in their teens. That's a shame because today Harlequin publishes more than a few really well-written novels. One of my favorite Harlequin authors is the Australian writer Sarah Mayberry. Ms. Mayberry's books feature real people with real problems portrayed with nuance and by excellent prose. I enjoyed her latest, One Good Reason, immensely.
One Good Reason is the story of the bumpy love affair between Jon Adamson (he's the older brother of another of Ms. Mayberry's heroes) and Gabby Wade. Jon, who was abused as a boy, is a borderline alcoholic who sheers away from any and all emotional closeness. He has lived in Canada for many years but has returned to Australia after his father dies in order to finally come to terms with his past and thus be able to define his future. Gabby works for Jon's brother Tyler, a man she lived with for years and whom she left when she realized he'd never really love her. Both Jon and Gabby long for something better than the empty emotional lives they have but both are terrified of the possible costs of commitment to another.
Gabby and Jon don't immediately fall into each others' arms. Gabby thinks Jon's a bounder, not worthy of Tyler's--and the firm's--trust. Jon thinks Gabby is an uptight, judgmental prig. They circle each other warily until they conflagrate first in anger and then in passion. Their initial relationship is almost combatively sexual and both are threatened by the deep seated emotions their encounters elicit.
Sarah Mayberry never shies away from complex issues and in One Good Reason she takes on the scars left by child abuse. Gabby is much quicker than Jon to trust the feelings their connection engenders. Despite having been hurt by Tyler, she is, after a time, willing to offer her heart to Jon. Jon, however, is truly damaged by his abusive childhood. He doubts himself too much to believe he could ever offer a safe and sane future to any woman. He knows he's a good-luck guy women like in bed but he can't see himself as a husband or a father. Gaby, once she falls for Jon, isn't willing to settle for anything less than forever.
I really enjoyed this book. Ms. Mayberry's books feature men and women that--except for being Australian--seem just like men and women I might know. Jon and Gabby are credible characters--both their pain and their passion come across as viable and compelling. When the two finally find their happily ever after, it's one I enjoyed and believed in. If Ms. Mayberry is representative of the Harlequin catalog, I'll happy brave those still pretty silly covers!