Her Favorite Rival by Sarah Mayberry
published by Harlequin (SuperRomance)
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.Genre: Category romance, Contemporary romance
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 .
Series: Connected to Her Favorite Temptation
The Story: Audrey Mathews and Zach Black both work as buyers in the merchandising department of Makers Hardware. They know that they are each other's competition for the next promotion; Audrey has the experience and Zach, the education... and both want it badly. For Audrey, it's proof that she's put her life back together after some tumultuous teenage years where she ran away from a family that could provide everything to her. As for Zach, it's an indication of how far he's come in life, how much he's overcome given his underprivileged background and the poor hand he's been dealt in life. However, when the new CEO shows up, all bets are off and first, they have to weather through the new changes. Then, they have to put aside their rivalry in order to put together a competitor analysis - the perfect opportunity to show the new administration their worth. As the barriers between them come down, Audrey and Zach find that they actually like and are attracted to each other... but what about the promotion?
My Opinion: Ever since Her Best Worst Mistake, Ms Mayberry has been on my auto-buy list of authors and I look forward to her new releases, especially the SuperRomance ones. What I like about her books is that they are always very different from one another - the characters, but also the premises. So when I read the blurb of Her Favorite Rival, I was curious to see what would happen, how would Audrey and Zach juggle a budding romance and their ambitions. So when Her Favorite Rival was available on Netgalley, I did not hesitate to request it :)
Not surprisingly, Her Favorite Rival turned out to be an enjoyable read :) Once again, Ms Mayberry did a very good job with the characters, making them interesting and complex. I especially liked Zach and totally understood why Audrey was drawn to him LOL. Who wouldn't fall for a charming, handsome and successful man who raised above the circumstances and made a good life for himself? In addition, what Zach achieved and the way he handled his mother's situation are both admirable and speak volumes about his character. I thought his emotional conflict concerning his mother was very interesting and loved that Ms Mayberry developed on it, loved that she actually had the guts to address it as it's quite a sensitive matter. What I liked about the way Zach handled the situation is that it shows that he feels, that there is someone under the sophisticated veneer. Zach had to detach himself from his mother in order to cope, but at the same time, didn't completely give up on her. All these years, he kept taking care of her and part of it was duty, another part was to make himself feel better, but deep down, I think it's because he cared and loved her. To me, Zach was such a great character... and as a result, I found it hard to root for Audrey. In the story, Audrey's parents are both doctors and while it doesn't equate a perfect, loving life, they were at least able to provide her a comfortable life. However, in her teenage years, Audrey ran away from home to be with her boyfriend and lived on the streets for eighteen months. She craved her parents' love and attention and since she couldn't get it from them, she got it from her boyfriend. She made a mistake and is still paying for it now as her relationship with her parents isn't the greatest and I feel for Audrey... It sucks that you've made one mistake (albeit a big one ^_^;) and after all this year, are still held accountable for it, even though it's obvious that Audrey has turned a new leaf. They made her feel guilty and inferior and it's not something you should ever feel in the company of your parents. However, in comparison with Zach, deep down, I can't help but think Audrey is reaping what she sowed. She's the one who had all the opportunities and blew it and therefore has to live with it. I have to commend though that most of the time, she does which is good... but there are some occasion, she doesn't and I didn't like her then... For example, she was so judgmental of Zach when she thought he was born with a silver spoon and that really pissed me off. Not because it wasn't true, but because what right did she have to be jealous of him because he supposedly had it all handed to him while she had to do it the hard way? Technically, the reason she had to do it the hard way is her own fault! I'm not sure I'm explaining myself well, but in any case, you get the gist, Audrey bothered me a little. That and her wishy-washy attitude at times.
When it comes to Audrey and Zach's relationship, I liked it because they both displayed so much maturity. They could handle being lovers and co-workers and there was no stupid drama or misunderstanding. Once they got to know each other, they admire and respect one another and that was nice to see, refreshing. I liked that both applied for the promotion and that they were supportive and rooting for one another. It was nice that the competing for the same position wasn't the crux of the story or the romance :) However, as much as I liked the relationship, I feel the romance was a bit bland exactly because there was no crux ^_^; I don't mean that I wanted Ms Mayberry to take that direction because I'm glad she didn't transform Her Favorite Rival into a typical story... but at the same time, there was no spark, no conflict, no omph to be found. Audrey and Zach's romance just seemed to happen, as if they were two pieces falling into place, that even a little bit of banter or flirtation between the two would have lifted it up... And the writing style didn't help because I feel we were told more than shown. Come to think of it, Her Favorite Rival was very low in conflict. Ms Mayberry created characters with very complex background and circumstances, but none of their baggage was resolved... There's not much that could be done with Zach's situation, but I would have appreciate more closure for Audrey's relationship with her parents and sister.
One other issue that I had with Her Favorite Rival is Audrey's complete change of attitude when she found out about Zach's background. Initially, Audrey thought that Zach came from a privileged background based on his lifestyle and clothing and so, she thought he skated through life, that everything has been handed to him. However, when she found out that it was actually the opposite - that he came from a very poor neighborhood and had to work for everything, her opinion of Zach completely changes. Suddenly, she gains respect for him... It really bothered me because I'm not sure of the message Ms Mayberry is trying to convey. Of course, Zach having to work for everything makes his accomplishments even more impressive and admirable... but had he been from a privileged background, would it negate everything? Does it mean he wouldn't have to have work hard to get in the position that he was in? Okay, yes, it does happen that some rich kids get the position because of their family name... but say Zach was rich and had had worked hard to get where he was, wouldn't it still have been commendable? Is having money wrong? So yes, I was very annoyed with Audrey's reaction and honestly, it didn't endear her to me.
So yes, I did have some issues and complaints about Her Favorite Rival, but despite them, I still liked the book. If you want to read about two interesting and mature H/H, you'll want to pick this one up :) Plus, it is Ms Mayberry after all :)
My Grade: B-. Another enjoyable book from Ms Mayberry, but not a favorite.