This time around, I did follow the monthly theme and picked up a category romance. I knew I had a few by Ms Mayberry that I've never read and thought this would be the perfect occasion to pull one out. So my TBR read is Her Secret Fling by Sarah Mayberry. I'm pretty sure I bought this when it came out... I think that's when the blogging buzz for Ms Mayberry began to be persistent. The truth though is back then, I still wasn't convinced by Ms Mayberry's writing and as I never was a huge fan of the Blaze line, in the TBR pile Her Secret Fling went. Should I be kicking my behind over it? Let's find out :)
published by Harlequin (Harlequin Blaze) in January 2010
Jake Stevens--star reporter and celebrated literary genius--is a snake. How else to explain the way he turns Poppy Birmingham's hero worship into loathing with a single conversation? So what if she's got a lot to learn about journalism? Aren't they coworkers now? On the same team? Jake can take his attitude and... Then during a job-related road trip, their relationship goes from antagonistic to hedonistic in no time flat. And suddenly Poppy can't think of anything more delicious than having a secret fling with Jake. But with all this intensity, can she really keep it no-strings-attached?Genre: Category romance, Contemporary
The Story: Her career as a world-class competitive swimmer over due to a shoulder injury, Poppy Birmingham is looking for a new start. When she gets the offer to join the Herald's sport section as a columnist, she accepts because it will open doors to a new world for her, but also because she'll have the opportunity to work with Jake Stevens - a star reporter and her favorite author. Unfortunately, working with her idol isn't turning out as she imagined, especially since Jake doesn't think she should be at the Herald, having no journalism experience. However, Poppy is determined to prove him wrong and show him that she's a lot more than a jock.
As time goes, Jake has to admit that he was wrong. While it's true Poppy doesn't have the experience, she is working hard and her columns are not as bad as he thought they'd be. Then, because of a strike at the airport, Jake and Poppy are stuck driving back home together from a work trip. As they get to know each other, one thing leads to another... and soon, they embark on a secret fling. Their sexual chemistry is off the chart, but as time goes by and they settle into each other's routine, can this remain simply sex?
My Opinion: It's funny because when I picked up Her Secret Fling on last Friday, I was a bit panicked because the TBR challenge had crept up on me (see opening paragraph :P) and with a busy week-end ahead, time was tight... and then, I proceeded to read Her Secret Fling in one sitting. Yeah... LOL. Anyway, this review is going to be pretty much like the book: short and sweet, because as it turned out, Her Secret Fling was a pretty typical Mayberry category romance, i.e. solid story with interesting characters :)
Let's start with the characters. I actually quite liked Poppy as an heroine. I liked that she took the job of columnist because it opened her to new possibilities. As a star athlete, it would have been so easy for Poppy to fall back on the familiar - becoming a coach, taking an endorsement, etc. Nothing wrong if she would have done so, especially if that's where her heart was... but to change completely of field, it showed Poppy wanted something else and had gumption. Also, she never expected her famous status to carry her. From the get go, Poppy intended to work hard and give it her all which was admirable. It was also good that she was able to stand up for herself against Jake, someone she actually admired. I have to admit, given her swimming and elite athlete background, I expected Poppy to be a bit more confident, self-assured. It actually would have been interesting if Ms Mayberry had shown us more of that side of Poppy as I think it would have made this book stand out a bit more. Then again, starting a new job in a new field, I guess it was enough for Poppy to feel out of the water... literally. The one thing that annoyed me about the character was in the beginning of Her Secret Fling when she starts her job at the Herald and immediately picks up on Jake's cold shoulder behavior. I thought she was being a bit too sensitive and susceptible. Of course, immediately, her feelings are justified ^_^;, but still... I think Ms Mayberry should have been a little more subtle and should have stretched that part of the book a little. As for Jake's character, he was more of an enigma throughout the book. He did get some development, but it was in the latter part of the book and at that point, it felt a bit too late... or too convenient to tie up the romance. However, his background story was actually pretty interesting and I liked how in the end, he started writing again, even if it wasn't a novel. Between, I don't think Jake was wrong feeling the way he was about Poppy getting the job at the Herald. It happens every day, unqualified people getting a job over qualified ones because of status or connection... and at least, Jake was honest and manly enough to admit he was wrong, which I appreciate.
So I liked the characters and enjoyed their romance, or at least, the part where they fell into a routine/relationship. I do think the shift between the "I dislike you" and "let's tear our clothes off" phases happened a bit too rapidly and abruptly. I know Poppy admired Jake and he found her attractive, but the shift would have been more believable if there's been more chemistry, more tension between Poppy and Jake. As much as I enjoyed Poppy and Jake's relationship, I am disappointed that the conflict boiled down to lack of communication and an ultimatum. It seems to be the norm for over half of the contemporary romances nowadays and looks like it was no different 4 years ago ^_^; However, that is more of a personal feeling than a weakness in the writing or storyline.
My Grade: B. All in all, Her Secret Fling was a quick and enjoyable read with good characters... but I'm not going to kick myself for not reading it earlier :)