Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: Island Heat by Sarah Mayberry

Ouf I made it!! Yay!! LOL, I've been meaning to blog... but I didn't get enough sleep this week-end (girls' night on Friday till 5am and reading on Sunday till 2am LOL) and so I've been paying ever since ^_^; It's really hard to stay awake when you don't have energy, let alone string words together in a coherent fashion!! Since I had no Hauling Sunday post last week-end (yep, been a good girl), I was planning to at least get the Monthly Reads post for November done... Yeah, as if LOL. Luckily, I got this one done!! Woohooo! One month down, 11 to go LOL.

Enjoy the review!

Island Heat by Sarah Mayberry
published by Harlequin in March 2008
It's been eight years since Tory Sanderson has seen Ben Cooper- eight years since she found out he seduced her to win a bet with some classmates at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and eight years since she got her revenge...

After fulfilling her dream of publishing a cookbook of island recipes, Tory is thrilled when she's invited on a Caribbean cruise as a guest lecturer. But excitement turns to anxiety when she finds out that Ben, who is now a celebrated restaurateur, will join her as the guest chef.

Ben accepted the guest chef gig in order to enjoy a week of Tory sweating it out in the kitchen. But once the heat starts to climb, getting even turns out to be the last thing on his mind. In fact, picturing a future with Tory in his kitchen might add just the right amount of spice to his life...
Genre: Category romance, contemporary
Series: Mediterranean Nights, Book #10

The Story: The blurb above is really spot-on. I was trying to write a synopsis of the book and it was basically identical to it LOL. So here are some details that are important to the story, but not part of the blurb :)

Tory accepts the invitation as a guest lecturer on the Caribbean cruise not only to share her passion, but also because she hopes to find closure. Eight years ago, Tory lost her twin brother, Michael, who was undercover for the DEA, in a plane crash on the coast of these islands. For eight years, Tory has felt like she lost half of herself... but it is now time to move on and Tory wishes to do so by visiting the place where Michael lived his last few months so happily.

As for Ben, he's going through a tough time. He's just discovered that the baby girl he fell in love with is not is daughter... While the mother is willing to let Ben have a relationship with the baby, Ben thinks it's better if they have a clean break, especially since she's going back to the father. Therefore, to put a little distance between them, Ben accepts the job on the cruise... Of course, he intends to face Tory and have a revenge of his own.

My Opinion: For this month's entry, you can thank Tabitha who sent me Island Heat after she read and reviewed it a couple of years ago :) Thanks Tabs!

Ms Mayberry is a beloved author on blogland and she's one of the reasons why I pick up more category romance to read. But I wonder sometimes if that's a good thing, because it seems my expectations are really high when it comes to her books and well all know that's not always a good thing ^_^;

For me, Island Heat started out well. I really liked the setting - the Caribbeans, the cruise and the kitchen :) It was refreshing, original and it made for a fun atmosphere. Ms Mayberry did a great job incorporating the cuisine aspect into the storyline. I always had a weakness for chefs because it's fun see people so passionate about their work and the chaotic environment. In this case, Ms Mayberry used it to her advantage not only to create a good feel, but also showcased Tory and Ben's differences. They come from a completely different background and their personalities are also polar opposite... but they share their passion and can relate through it.

I also liked our H/H, Tory and Ben. They each had a lot of depth, were well-developed and interesting. The tension between the two felt real and was quite enjoyable. What I liked the most about their relationship is while they did let the past events cloud their judgement, at the end, they were able to work it out like two mature adults. I really liked the parts where Ben realized why he acted the way he did - both in the past and present. Not only he realized it, but also acknowledged and changed his behavior. However, I have to admit Ben annoyed me a little just because he kept changing his mind. One minute, he wants Tory; the next, he doesn't want long-term and then, he's angry at how casual Tory is acting... but happy when he finds out she wants him. Ugh. He reminded me of a wind vane! Seriously, just make up your mind and act accordingly! He was lucky that Tory didn't make it more difficult to win her. Also, I thought their relationship was not very romantic. Perhaps because they had a past and it was a question of clearing the air... To me, it was much more a relationship than a romance...

If Ms Mayberry had focused on the elements above, Island Heat would have been a winner for me. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case. Aside from Ben and Tory working out their relationship, there were also Tory trying to win her father's approval and two other subplots - one concerning Tory's brother and the other about the cruise necklace. Tory's issues with her father were interesting and I think were portrayed in a very realistic manner. Obviously, following in her father's footsteps, she wished for his acknowledgement and that's totally understandable. I just felt bad for Tory that her father never seemed to have taken time to help her, teach her. I'm glad that at the end, Tory worked through her issues and broke free from her father's hold. At the same time, I felt it took away from the ending - it should have been focused on Ben and Tory instead. As it is, I felt the ending was quite rushed :(

The other thing that dimmed my enjoyment of Island Heat is that there were too much going on. I mentioned the two sub-plots. I really think that the cruise necklace plot was superfluous. Not only that, it simply didn't fit the atmosphere of the book either :( I really wished it had not been part of the story, sigh. As for the other subplot with Tory's brother, that one had potential and it worked for me... But it also made me feel the book was unbalanced. It seemed to me it was all about Tory's issues. I understand that not everyone has baggage and I don't require both the H/H to have issues. I'm perfectly good with happy and content characters... but in the case of Island Heat, we know that Ben is going through a tough time with the baby girl that isn't his daughter. That's some issue!! And I would have liked it to be developed instead of glossed over and that's why I felt the book was unbalanced. In addition, one other thing that bothered me was unplanned pregnancies. One is fine, two is stretching it but three?!? Separately, it would have been okay with me, but when you put them all in the same book, isn't that a bit too much?

All in all, there were definitively parts of Island Heat that I liked and really enjoyed. However, it wasn't enough to negate the bad parts... and I wonder if it's because I have such high expectations for Ms Mayberry? Then again, it could simply be the book. I think if I've been more into Tory and Ben's romance, it'd have been easier to overlook the parts I wasn't as interested in.

My Grade: C.