Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry

Why I read it: I'm a fan of Sarah Mayberry books and when I saw Dear Author had a review up (which I haven't actually read yet) it reminded me that I hadn't bought this one yet.  So I rectified that, stat.  After the previous book I finished reading, I felt like a reliably good contemporary so I opened it up.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  The definition of a happy man? The guy who knows exactly what he wants and has it. That's Harry Porter. He's got the perfect job, the best buddies and no commitments beyond the next good time. It's the ideal life.

Then he stops to help Pippa White when she's stranded by the side of the road. He's known—and liked—her for a while, but as the ex of a friend, she's entirely off-limits. And as fun as the banter with her is, Harry knows single moms are out of his league.

So why all the excuses to see Pippa again…and again? And why can't he stop thinking about her? But most puzzling of all is how Harry suddenly wants to swap a night with the boys for one with
only Pippa!

What worked for me (and what didn't): How unusual is it to have working class main characters?  Pippa is struggling to finish her teaching degree and working part time in a gallery as well as raise her 6 month old daughter.  Money is tight.  Harry is a mechanic.  No billionaires or CEO's in sight.  It was a refreshing change to see a couple who could have grown up down the road from where I did get their own story and HEA.  The depictions are realistic - I grew up at the lower end of the socio-economic scale and this felt familiar to me.   Also, my best friend from school married a mechanic. (He still fixes my car).

It was also nice to see a couple in their thirties.  Not all that much was made of their ages - Pippa is even a whole year older than Harry and it wasn't featured at all in the story arc.  I didn't get married until I was nearly 31 so again, I can relate.

Harry likes to be unencumbered - and not just relationally.  Over the course of the book, Harry realises that maybe it's time to re-evaluate the whole "footloose and fancy free" deal.  His father owns a workshop - Harry did his own apprenticeship there but he has never wanted the hassle of owning his own business and so after he finished his apprenticeship, he deliberately sought work elsewhere.  He's made it clear for years that he doesn't want the burden of the workshop.  When Harry's father decides to take yes for an answer however, Harry is surprised how this makes him feel.  There were a number of things in the story pushing Harry to change, not just his relationship with Pippa.  He sees his best mate Steve in a new light (and yeah, okay that indirectly has something to do with Pippa, but...), his thoughts about his employment future.  These things, combined with Pippa, seeing how she has had to embrace "being a grown-up" because of her daughter; all these things have an impact on Harry.    

Pippa doesn't change much through the story.  She falls in love but there isn't much by way of character growth required.  It is Harry who has to shift to be HEA material.  I love stories like this because I'm mostly all about the hero.  Harry is always a good guy - he doesn't treat people badly or lie to women about what he's up for but, essentially, he has to grow up and realise that there's more to life than being Peter Pan.  And, over the course of the book, he finds that those things are things he wants.  That it's time.   I spent enough time in Harry's head that I understood and believed his progression.

Pippa deals with the realities of single-parenting and she's not blind to the relationship-killer that a small child can be.

Alice was utterly dependent on Pippa, and if listening to her daughter cry made Harry break out in hives and want to shimmy out the window on a rope made of sheets…well, this was going to be the shortest-lived inappropriate affair in the history of the world.
Fortunately Harry is not fazed by a crying child and neither she, nor I, had to hate him.

Harry is good with his hands - he can tune up cars and women (especially Pippa) with equal ease.  I love a good handyman, don't you? :)   The build up of sexual tension was fun and the scene where Pippa gets an eyeful of Harry's crotch when he's on a ladder fixing her ceiling was hilarious.  Come to that, there is a bit of physical humour in the book which I enjoyed - not over the top slapstick, but the sort of thing that actually happens (not that I'm admitting anything, mind you).
He frowned, then entered the room fully. She slid farther away, instinctively wanting as much distance between herself and the source of her humiliation as possible, only to overbalance and slip backward into the tub. Her head hit the wall behind the bath with a thunk and she wound up with her ass in the tub and her legs bent over the side. She pressed her palms to her face.  
If the world exploded in a ball of fire right this second, she would be grateful and happy. She wanted to die.
I got the impression that Pippa isn't a stick figure.  Not a lot is made of her physique in the book.  She is large breasted and full bottomed and I got the impression of  an average woman, complete with a belly and everything.  Harry doesn't notice any physical flaws and Pippa doesn't have a poor body image, so it wasn't a big deal.  I like the idea of a heroine who might have a bit of cellulite.  It is somehow comforting.

One thing I did notice in this book (and actually, also in Within Reach) was the Pippa didn't seem to have any close female friends.  I'm not sure if it is more about the category word count, but it struck me as a little odd that she wouldn't have a close female friend or two.  Instead, apart from her mother, Pippa was very much alone, until Harry comes along.

Steve is a piece of work but Ms. Mayberry does manage to show his motivations.  While they don't make him any less of a douche, it did provide context and dimension to his character.  I wondered whether Harry would adopt Alice at some point and what that might do to his friendship with Steve.  And, speaking of Steve, it wasn't quite clear to me how Harry and Steve were going to manage their friendship going forward.  That's okay, the story wasn't about Steve and Harry after all, but even though there was some resolution between them about Harry hooking up with Steve's ex girlfriend and the mother of his (heretofore unacknowledged) daughter, the mechanics of it were unspecified and it was something I was curious about.    I grew up in a working class suburb and I'm sure this kind of thing actually happens.  

What else? I really need to read All They Need now because that features Harry's sister Mel and it is apparently where he first appeared.  Mel and Flynn made important cameos in this book and I'm curious about their story.  Note to self:  dig it out of Mr. TBR.

Grade:  B+


Marg said...

I need to read this. I really liked Mel and Flynn's story and the ordinary people feel!

Kaetrin said...

@Marg - I'm the reverse - I need to read Mel & Flynn's book! :)