November 11, 2011

Review: All They Need by Sarah Mayberry

Sarah Mayberry is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors, and one of the main reasons why I love the Harlequin SuperRomance line so much. I wanted to read this book but I was wary about it as well because it deals with a subject that touches close to home: Alzheimer’s. Needless to say this book had me crying from page one, but regardless of how that makes it seem this wasn't an overly dramatic read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The book opens with a party that our hero, Flynn Randall, is attending. Suddenly a woman catches his attention and he is immediately attracted to her. The woman is our heroine Mel Porter, a statuesque, full of life, and very married woman. What comes next has Flynn feeling even more attracted to her and everyone else talking: Mel falls into a fountain while trying to recover a piece of jewelry that someone lost. Mel isn’t embarrassed at all but her husband doesn’t seem happy about it, so they leave the party. Flynn only gets a last glimpse at her.

Flash forward one year later and Mel is a newly divorced woman trying to get her life back and slowly reclaiming everything she lost during her marriage. Her marriage was a very abusive relationship and you won’t find out how truly horrifying it was until almost the end of the book, but just based on what you see at first, Mel has a lot of healing to do.

They reunite when Flynn stays at Mel’s inn. Not only does he remember her, but he still feels the same attraction. Mel is weary of Flynn because just like her ex, he comes from a wealthy family and she thinks that there’s no way for them to be together since they have nothing in common and she doesn’t belong in that world. All those years of psychological abuse have taken a toll on her and she is afraid of what engaging in a relationship with him will do to her. 

Flynn has his hands full. His father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his condition is deteriorating which means that they must make some arrangements in their lives. He had to quit his dream job as a landscaper in order to take charge of the family business, and he just bought a monster of a house and is planning to restore it. Oh! And he also has a girlfriend. As you can see, this won’t be and easy love story.

As I mentioned before, abuse is one of the main topics of the book. I think that when you hear the word abuse the first thing that comes to mind is violence, but we never think about psychological abuse. Now, my guess is that when a person is suffering from actual violence, they are also being subjected to some degree of psychological abuse, how could they not? If someone you love hurts you, that breaks havoc with your body AND your mind. Mel’s husband doesn’t hit her, but he insults her, criticizes her, and talks down on her to the point where she starts to believe him. This was so painful to read because I kept thinking about so many women, men and children living with abuse, and how terrible it is, and worse of all, how difficult it is to break free from it. I think Ms. Mayberry did a great job with Mel because even though she was a victim, she refused to live as one. What happened to her was a big part of her life but it didn’t define her. She was a sympathetic character but never pitiful, her story was painful but uplifting and instead of being depressed I felt happy because it made me feel like you can overcome adversity.

My main issue with the book was that she does a bit of a miraculous recovery at the end of it, and it all comes from a sort of epiphany that she has. I think maybe it would have been best to give her more time, because takes time to get over all those years of constant abuse. That part was a bit unbelievable to me. I was happy to see her get her happy ending but I think her recovery is a work in progress.

The other aspect of the story comes from the hero’s dad suffering from Alzheimer’s. I think it was a spot on portrayal of the condition, and most importantly, of how it affects the lives of everyone involved, especially the closest family members. Two of my grandparents suffered from the disease and I know from experience how terrible this condition is and how hard it is to watch them deteriorate. There’s a part of the book when the hero’s mom says something like if the disease were a person she will hunt it down and kill it, and that’s exactly how I felt. Then there’s the person with the disease. The hero’s dad felt helpless and so afraid, but they are all trying to adapt and try to prepare for what’s to come, and trying to make the best out of it.  The book wasn’t depressing at all despite how sad the situation was, on the contrary, Ms. Mayberry uses the disease to showcase how much this people loved each other, and it made me happy to see that this guy had a loving son and a devoted wife who were there for him.

The love story between Mel and Flynn was sweet and slow. Flynn was such a sweet and understanding guy. Once he realized that he loved her, he was willing to do anything to make her happy. It was harder for Mel to follow her heart because she did it once and things turned out terribly wrong, now she’s traumatized and afraid of losing herself again. It wasn’t an easy road, but there was a lot of love and humor in them, and I honestly believe that love and humor are the key elements to overcome adversity. 

I don’t want to bore you more with this long review so I’ll wrap it up. I just want to say that the book wasn’t perfect, the girlfriend subplot was pointless and made no sense except as a set up for the next book, maybe she will be the heroine, maybe not. The ending was a bit rushed, the heroine complains a lot, and at times the hero seemed too good to be true. But it was a great and touching story, it wasn’t a depressing or sad story despite the seriousness of the themes, and it was very romantic. I think contemporary romance fans will enjoy it and I absolutely recommend it to everyone.

Review by Brie
Grade: 4
Sensuality: McSteamy


After all Melanie Porter has been through recently, it's time to put her dreams first. And she starts by opening a vacation retreat outside of Melbourne. As she considers her next step, the unexpected happens. One of her guests—a friend—the very attractive Flynn Randall makes it clear he's in pursuit. 
Mel is definitely tempted. Who wouldn't be? 
But Flynn comes with strings that could derail her plans. First, he's part of the world she eagerly left behind. Second, he's ready for a commitment, while she's still embracing life on her own. 
A resolution seems impossible until Flynn proves that she's still in the driver's seat!

Harlequin; November 01, 2011.

As a personal note I wanted to share these websites with you, just in case you want to learn more about domestic violence or Alzheimer’s disease. I know that in my particular case reading about other people’s experiences and about the disease helped me and my family a lot.  

If you’re living in a different country some of those sites are available in other languages and I’m sure there must be some local organization that you can look up because sadly, domestic violence and Alzheimer’s disease are everywhere


  1. Sounds like a complex read that's rewarding in the end. I like that the author is not afraid to delve into very serious subjects like abuse and alzheimer's. They certainly affect a lot of people and I'm sure those they affect could appreciate an author trying to relate to what they're going through. Concept sounds good. Nice review!

  2. Great review, Brie. It does seem like a very complex storyline. Do you feel Ms Mayberry is heading somewhere with the last three books? I mean, The Last Goodbye with the hero's father dying... and the abuse. I don't know, I kind of sense a theme...

  3. Hi Jade,

    I appreciate the fact that even though the tone is serious and the issues dark, the book isn’t hard to read or heavy at all! So I think that it’s a good middle ground because when I read a romance I don’t want to feel depressed but sometimes I want something deeper, and with this book I had a bit of both, it was entertaining but also touching.

    Thank nath!

    Yes, you’re right! Her latest books have dealt with some serious issues, and abuse in particular seems to be a recurrent theme but in different situations.

    I think that with this book she’s doing something similar to what she did with her past series, because the ex-girlfriend seems to be sequel bait for the next book…. She isn’t really a secondary character in the story but I can see her as the heroine of her own book. We’ll have to wait and see.

    Thanks guys for stopping by and chat!

  4. This sounds sweet. I agree that jumping into a relationship only a year after an abusive one seems a bit unbelievable but at least it wasn't distracting. Lovely review :)


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