January 8, 2013

Review: The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry


Happy New Year! To start the year with a bang I’ve chosen a great book, because the first post of the year should be all about the good books, right? I’m excited to be back, and I’m very happy to see you all.

The Other Side of Us by Sarah MayberrySource: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I’m running out of original ways to explain why Sarah Mayberry is one of my favorite authors. So I’m going to skip the obvious and go directly to the review.

The Other Side of Us is the story of two people dealing with emotional and physical wounds. Oliver was crushed when he learned that his wife cheated on him throughout their whole marriage, and Mackenzie was crushed, literally, during a car crash. They are struggling with pain and with the fact that the life they had envisioned is over. She deals with it by being cranky and living in a denial that forces her to push her body until it has nothing left to give, while he does it by being sad, depressed and feeling emasculated.  All they want to do is hide and be alone, but life –and their dogs-- have different plans, and they end up meeting and, after terrible first, second and third impressions, falling in love.

I think this is Ms. Mayberry’s more understated romance. It’s almost completely devoid of angst and external conflict because Oliver and Mackenzie are mature people who actually know themselves and think before reacting (or immediately after). It’s a love story between two intelligent adults who must figure out a new life for themselves individually as well as together. I’m sure some will find it boring, but to me it was perfect.

As in any other genre, Romance often has strict expectations for its heroes, and their characters must follow certain rules in order to be heroic and romantic. When these heroes don’t follow the norm or don’t behave or look the way we expect, we label them as beta or unconventional. But the real heroic traits can be found in normal men, who incidentally make for complex, layered characters, and when a hero makes me feel like I could love someone like that in real life, the author should get extra brownie points, because Romance heroes are great for fantasies, but real life is a whole different kettle of fish. Oliver is someone I could love in real life. 

I’m less sure about Mackenzie, though. Her personality is somewhat grating, and the shift from the obsessive focus to regain her old life to the acceptance of her new limitations, was almost magical. The transition happens suddenly, and in a book where subtlety is everything, her change of direction was clashing. That being said, she is the one who holds the power in the relationship, not only in terms of sex and romance, but also economically. In fact, the role reversal is one of the most interesting aspects of the novel. If both characters were described without mention of gender, and based on genre conventions, I would probably identify cranky, successful, damaged Mackenzie as the hero, and sweet, betrayed Oliver as the heroine. 

These two characters are nearing 40, have reached financial independence, and are committed to being committed, meaning that they want to be in a relationship, and want to make it work. Yet there’s not even a mention of babies or kids in general. I wanted to cry with baby-less joy. Maybe they will have kids, maybe they won. The absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, so even though they don’t talk about it, it doesn’t mean they don’t want it. But their happiness isn’t tied to the kids they will eventually have, and I found it refreshing, especially considering this is a category romance. 

In case you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and was completely charmed by the lovely romance and interesting characters. Some will find it slow, or think the characters are too old, or that nothing really happens in it, but it gave me a lot of joy.

Review by Brie
Grade: 5
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

The best thing between Oliver Barrett and Mackenzie Williams is a fence. Ever since Oliver's new-neighbor gestures were met with unfriendly responses, he's decided to keep his distance. After all, he's in this seaside town to get his life on track again. That doesn't include working hard to get on Mackenzie's good side—no matter how intriguing she may be. His intentions are put to the test, however, when his dog becomes infatuated with hers. The two crafty canines do their best to break down the barriers between the properties. And where the dogs go…, well, the humans must follow! It doesn't take long for a powerful attraction to build between Oliver and Mackenzie. They soon discover that the worst of first impressions can lead to the best possible outcomes.

Harlequin Superromance. January 01, 2013…

11 comments:

  1. I’m sure some will find it boring, but to me it was perfect.

    I fall on the boring side. I mean - I wasn't bored to tears or anything. I had no problem finishing it. But I felt like something was missing in this one. It didn't engage me like her previous books

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    1. I see where you're coming from, which is why I wrote that part about some finding it boring. I think that to me, part of why I liked it so much was because it has elements that I'm always wishing to see more of in the genre, and I was engaged from page one. It's a bit like the new Courtney Milan that everyone loved but I didn't; the parts are there, they just didn't work for me and I was ultimately quite bored. But in this case, I had the opposite experience.

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  2. Hi Brie, I absolutely loved your review. I've never read any Sarah Mayberry, but this one is definitely going on my TBR pile. I particularly liked: the way you desicribed the interesting role reversal; the way you said the Oliver is an ordinary guy yet still someone you could completely fall in love with; the warning that some might find the book boring; and the fact that you wanted to cry with baby-less joy. Great comments that actually told me loads about the book. I'm always looking for romance review sites I can actually relate to (not the "This 5-star book is awesome!" type) and your website on my list of favourites.
    www.helenafairfax.com

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    1. Thank you, Helena! I'm glad the review was helpful, because that's the point, right?

      And now I'm honored and feel so special, like I should be wearing a crown or something.

      I hope you enjoy the book, and when/if you find the time to read it, come back and let me know how you liked it!

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  3. This is a great review! I'll be adding it to my Goodreads list. Thanks!

    Warmly,
    Meg

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    1. Thank, you Megan! As I told Helena, enjoy and let me know how you like it.

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  4. A lovable realistic hero? Sounds like an interesting hero. Glad this one worked for you despite the story and characters being toned down.

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    1. I think it didn't work despite the understated story, it worked *because* of it. I think you will like it, Jade. It's so good and romantic.

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  5. Oliver was a doll wasn't he? :)

    I enjoyed this one too, although not *quite* as much as you. Partly it was because I noticed some things only people who work in my industry would notice I think. Not at all a big deal for other readers but a little jarring for me. Still, I did really appreciate that babies weren't an issue in this book and the epilogue wasn't sparkly fertility fairies! :D

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  6. I was wondering which one of her books to read next, and now I know. I do like a quiet story, one that takes its time developing. This sounds good!

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  7. Ahhh, so glad you loved this one :) Unfortunately for me, I didn't enjoy it as much as you did. I have to agree with Mandi, for me, I thought something was missing. It's great that it was focused on internal conflicts and I think that Ms Mayberry does that very well, but I don't know... I feel it could have been more. I also feel like things were forgotten such as Mackenzie's therapy and so on. Will still pick up Ms Mayberry's next book though :) hopefully, it comes out soon!

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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.