Anticipation by Sarah Mayberry

AnticipationWhy I read it:  I was provided with a review copy via the author.  Disclosure: The author and I are friendly on Twitter and bonded once over a Ted Baker dress.  We’ve met in person too.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Blue Sullivan knows a player when she sees one. And Eddie Oliveira—charm and sex personified—was born to play. She never wanted him to say goodbye, so for the last ten years she’s ignored the sizzling attraction between them and focused on being the best sidekick a guy could have. Smart girl, right?

Then Blue has a serious accident, and overnight Eddie changes. Suddenly he’s more intense and singularly devoted…to her. With all this sexy attention, it’s hard to stay within the boundaries she’s scrupulously drawn. The temptation, the anticipation builds and, finally, she has to have what he’s offering. Of course Eddie proves to be brilliant. Now, she worries he’s ruined her forever…and she might regret leaping from friends to lovers.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I always enjoy Sarah Mayberry books. It’s just a matter of degree.  I liked Satisfaction last year and like many other fans, I too clamoured for Blue’s and Eddie’s story.  They were so close and anyone with eyes could see they were perfect for one another.  When I received the book, I didn’t even bother reading the blurb.  Who needs a blurb when you know you’re going to like the book anyway right?

I think Anticipation is a stronger book than Satisfaction.  It felt more cohesive to me.  I gave Satisfaction a B/B+ so it’s not like I hated it or anything, it’s just that it was a book of two distinct halves.  Anticipation has a smoother feel to the transitions.  Eddie is also slightly less perfect than Rafel and this appealed to me more as well.  Eddie is impulsive and hot-tempered, although he’s rarely a jerk.

When Eddie first me Blue some 10 years before the book begins he hits on her (because of course) and she turns him down flat.  Eddie is something of a player.  That’s not something that offends me about him because he’s honest about it. He has hookups or relationships (one at a time) but they are mostly short-lived.  He hasn’t dated the woman he wants to settle down with yet.  I always thought Blue was a little unfair to Eddie in that way.  When you think about it, every relationship you have fails until one doesn’t (thank you Dan Savage) so if Eddie’s had a lot of girlfriends, what of it?  Sure, things usually end when the girl wants to take the relationship to the next level and Eddie wants to keep things casual.  But that doesn’t seem to indicate a problem with Eddie’s constitution – or that’s not what I default to. It just means he hasn’t dated the right woman for him yet.   As becomes clear through the course of the book, there are in fact reasons for this.

It takes Maggie to point out that Blue doesn’t have a better track record than Eddie in the dating stakes.  In fact, Eddie far surpasses her romantic achievements and Blue’s judgement of him is fairly hypocritical.  It was a refreshing change actually.  She had occasional hookups and the narrative didn’t slut shame her for them.

Blue’s parents died in a car accident when she was only six years old. It was more than a tragic and formative experience for her.  She had no other relatives and spent the rest of her minority in a series of group and foster homes.  Not every foster parent was awful but enough of them were (though I have no trigger warnings to report). There was one thing which happened to Blue which was perhaps a little too angst-ridden. It’s the kind of thing if it happened in real life it would read like a melodrama and I thought it was maybe, just a titch, heavy-handed.

Blue is feisty and strong and prickly.  And she’s good at pushing people away and keeping her distance just the right amount.  An accident causes a crack in her shields and pesky feelings start leeching out.  In particular, feelings for Eddie.  She’s been in love with him for 10 years but only so much and only in secret. She is close with Rafel and Maggie and Lena too but again, only so close.  She is extremely guarded and stubborn.  When Blue’s shield wall collapses altogether, Eddie is delighted and inspired and hopeful.  He has had feelings for Blue too but had kept them in check because he thought she wasn’t interested.

There follows a push/pull as Blue tries to navigate this thing called love.  She tries to put limits on Eddie.  Just one night.  Then no overnights.  Then no dating.  But it’s hopeless because she loves him and he loves her and all her excuses are ultimately about fear of loss.  It’s simple and complex at the same time.  Blue’s fears are grounded in real events. She has had personal experience of the unthinkable happening.  That’s a loss she doesn’t want to ever experience again.  The only way to protect oneself from that kind of loss is to not care that much.  It makes complete sense when you think about it.

Eddie, for his part, doesn’t really go through any character change.  It’s not like he was a manwhore and changes his errant ways.  Or, at least, I didn’t see it that way.  When he realises he has a chance with Blue, he’s all in. Blue is still the same person too but she becomes more self-aware and starts to let people in.  It’s not easy for her and Eddie is patient with her. Mostly.

That said, I thought Blue was too hard on herself late in the book where she lays all their issues at her own feet. Blue’s concerns about Eddie’s past romantic history are not entirely unwarranted. He’s never indicated to her or anyone that he wanted a long term relationship.  It’s not unreasonable for her to think of herself as merely another in a long chain. It fits entirely with Blue’s character.  She sees herself as a person people leave.  Her character rang true to me.

Eddie and Blue are also scorching hot together.  This man has STAMINA!!  (And a really short refractory period. Oh. My. God.)  They have all the chemistry and a strong and long term friendship to build on, so the HEA is rock solid (the best kind).   The story takes place over months, not weeks. It’s not drawn out on the page but it also reflects Blue’s journey which is not something that can happen overnight.  I liked the way the author gave her time while at the same time not making me wade through long sections of the book where they’re not in the same physical spaces.

Because they’ve known each other a long time and because the first time they get together is after a fairly long (for Eddie at least) dry spell (I inferred he’d been tested in the meantime and Blue was tested in the hospital) and they actually do love and trust one another (the question is whether it’s friendship love or romantic love but love is always there), I was able to accept that they could reasonably trust each other on the no condom thing.  But anyone else I’d be giving the side-eye to.

What else? I love that Lena, Rafel’s ex-girlfriend and spanner in Maggie’s works from Satisfaction has not been demonised and she will be getting her story next.  There were a few clues interspersed throughout Anticipation.  I guess they were sequel bait but they flowed well with the story and it was done with a very light hand.  It made me want to read the next book and very curious about Lena without interfering with my enjoyment of Eddie’s and Blue’s romance.  So, well done with that. I think that can be a hard balance to strike.

There are wealth of rabbit holes to travel down when reading the book – proof that research was done and that the book is based in real world contemporary times.  I found myself looking up celebrated tattoo artists and their art and spending way too much time on You Tube watching people dancing the Kizomba.   There is a lovely flavour to the book, the Brazilian culture (and music) in the Melbourne suburbs, both new and familiar to me.

Also, there was chocolate.

The story is ultimately a fairly simple one but the author makes it work by having characters with depth enough that their feelings read as true, not to mention warmth and sex appeal.  I recommend.

Grade: B+

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