Right up front Sarah Mayberry confesses that Burning Up is all about wish fulfillment. Part of it is the beautiful location, part of it is the delicious food, but mostly it’s about a gorgeous movie star playboy falling for a not-so-gorgeous girl instead of a supermodel. It’s a fun, sexy story from an author I’ve come to rely on for consistently good series romances.
Lucas Grant is an A-list movie star, People’s Sexiest Man Alive, notorious womanizer, and commitment-phobe. The commitment-phobe part isn’t surprising given that he grew up in foster care from the tender age of 4, and was bounced around the system until age 18. This little tidbit, however, is not public knowledge, and Lucas definitely wants to keep it that way. Unfortunately, a reporter has gone digging and has written an unauthorized biography of the mega-star. After realizing that he can’t stop the release of the book, Lucas is so upset that he injures himself in a little episode involving his foot and a groupie’s thong (don’t ask). Needing to escape the coming public scrutiny and recuperate in peace, he decides to spend his downtime at a friend’s mountain retreat.
Sophie Gallagher is the head chef of Sorrentino’s, an Italian restaurant owned by her fiancé’s family. Sophie has been with fiancé Brandon since the age of 16, when she got together with him shortly after her sister’s untimely death. She’s worked at Sorrentino’s her entire career. She watches the same movies repeatedly. In short, her life is predictable and boring. After fourteen years together, Brandon calls it quits. Sophie is understandably upset and decides to take the job as personal chef for Lucas Grant at the Blue Mountain estate. It will give her a month to clear her head before having to find a new job and a new place to live.
Up in the mountains, Lucas is going stir crazy. He’s not used to being alone with nothing to occupy his time. But after he gets a good look at Sophie — or, to be more exact, her breasts and butt — he thinks that maybe he’ll have a way to amuse himself after all. Sophie, of course, wants nothing to do with the notorious playboy—not after everything she’s read about his exploits. Sure she’s attracted to him (she has eyes, doesn’t she?), but she’s not going to act on that attraction. So Lucas finds himself in the unusual position of actually having to try to get a woman into bed, and he’s not a little bit intrigued by Sophie’s down-to-earth personality.
Sophie eventually decides to act on her attraction in order to inject some fun and unpredictability into her staid life. She has no illusions about this affair being anything other than casual; she doesn’t even consider Lucas to be relationship material. And Lucas is only interested in a fun distraction. But what begins as a no-strings-attached affair eventually becomes not-so-casual as their feelings for one another intensify.
Lucas helps Sophie rediscover that long dormant wild side, and Sophie gets to know the man beneath the playboy exterior. Lucas’s insecurities and fear of abandonment rang true given his childhood, and Sophie tries to tackle these emotions head on. Of course Lucas doesn’t just get over his fears easy-breezy. No, he fights his feelings and acts like a real jerk. But if he didn’t fight so hard in the first place, would his eventual surrender be so gratifying?
While the casual-affair-turned-serious plotline isn’t new to series romances by any means, not a lot of authors write this evolution as effectively and enjoyably as Mayberry does. Burning Up is a charming story with engaging characters — the author even manages to turn an arrogant, conceited playboy into a sympathetic hero who grovels with the best of them.
Really though, it all comes back to the fairy-tale: the regular girl who tames the bad boy movie star, and lives happily ever after. Would I believe it in real life? Not a chance — I’m cynical that way. But I sure had fun escaping into the fantasy. I recommend Burning Up for some time when you just need a little wish fulfillment.