Her Secret Fling
Her Secret Fling is a well-written, promising book that only just misses the mark. It starts out with an intriguing conflict and sexual chemistry to spare – and then descends into a plot and conflict that I find particularly annoying.
Poppy Birmingham is an Australian gold medal swimmer forced to retire by a shoulder injury. When she’s invited to write for the sports section of Melbourne’s largest newspaper, Poppy accepts. Though she has no writing experience, she is eager to try something completely different, and she figures her experience as an athlete will provide a unique perspective. One big draw is that her favorite writer, Jake Stevens, is part of the sports staff. She’s read his novel over and over, and has admired his sports writing for years.
Her first meeting with Jake dispels any illusions. He’s rude, and makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t respect her. Everyone else is the newsroom has paid their dues, and he feels she’s skated in on her good looks and gold medals rather than writing ability. He dismisses her comments in staff meetings and makes unkind remarks. But even though they don’t think they like each other, the chemistry is instant. Jake may be a jerk, but he’s the handsomest jerk Poppy’s seen. Their attraction really ramps up when they are stranded in Queensland during a baggage handler’s strike. Forced to share a rental car, Poppy and Jake overcome their dislike. during a late dinner, Poppy makes a throwaway comment about her lackluster sex life and her preference for her vibrator (AKA “George”). One thing leads to another, and soon she’s in Jake’s room, finding out just how exciting an orgasm with a skilled partner can be. A night of hot sex is followed by hot rest-stop sex. But on the way home Poppy finds out that a beloved relative has died. Jake ends up driving her all the way to her family’s home, where he stays part of the night. He leaves awkwardly, and their subsequent meeting in work is even more awkward. But their attraction to each other cannot be denied, and before they know it they find themselves meeting secretly – nearly every day. Though they both desire each other, Jake is very clear that he is not in the market for a relationship; a difficult marriage had left emotional scars, and he just doesn’t see himself “going there” again. Besides, a workplace romance is a really bad idea. If only they could keep their hands off each other.
This book really started out with a bang, in no small part because the conflict was interesting. Jake’s sexy, intriguing, and a bit of an ass. He doesn’t need to treat Poppy rudely, but he also has a point: She hasn’t exactly earned her spot on the paper, at least not in the conventional sense. Poppy gives as good as she gets. She stands up to Jake and doesn’t let him push her around, and she begins to earn the respect of her colleagues. Privately, she isn’t that confident about her writing. It doesn’t come naturally to her, and she works hard to perfect her work (often studying Jake’s writing, since she admires it even when she can’t stand him).
The story was almost pitch perfect – right up until the death of Poppy’s relative. When the conflict shifted from “workplace differences” to “commitment-phobic male” it really lost me. I still liked Poppy, but had almost no patience with Jake. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe everyone else out there just never gets tired of reading about contemporary heroes who aren’t ever going to marry or even date seriously because they’ve had a bad relationship in the past. But I just can’t buy it, particularly when the hero in question has happily married parents (as Jake does). Needless to say, if you find this particular conflict compelling, you will probably enjoy this more then I did.
That said, I would definitely give Sarah Mayberry another shot. In nearly every other respect, I found Her Secret Fling to be both well-written and enjoyable. The chemistry between Poppy and Jake is fun, and the love scenes are romantic. The writing and the pacing is especially good for a series romance.So though the conflict was a miss for me, I still believe Mayberry is an author to watch.