She's Got It Bad, by Sarah Mayberry

>> Sunday, July 19, 2009

TITLE: She's Got It Bad
AUTHOR: Sarah Mayberry

PAGES: 224
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Blaze

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Category romance


Twelve years ago Zoe Ford let Liam Masters break her heart. But now? There's not a chance. Zoe is as tough and wild as they come. So when Liam shows up at her tattoo parlor, she's more than ready to take him on again. That's not going to be a hardship, since he's hotter than he ever was.

This time she's staying in charge. And she's not going to consider their score settled until he's hot, bothered and begging for more! Then she'll move on as callously as he left her. Unless all that deliciously bad sex is just too good to give up….
I've been hearing great things about Mayberry's Harlequin Blazes, and my first try didn't disappoint.

She's Got It Bad tells the story of two characters with a history. After his mother's death, teenaged Liam was taken in by his best friend's family. The Fords treated him like part of the family, and he was happy with them. The only problem was his feelings for 15-year-old Zoe. Liam wanted her, but knew doing anything about it would be a betrayal of these people who'd done so much for him. Zoe, however, had just a big a crush on Liam and no problem with it. When one night she threw herself at him and they almost ended up in bed, Liam knew he had to leave, and did so the next morning.

Years later, Liam runs across a nude portrait of Zoe in an art gallery. Remembering the innocent 15-year-old he used to know, he's convinced she must be in trouble (why else would she be so desperate for money that she feels she has to pose naked, he thinks). He must help her.

However, he gets the surprise of his life when he manages to track her down. The grown-up Zoe is a tough tattoo artist (covered in tattoos herself, of course) , who plays in a trash band and is clearly very sexual and comfortable with it (her on-stage persona, Vixen, delights in sexually teasing her audience). This new Zoe wants nothing from Liam, other than possibly some no-strings-attached sex.

Mayberry walks a bit of a fine line with Liam. His attitude could come across as judgmental, if he wasn't so clearly focused on really helping Zoe and not at all interested on what he can get in return. Technically, of course, there is some judgment there, in his refusal to believe she could actually have chosen her life as it is, but you don't get the sense that he disapproves of her or thinks there is something wrong in her lifestyle. He just doesn't think the Zoe he used to know would have chosen it, and in a way, he is sort of right.

For Zoe, Liam's abrupt departure was the start of a couple of very traumatic years, which have left her psychologically scarred. It's clear to us that while many aspects of her persona are the real Zoe, others are defense mechanisms and a way of dealing with her belief that certains choices are not available to her. There's quite a lot of vulnerability under Zoe's very real toughness, and Liam brings it out. At the same time, Liam carries some baggage from his past himself, and just as he helps Zoe get over hers, she is able to help him right back.

This is a very engrossing 100% character driven romance. Mayberry's writing is smooth, and while this is not a particularly fast-paced book, the pace never drags and you just keep turning the pages. It would have been a solid B+ and only just misses because I didn't believe Liam's baggage as I did Zoe's.



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