Violet Sutcliffe has never had any time at all for Martin St Clair, who is engaged to her best friend Elizabeth. He’s stuffy, uptight, boring and cares only about networking his way to the top of his prestigious and equally stuffy law firm and presumably towing Elizabeth along for the ride. She’s never made any secret of the fact that she doesn’t like him and she knows that she draws his contempt as well.
Martin thinks that Violet is too loud, too flirtatious, too flashy in her dress and overall just far too much in general. He’s tolerated her purely for Elizabeth’s sake and when Elizabeth calls off their wedding and heads to the other side of the world, Martin and Violet come to the realisation that they need never see each other again. For both of them, this is quite a surprise – they are both a bit…disappointed.
When Violet hears that Martin’s attempt to retrieve Elizabeth from Australia and bring her home as failed, she takes him a peace offering, feeling a bit sorry for him in his loss of Elizabeth. After all, she was the one thing that was special to both of them, so she finds herself suddenly sympathetic to him. Martin doesn’t want her pity though – it’s soon quite obvious that he wants something else entirely, the back-and-forth insulting banter sparking a rather explosive sexual attraction.
Before long, Martin and Violet are seeing each other every day. It started off as a crazy, wrong one night stand but neither of them could forget it and the next time they saw each other, at the home of mutual friends, both of them almost buckled under the weight of the sexual tension. Despite the fact that Violet feels as though this is something she’s been waiting her whole life for, the very thing she was urging Elizabeth to get out there and find, she’s crippled by guilt. Because although her best friend may be on the other side of the world, she’s everywhere as well, in Violet’s thoughts. Violet can’t believe she keeps betraying Elizabeth like this, but she can’t resist Martin.
As things escalate with Martin, from them just meeting up for sex to spending nights together with him cooking for her, Violet can’t help but swing between depression and elation. Even though she and Martin are chalk and cheese, somehow their opposites attract has sparked the best thing that’s ever happened to her in regards to men. But the other best thing that’s ever happened to her, her friendship with Elizabeth, looms in the background. Violet knows that she’s going to have to confess and she’s terrified that it could mean losing Elizabeth, just like she’s lost everyone else.
As soon as I saw Marg add this to her Goodreads, I knew I wanted to read it. It sounded so fun because there’s something about an uptight, very conservative guy who ends up being bewitched by an overconfident and sassy woman. Marg suggested I read Hot Island Nights first and I did and enjoyed it but ultimately, I was looking forward to this one and it wasn’t a disappointment.
The books basically run parallel, they begin at roughly the same point and continue on, the only difference being that this one takes things a little further past the end of Hot Island Nights. So while Elizabeth is meeting Nathan and hooking up with him in Australia, in this one we get to see what’s been happening with Martin back in England. Despite the fact that Elizabeth ended their engagement, called off the wedding and ran off to Australia, it seems that Martin and Violet cannot stay away from each other, even though they really shouldn’t have had any more contact. Previously when they’d been in the same room, they’d been unable to help themselves issuing little barbs about the other. Martin has worked himself up from a very poor background into privileged society, graduating with a law degree and gaining a job at a well reputed firm. Violet on the other hand, was born into privilege but now shuns it for reasons of her own. She dresses provocatively, she says what she thinks and she had all the benefits he didn’t and turned her back on them.
Somewhere along the way their fiery contempt and condescending disdain turned into an attraction, promoting panic in Violet because of the fact that she believes she’s done Elizabeth a terrible wrong. Even though nothing happened until after Martin arrived back from Australia, trying to get Elizabeth to come home, Violet is still wracked with guilt. Martin was once Elizabeth’s and Violet thinks that once Elizabeth finds out, she’ll cut Violet out of her life. So she doesn’t tell her, sitting quietly on it every time she speaks to Elizabeth, even as she’s falling in love with Martin and realising that this could be so much more than just an affair, it could be the one relationship that is meant to be.
I loved Violet and I loved Martin. I thought they were so perfect together and I really enjoyed their transition from disliking each other to finding themselves within the perfect relationship. Violet is fun and full of sass and confidence and Martin, whilst conservative and ambitious, and yes, a fraction uptight, is still wonderfully complex. They’re both much more than they first appear and they were just so incredibly compatible. It was funny and kind of heart-warming to see them learn important things about the other that help redefine their opinions and preconceptions of each other. The natural way in which they slide from purely sexual ‘hook-ups’ into an actual relationship is so smooth and well written that like the characters themselves, you almost don’t notice.
It’s possible that a woman hooking up with her best friend’s ex-fiance might’ve bothered me in certain scenarios but not this one. Martin and Elizabeth are so totally wrong for each other and perhaps the fact that I read Hot Island Nights first and know that not only is it Elizabeth that ends things, but that she also finds her own much more suitable happy ever after, helped smooth the way. I did really like and sympathise with Violet’s dilemma about her friendship with Elizabeth, which was one of the most important things in the world to her, but ultimately her budding relationship with Martin was becoming just that too. I think that Violet and Elizabeth had a truly lovely and unique friendship and that ultimately, whilst Violet’s fears were not unfounded, her past coloured the way in which she expected Elizabeth to react in a big way.
Interesting that Sarah Mayberry chose to self publish this one – she has plenty of novels under her belt, close to 30 I think, published in various Harlequin lines. I think it was an experiment of sorts as she originally thought that Martin and Violet’s story would only really be the size of a novella, (from her blog post here) but it ended up being about the size of a book. You can buy it from Amazon and Smashwords (you’ll need to have your filter for adult content disabled) and for $2.99 I think it’s easily well worth it! I can highly recommend this one as a fun, spicy read with really well thought out and written characters.
Book #90 of 2012
Her Best Worst Mistake is the 33rd novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012