All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Within Reach – Sarah Mayberry

Within Reach
Sarah Mayberry
2012, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Angie Bartlett had a special friendship with Billie. They’d been best friends for twenty years, ever since they were at boarding school together. They’d been through a lot together but their lives had gone in very different directions. Billie had married Michael and had two beautiful children. She was a bit of a free spirit, a celebrator of birthdays, a lover of trying new hobbies even though nothing ever stuck. Angie was still single at thirty-two, passionately dedicated to her career as a jeweler, creating beautiful, original pieces. She’s always been a part of Billie’s children’s lives and has gotten on well with her husband Michael.

Then tragically, Billie loses her life on what should have been her thirty-second birthday. Angie is deep in her grief, 10 months passing without the pain easing. She realises, on a routine visit to Michael and the kids that Michael is not coping with the loss of his wife and that things in their household have descended into a bit of chaos. Angie is desperate to help, she knows that Billie would hate to see Michael and her children this way and she does her best to step in, motivate Michael to get back to work and get out of the house and begins also watching the children for him when she can in order to help with stability in their lives.

Angie is then stunned when she suddenly begins to see her best friend’s husband as a man. An attractive man in his own right and she can’t stop noticing and she’s horrified. The betrayal is sharp and she tries to distance herself before realising that she just can’t. Extricating herself from this situation would probably be for the best but she cares too much for the children, who need her and also too much for Michael himself. Even though this can go no where, she cannot walk away.

Michael doesn’t know what he’d do without Angie. He’s been lost, adrift since Billie’s death and he realises that without her, life would’ve been very bleak for him and his children. Angie has always been around but he’s never noticed her as anything more than his wife’s best friend, but now that his wife has been removed from the equation, he’s beginning to see Angie in a different light. She’s beautiful, single and she’s right there in front of him. Michael doesn’t want anyone else, doesn’t want to ever love anyone, his memory of Billie is too precious to taint that way but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to Angie.

Michael and Angie are both caught in a difficult place…. it’s betrayal to a fallen loved one versus the desire and possibility of a beautiful happiness.

Within Reach is Australian romance author Sarah Mayberry’s newest release. I discovered Mayberry’s work just a little while ago thanks to Marg over at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader when she read both Hot Island Nights and Her Best Worst Mistake. I highly enjoyed both of those novels, especially the latter and when I saw this one on NetGalley, I had to grab it.

I think it’s a difficult plot to handle sensitively, a blossoming romance between someone and the husband of their late best friend. I think Mayberry successfully delivers in many aspects here – the establishment of a genuine, lovely friendship between Billie and Angie, despite the fact that Billie is not a presence in this book very long before her death. She also showcases Billie and Michael’s marriage, although through Michael’s eyes retrospectively so the portrayal may be a little idyllic however it’s clear to the reader that Angie and Billie were very close and also that Billie and Michael were exceptionally happy with their lot in life. Likewise, their grief after she is gone is excellent – believable, heart wrenching but not overdone. A ‘suitable’ distance of time also passes (although mileage may vary on what is suitable for the individual reader) before Mayberry throws Michael and Angie back together in a permanent way: they come to a mutual arrangement that allows Angie to work out of Michael’s property and in exchange she can also be around to mind the children occasionally so that Michael can return to work, at least part time.

The attraction that develops between them is slow enough so not to alarm but at times I still found it a bit difficult to negotiate. I can well understand both parties’ feelings of guilt, self-loathing and the fact that they are betraying Billie. She was very precious to both of them, in different ways and even though she’s gone and not coming back it would be very hard to renegotiate boundaries that had been in place for years. The attraction is not something either of them want and Michael in particular is slower to the party and more reluctant but once he does acknowledge it, he’s also the one that acts on it aggressively. I also found Michael’s coming to grips with his feelings at the conclusion of the novel a bit quick for believability, given how much he struggled throughout the rest of the book.

Within Reach is beautifully written, a lovely contemporary romance encompassing friendship, love, grief and the ability to let go and move on. However for me personally, it was a pairing I found difficult to get behind. I couldn’t really relate to either of them and because of the fact they were connected through Billie, I did find it awkward to see them go to being lovers. But there are plenty of readers out there who won’t have issue with this or may even embrace it.


Book #145 of 2012

Within Reach is the 50th novel I have read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2012! I’m so thrilled that I have reached this number, it has surpassed all my expectations when I originally decided to join up for the challenge.

Within Reach was also read as part of my participation in July’s NetGalley Knockdown.