Review: Island Heat by Sarah Mayberry

Posted on July 28, 2010


Series: None

Hero: Ben Cooper

Heroine: Tory Sanderson

It’s been eight years since Tory Sanderson has seen Ben Cooper–eight years since she found out he seduced her to win a bet with some classmates at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and eight years since she got her revenge….

After fulfilling her dream of publishing a cookbook of island recipes, Tory is thrilled when she’s invited on a Caribbean cruise as a guest lecturer. But excitement turns to anxiety when she finds out that Ben, who is now a celebrated restaurateur, will join her as the guest chef.

Ben accepted the guest chef gig in order to enjoy a week of Tory sweating it out in the kitchen. But once the heat starts to climb, getting even turns out to be the last thing on his mind. In fact, picturing a future with Tory in his kitchen might add just the right amount of spice to his life….

Tory and Ben has a history, one that started sweet but brief and ended separating them as enemies for years.  Tory was dubbed the Ice Queen at the Culinary Institute she attended because she was always composed and serious, withholding her free time to studies while peers around her took the time to hang out.  Tory’s peers presumed that she was a snob because her father is a famous chef.  Little did they know that the pressure on Tory to follow in her father’s footsteps has always been high so she strived for perfection to make her father proud of her.  In response to her studiousness, the guys at school started a bet to see which guy would be the first to seduce the Ice Queen.  Ben Cooper does it and Tory finds out but not until after they were intimate.

Sarah Mayberry writing is fun and sexy and yet moving at the same time.  Her characters and the unfolding stories are full of depth.  You get it from the blurb that Tory gets Ben back for his role in the bet but that was stating it mildly.  Tory didn’t just react to Ben playing with her feelings; she did it so beautifully that it fell along the lines of cruelty – but no more than being wined and seduced over a betting game, in my opinion.  Regardless, Tory’s reaction was gutsy and I admire her character.  Tory’s strength wasn’t just a one-time thing either; later when Ben mentions at a group dinner the prank that a classmate had played on him Tory didn’t hide her head in embarrassment.  Instead, she recants the story of another classmate and the bet that a group of guys made on the young woman without missing a beat.  Tory is a surprisingly likeable heroine.

While Ben starts off as an insensitive jerk, Mayberry shows that he’s not so bad – in fact, he’s really a nice guy who, as guys occasionally does, say and does stupid things around other guys.  The bet may have been the reason that Ben asked Tory on a date but his attraction to her soon encompassed the bet.   Except Tory didn’t know that and neither did Ben until it was too late.  While Ben was infuriated with Tory’s retaliation he also couldn’t help but admire her for not cowering and simpering.  I like a guy who isn’t a sore loser.

Another thing that makes Ben such a likeable guy is his willingness to accept another man’s baby.  Ben’s ex-girlfriend lied to him that she was pregnant with his child so that she could have his financial support.  Ben eventually finally finds out the truth but he doesn’t get mad at being so blatantly used; he loves the child as his own and was willing to raise her.  When the real father finally comes forth, Ben was so heartbroken that I felt the heartache with him.

The wonders of the sea not only manage to bring Ben and Tory back together but it also reunites Tory with family that she never knew existed.  One of the reasons that Tory was so excited about working on the cruise was visiting the islands where her deceased twin brother had been working undercover before he was killed.  The scene where Tory meets with the child of her beloved brother and informs both mother and son that the man they thought left them behind had really died was so poignant that I teared.  (I find it a bit convenient that the family was discovered on her first visit to the Islands but I enjoyed the scene, nonetheless. lol)

If I hadn’t enjoyed Mayberry’s writing before Island Heat would certainly have given me notice.  The way Mayberry bring Tory and Ben together is with plenty of heat and humor and ends it without adding the fussiness of long distance breakup.  I usually prefer the pull of emotional suffering before a couple gets their HEA but I like that Mayberry closed Ben and Tory’s distance issues here without the contrived breakup and finger pointing of who should give up their home for the other person.

Island Heat was an enjoyable read except for the suspense involving one of the cruise dancers who was looking to steal the cruise’s themed necklace to save her son.  The dancer was blackmailed by her ex-husband to snatch the purported valuable necklace or he would keep their child away from her.  A good portion of the story was spent on Tracy befriending Tory because Tory was in possession of the necklace.  At the end of the cruise trip, Tory returned the necklace to the cruise and Tracy was left bemoaning seeing her son again.  Was Tracy able to save her son?  Is there another book where Tracy went in search of the necklace yet again?  I did a brief search on Tracy and her son’s fate on Mayberry’s website but their fates remain a mystery.  Tracy is not the heroine here but still I felt the story was incomplete the way it ended without a clear resolution to Tracy’s situation.

Grading: B

Posted in: B Reviews, Reviews