Sarah Mayberry’s Wait For Me is the final novella in the three-part Outback Bachelor Ball series, its events concurrent with those in Joan Kilby’s Win Me and Karina Bliss’s Woo Me. The novellas recount the story of three female friends attending a Bachelor and Spinster Ball in the Australian outback. Ellie, Jen, and Beth bonded at boarding school and remained besties through thick and thin. At 28, they all suffer heartache, coming together at Ellie’s cattle station resolved to heal their wounded hearts by having fun at the local B&S ball. Mayberry’s Wait For Me is Beth Walker’s story. Beth is the one least likely to sow oats at the ball. After three years of marriage, she discovered husband Troy was a cheating cad. Beth had left a music therapist’s career, family and friends, to follow his rising rock-star career to Nashville. Travel, groupies, and a scandal-sheet exclusive about her husband’s betrayal later, a diminished, saddened Beth returns to Australia. Jonah Masters, her husband’s opening act and fellow-Aussie, was the one bright spot from her time in the States. She and Jonah shared a sweet, affectionate friendship. Everything ended when Troy’s infidelities made the front page. Months later, as Beth desultorily sips her drink and awaits the B&S’s opening act, she is surprised to see Jonah Masters and the Rowdy Boys on stage. Jonah’s carried a flaming Beth-torch since he met her and cannot pass up the chance to spend time with her.
Miss Bates is thankful that most of Mayberry’s novella is conducted off-site. The B&S setting was starting to wear on her. The change of scene, as Jonah and Beth share a drink at the villa where Jonah is staying and then onto a house he wants to buy at Saratoga, was refreshing. The novella, on the other hand, was pleasant, but not the visceral Mayberry reading experience Miss Bates has enjoyed in the past. Mayberry still exhibited that wonderful push-pull of people shaken by new, or resurrected feelings. When Jonah glimpses Beth at the B&S fairgrounds, ” … he felt the pull of connection to her. The drag of attraction and wanting and liking.” As Jonah and Beth are reacquainted, Beth realizes what was friendship is suddenly something different: “She wanted Jonah. But she didn’t want to hurt him. And she didn’t want to get hurt herself. She wasn’t sure she would survive it right now. She knew there was no way to resolve all those different wants at the same time.” Mayberry’s always had this wonderful ability to capture character as love, attraction, need, want, desire war with self-possession, self-preservation, and autonomy. She does no less for Beth. For Jonah, on the other hand, this is the fulfillment of his every dream, every desire.
There’s ease and fluidity to Mayberry’s narrative pacing. Beth and Jonah share a drink, a mindless night of passion, a conversation, laughter, a flight, a walk on the beach. They rediscover what made them friends and explore what’s making them lovers. Mayberry captures the natural, beautiful progression of a burgeoning relationship between two likable, mature people, what brings them together and the inner wounds, Beth’s, pulling them apart. And yet, there was something a little flat about reading Wait For Me, a little less wind in Mayberry’s sails. Miss Bates thinks it lies in Jonah’s characterization. Jonah is such a great guy, so patient, loving, understanding, smitten, and hot, so idealized he’s not quite believable, or interesting. No matter how wonderful her heroes, and Miss Bates has loved and read them all, Mayberry created them in 3D: with flaws and doubts. This guy doesn’t make any wrong moves, nor strike any wrong notes. He’s saintly. Beth even jokes with him about his perfection, calling him Robot Man:
“Name one bad thing about yourself,” she asked … “I need proof you weren’t designed to be the perfect man in a lab somewhere.”
He looked even more surprised. “I’m not even close to being perfect, so you’ve got no worries there.”
“That’s exactly the sort of thing a perfect robot man would say.”
Maybe Miss Bates’ quibble is churlish? Maybe Beth is so hurt, so vulnerable, a guy this good is the only one who can serve as her hero. Beth is fun: though she’s sad, she’s not given to self-pity. She laughs at herself and, in the end, though Jonah’s sympathetic ear and comfy broad shoulder help, heals herself. To give credit where it’s due, Mayberry doesn’t make Jonah and Beth’s HEA easy. It’s realistic and believable. It might follow too quickly upon the dark moment, but Mayberry remains a fave and her next book will be as anticipated as her last. Wait For Me says Miss Bates, quoting her alter ego, Miss Austen, provides “real comfort,” Emma.
With Win Me and Woo Me, Sarah Mayberry’s Wait For Me was released on October 20, 2015. It, and the other novellas, are self-published. Miss Bates received e-ARCs of the three from the authors.