Burning Up
by Sarah Mayberry, contemporary (2008)
Harlequin Blaze, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-373-79384-6


In Burning Up, we get to meet 35-year old hot Hollywood star Lucas Grant. Shortly after the story begins, he suffers from a pretty bad twisted ankle due to an accident with a groupie's thong left in his backyard (long story, don't ask). The timing is pretty bad, really, as he has a movie to shoot soon. The folks behind the film decide to get Lucas a personal chef to ensure that he eats lots and lots of healthy food so that he doesn't get fat while sitting on his rear end and waiting for his ankle to heal. This chef is our heroine, Sophie Gallagher. She is quite happy to get this job that will take her out of Australia since her boyfriend of fourteen years dumped her shortly before she begins her job. For four weeks, Sophie will be living in the same quarters as Lucas. What do you think will happen between the two of them?

I have to say, Sophie is a great heroine. I am worried at first that she will turn out to be a neurotic bore with all kinds of weird sexual hang-ups. Fortunately, she turns out to be so adorably normal. She realizes that her ex-boyfriend is right: she is boring. Or, she was. She's now determined to be a new person, a Sophie who will not be afraid of taking risks anymore. She's not going to be that woman who insists on watching the same movie on tape every time her boyfriend drops by until this boyfriend literally runs to the nearest video rental store. She's going to... take what Lucas is offering. To my pleasant surprise, she is most pragmatic about the affair. She doesn't expect it to last beyond the month. And you know what? She will survive when it's over. Heck, she doesn't even think Lucas is a good long-term boyfriend material at first. She's seen the tabloids, you know.

Sophie being a wonderfully sane and normal heroine is what makes this wish-fulfillment story works like magic. Yes, the author doesn't even pretend otherwise: she states right there in the introduction that a big part of this story is all about wish-fulfillment. Therefore, Lucas is a woobie. You know, the guy who behaves like a happy-go-lucky playboy but inside, he has all kinds of insecurities stemming from an unhappy childhood that only the heroine can unearth and banish. Homely and curvy Sophie turns out to Lucas' best friend and mother and girlfriend all in one. Lucas actually thanks Sophie at the end for saving him from the artifice of Hollywood. Sophie has saved him. The homely girl is triumphant at last - she's beaten the skinny skanks to win the handsome hunk's heart!

It's all ridiculous, of course, and unbelievable as well. But since Ms Mayberry sells the fantasy so well, I may as well stop fighting and just enjoy the fantasy. For some reason the story becomes so much more enjoyable when I picture Michael Paré when he's 35 as Lucas, hmmm, but I suppose it is fine too if you want to picture Jensen Ackles or Jared Padalecki as Lucas. Keep this one for those rainy days when it's fine to succumb to the impulse to live vicariously, folks. If you promise not to tell, I won't either.

Rating: 80


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