Awe, I just love Sarah Mayberry. Once again she's written a romance in the short Blaze format that feels much longer. The characters are well developed. The setting is vivid and has a decided island feel to it. Both Elizabeth and Nathan have some baggage and Mayberry explores their pasts and how it got them to where they are now - on Phillip Island outside of Melbourne, Australia.
Elizabeth is a well-bred, proper English woman who suddenly finds out a family secret that sets her off on a journey to confront the truth. She travels from England to Australia but before she finds what she's looking for she finds sexy Nathan Jones. The sparks were flying from their first encounter. Elizabeth is funny in how she deals with Nathan's rudeness and lack of clothing. She doesn't have much experience with flirting and with men who come on strong the way Nathan does. She's smart and picks up quickly on how to deal with Nathan and his shocking behavior.
Nathan Jones wants to be left alone. He's got his routine down pat - sleep late, hit the beach for some surfing, evenings at the bar getting drunk. Then he walks/stumbles home to pass out and hope the nightmares don't wake him. Nate's cute and sexy in a gruff type of smart-ass way. And you guys know, I love those smart-ass heroes! He's sad too. And the loneliness pores off him in waves. He acts like he's having a good time, surfing and drinking, but it's all an act. Nate's hiding out from his past and the last thing he wants is a proper Englishwoman messing that up. But he is curious - he wants to see what's under those proper clothes.
Nate gets his wish when Elizabeth has a little too much to drink and decides to pursue her fantasy of a one night stand. Holy Guacamole Batman! These two are hot! When Elizabeth lets her hair down she doesn't hold back. She shocks Nate with her willingness and enthusiasm. Mayberry's ability to write hot love scenes while continuing to show character development is evident in Hot Island Nights. Nate and Elizabeth both have hang-ups when it comes to sex, although it's usually after the sex when those ghosts appear.
While Nate and Elizabeth continue with their island fling, the rest of the world tries to intrude in one form or another. It's not all paradise when reality knocks in the form of Elizabeth's former fiance'. I thought Elizabeth dealt well with the situation. Nate, not so much. His jealous side was showing which really irritated him since he's not serious about Elizabeth. Nope, not him. Men! Mayberry shows how at the beginning it seemed Nate was the experienced one but as their affair continues it's Elizabeth who has the knowledge and experience to help Nate confront his past.
The story isn't all fun in the sun. Both Nate and Elizabeth have serious decisions to make, including the willingness to risk rejection. The issue of alcoholism is addressed but not in any lengthy, in depth process. If Hot Island Nights had been a full length novel, then I would have expected the alcoholism addressed in greater depth but for this length I thought Mayberry gave it just enough page time.
Mayberry continues to be one of my go-to authors for contemporary romances. Hot Island Nights proves it once again. A steamy, romantic love story with complex characters in a beautiful setting.