My rating: 5 of 5 stars
ARC electronic copy provided by publisher
“A captivating rural romance featuring an indomitable young woman determined to save her family farm, and the city-boy who is not all he seems…
Paige Quinn will let nothing and no one distract her from caring for her crippled father, Connor, and fighting for her remote, drought-stricken property, Banora Downs. Least of all a surprise farm-stay guest named Tait Cavanaugh, whose smooth words are as lethal as his movie-star smile.
Except Paige can’t help noticing that, for a city-boy, Tait seems unexpectedly at home on the land. And he does ask a lot of questions…
It doesn’t matter how much he helps out or how much laughter he brings into her life, she soon suspects he is harbouring a big secret – the real reason he has come to Banora Downs…”
It seems like everybody at Banora Downs is keeping secrets!
Paige Quinn is desperately trying to keep their once iconic family farm, Banora Downs, up and running, but with an end to the 5 year drought nowhere in sight, this is beginning to prove difficult, what with trying to keep her father, Connor, none the wiser with regard to the dwindling numbers in cattle and the true state of their finances. So, when she arrives home absolutely exhausted after droving hungry cattle for a fortnight, her anger is sparked as Connor, wheelchair bound after a car accident, and whom she loves dearly, informs her that they are expecting a “paying guest” at Banora Downs.
Unbeknownst to Paige, Connor is well aware of the burdens that she is carrying in trying to keep their farm going, and whilst he himself has requested Tait Cavanaugh’s presence at the farm in order to draw up a farm management plan, he also has a secret which he is holding on to, and that is, the promise he made to Paige’s mother before her death.
Tait, a business owner from Sydney arrives on their doorstep and Paige, unable to see past his designer clothes, expensive aftershave and slicked back hair, begins to sum him up and labels him a wealthy city pretty-boy who she won’t be able to make much use of because he’ll think twice before getting his hands dirty. With her initial instant dislike of him still hanging in the air, she goes out of her way to prove that he’s not farm material whilst he surreptitiously obtains information from her with regard to her vision for a farm that was once lush lawns and cultivated flower beds with a thriving herd of cattle.
Unfortunately, she’s got it all wrong, and if she thinks that caffeine-addicted Tait could be anything besides a shallow, spoilt city slicker, she’s in for the surprise of her life, when he sets out to prove to her that not all city boys can be cast in the same mould and his true identity is finally revealed.
Told from the perspectives of all three characters, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and the insight the author gives into the uncertainties our farmers face in times of drought and which, for the most part, go unnoticed by us city people who have water at the turn of a lever.
I personally found the three main characters to be original and well-developed, with the conflict and tension being believable, thus allowing me to create an emotional attachment to all of them, which is what I look for in a novel. Although the plot is quite typical of romance novels today, this doesn’t detract from the fact that Alissa Callen’s sense of place draws you in with her vivid descriptions of life on the land. The added intrigue of Connor’s motivation and Tait’s true identity not being revealed until the final chapters are an added bonus and leave you in no doubt that Ms Callen is more than capable of spinning a good yarn.
With a fast pace, great humour, lots of secrets and romance, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book and it therefore earns 5 stars from me.
A Bit about the Author (taken from the author’s website)
When Alissa Callen isn’t writing, she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take. She also is partial to historic homestead and country gardens and has been known to drive hours to see an open-garden.
She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales.
Beneath Outback Skies is due for release on 1 February 2013 under Random House Australia’s Random Romance digital first list and I wish to thank both the publisher and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to be one of the first to read it.