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BOOK REVIEW: Desert Flame by Janine Grey

| 20 February 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Desert Flame by Janine Grey

Penguin|Michael Joseph
January 2016
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Rural Romance



When her beloved father dies, Eliza Mayberry’s privileged world comes crashing down around her ears. On the verge of losing the business that has been in her family for generations, she has no option but to take over the last remaining case: tracking down the elusive Fingal McLeod in outback New South Wales and bringing him back to Sydney.

He’d been a much better father than provider: always the one to brush her hair, take her to school, shop for ballet gear – in short, the perfect parent. Her mother, Angela, had always been far too busy. And five years ago when Angela had told them both, matter-of-factly as was her style, that she had an inoperable brain tumour, and had confirmed it by dying six weeks later, he had fallen apart.

Fin, however, has other ideas. Determined to find the legendary Dark Flame, a rare opal that has eluded opal-hunters for decades, he has no intention of leaving his mine to reunite with the family of the man who abandoned him – even for the beguiling Miss Mayberry.

His head pounding with the vibrations of the jackhammer, Fin shut it off with a vicious curse and sagged against the wall. His skin was drenched with sweat and his muscles burnt with fatigue.
‘You need a break, mate,’ he said. ‘When you start talking to yourself, you need a break.’ He laughed and it echoed around the tunnel like a madman’s mocking taunt.

Drawn to the people and starkly beautiful landscape of the desert, Eliza discovers the new start that she’s been seeking in this unlikely place and with a man who is as infuriating as he is intriguing. But as passion blooms under the scorching outback sun, secrets from the past and present are bubbling below the surface – secrets that could destroy both the fragile trust between Eliza and Fin, and the bright promise of the future.

She stood on the small balcony of her room that night, staring out into infinity. The dusky hues of evening softened the harsh vista, and the clear sky was lit with an unknown number of stars. She felt enveloped and at the same time strangely liberated by the outback, as if anything was possible. There were worse places to hide.
Maybe she was coming down with a case of outback fever.


Now would perhaps be a good time to disclose that I don’t read rural romance. On the very rare occasion that the blurb of one has intrigued me enough to give it a try, I have lasted no longer than 10%. 30 pages, give or take.

My findings within rural romances thus far are of writing that is either bland or over the top with descriptions of the Australian landscape; characters who inevitably come from two different world, have very different values; at least one of them likes to complain or brood a lot; and there is usually a certain amount of dancing around as each pretends not to like the other.

So it should be held in pretty high regard that I finished this one, and actually quite enjoyed parts of it.

The first half of this book was filled with gorgeous descriptions – the sort that invite the reader to feel – and an interesting plot. Ironically, in this reader’s opinion, it all went downhill as the romance started to develop.

The interesting premise about reuniting a long-divided family and the hunt for the legendary Dark Flame opal quickly dissolved into a back and forth between Fin and Eliza. It looked like it was becoming something, but one of them said something that annoyed the other, and then all bets were off. On again, off again, on again… These characters are in their thirties, but they carry on like teenagers from time to time, ready to throw a tantrum and call it quits again at the slightest provocation.

The story picked up again in the last fifty pages for an interesting and satisfying climax, and, all said an done, the angsty romance part of the book was populated with enough humour to stop it from being too annoying,

If you enjoy rural romance, this is definitely one to check out.




Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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