Book Review: Heartland

 

heartland

 

Author: Cathryn Hein

333 pages

Published by: Penguin Books Australia – Thank you to the publishers for my copy of this book

Available: Now

 

‘  When Callie Reynolds arrives at Glenmore, the property she’s recently inherited, the last thing she wants is to be saddled with a warty horse, an injured neighbour and a mad goose. Haunted by her sister’s death and her fractured family, all she wants is freedom.

But Callie hasn’t counted on falling for Matt Hawkins, an ex-soldier determined to fulfil his own dream of land and family. Nor could she predict the way the land, animals and people of Glenmore will capture her heart.

Callie is faced with impossible choices. But she must find the courage to decide where her future lies, even if it costs her everything she holds dear ‘

 

Callie Reynolds is running. Devastated and guilt ridden over the loss of her beloved older sister Hope, Callie abandons her shattered family to hide among strangers. And where better than a small coastal town in Queensland’s glorious Whitsunday region with its largely transient population of holidaymakers and foreign backpackers.

But a letter arrives advising Callie that not only has she lost her grandmother…… but her paternal family’s property of Glenmore is now hers. She has wonderful childhood memories of Glenmore and the nearby town of Dargate, where she and her sister escaped their big city hometown of Melbourne and indulged all manner of childhood passions such as fishing, horse riding and long, lazy days being spoiled by adoring grandparents.

A few days drive later Callie arrives at the property, intent on cleaning the place up and putting it on the market. Then it’s back to Airlie Beach to settle back into her life of empty anonymity.

But a grumpy old man, a handsome young ex-soldier, a warty horse, a goose and a broken young girl have other ideas.

Callie was never going to make a quick escape from Glenmore….. and aren’t we glad she didn’t. This book is why I miss reading. It’s why I should make time for my books once again. It’s why I am now going to return to being one of those people who is always reading a book.

The author has perfectly captured that feeling of a modern rural town. Small enough to be a small town but within driving distance of a major city. Some locals lament the ever closer inching of the suburban sprawl with its influx of hobby farmers and property developers. In fact, the sale of Glenmore may well end in its demise as a single property and see it sub-divided and sold off as lots. This thought weighs heavily on Callie’s mind.

But it is her burgeoning relationship with the hunky ex-soldier neighbour, Matt Hawkins, that tests Callie’s resolve to leave. The pair, once childhood friends, get off to a rocky start but with Callie simply being in need of the help of  ‘an attractive, capable man’, what else can a girl do but get caught up in the moment.

The flirting that goes on between Callie and Matt is a delight to read. I found myself smiling and resisting the urge to flip through the pages to see how it all ends as this pair did that most delicious of emotional dances….falling in love. Matt falls hard and fast and has no problem wearing his heart on his sleeve. Callie is more reticent, reminding Matt that she will be leaving Glenmore once she sorts everything out.

The language and emotion are real and can be seen and overheard in any city, town, pub, bus, workplace …… basically anywhere two people can meet and flirt and potentially fall in love. There is a smattering of swearing which is just so natural and just so perfectly right that I mentally high-fived the author for allowing her instincts to flow into her words.

This is a love story for the modern woman. It is natural, wonderful and engaging. Callie is neither a victim nor a hero…..just an ordinary girl who has to deal with difficult issues and goes about it the best way she knows how. She has hardened her heart to protect herself and it is lovely to watch her opening up to her new friends. Her patience with a local girl, distraught and terrified of her own horse after a terrible accident, is the key to Callie’s character and perhaps her salvation.

So does Callie stay with the attractive capable man? Does she give in to those deeply buried desires for home and hearth? Or does she run back to her fun and happy yet emotionally devoid life in Queensland?

I thoroughly recommend you buy the book and find out…..

Cathryn, who once called Newcastle home, has graciously agreed to an interview in the very near future. Keep an eye out for it on Social/Life Magazine

Please visit the author, Cathryn on her website

Cathryn Hein

Cathryn Hein

Book Review: Jilted by Rachael Johns

 

 

Jilted

Author: Rachael Johns

355 pages

Available: Now

‘The heartbreaker of Hope Junction is back…. ‘

 

 

Ellie Hughes is Australia’s favourite soap star. Young, beautiful and talented, she is adored by everyone except Flynn Quartermaine, the high school sweetheart she left standing at the altar some 10 years ago. Having fled the small country town of Hope Junction and leaving behind the handsome and rich small town hero Flynn, Ellie is understandably nervous about returning for the first time. But she has no choice as her adored god-mother, Matilda, is ill and needs her. So back to Hope Junction she goes, hoping her visit will be uneventful, perhaps even un-noticed by the locals. Alas, this is not to be.

Once back in town and en route to collect her currently hospitalised god-mother, the drama begins. As the story progresses, Ellie encounters old friends, old enemies, new friends, new enemies, people who know all about what happened 10 years ago and people who know nothing about it at all. The town is abuzz that not only does it have a genuine celebrity in it’s midst, but that celebrity comes with ties to the small town and most importantly, ties to it’s dashing, handsome and all round good guy, Flynn.

But what will Flynn make of Ellie’s return? Will he be angry or forgiving? Will he be married or pining away for her return? Will he be handsome still or a shadow of his former self? Will he even speak to her.

At this point I think I should mention that I bought this book to support the author, Rachael, who I have become friends with via the internet. As you know, I am a great supporter of all Aussie talent and felt this should include Aussie authors. So putting my money where my mouth is, I skipped off to buy myself a copy of Jilted (I found mine at Big W). The aisle where I found this book is one I usually avoid as this type of book really isn’t my thing. Chick lit, sometimes yes, but this? And it was a Harlequin romance to boot *sighs*

What had I done?? I had no choice.

I started reading.

Now obviously it has been some time since I picked up a romance novel because where is the bodice ripping? Where is the fade to black as they tenderly kiss? Where is the outdated, PG and a tad boring storytelling? This was not what I remembered. Once I stopped thinking and started reading, I was hooked.

This is a genuine old fashioned love story with a contemporary edge.  Ellie is real. She is not the most beautiful woman ever created, nor is she perfect with no flaws or issues. She is not waiting to be saved nor is she a heartless bitch who is broken beyond repair. Flynn, too, is very real. Handsome and rugged but with his own failings. Neither is the victim nor the hero. As the story progresses, there is no right or wrong, no black or white. It’s all so…..modern.

But it is the writing style that hooked me. There is nothing forced or studied here. The author clearly lives what she writes or at the very least, knows what she is talking about. The language is fresh, modern and colloquial enough to be instantly recognised as contemporary Australia. There is not the heavy handed ‘g’day mates’ and intimated slow drawls so often appropriated to anyone who lives beyond the urban sprawl.

The residents of Hope Junction and neither slow, timid or simpleminded. They may enjoy the simple pleasures of life and have a sense of community that is lacking in modern suburbia but there is nothing small town about any of the characters we encounter. Okay so I did chuckle at the Cranky Women’s errrrrrr I mean Country Women’s Association and the prayer tree. Forget the interwebs, if you want to know gossip in a small town, join the CWA. You know it’s true!

This story of love lost is exactly what it says it is. A love story with interesting, engaging characters that moves along at a steady pace offering a few surprises along the way. There are moments of suspense that are written to perfection so you are neither frustrated nor uninterested in what will happen next. This story is engaging from beginning to end.

It was a real joy to read this novel for a few reasons. It really is cool ‘knowing’ the author (thank you Twitter & Facebook) so for that reason alone, I am really glad I liked this book. It’s great to see modern Australia so well represented in such a positive, non-patronising manner.  I may have to give these books, previously ignored by me, a second look.

It was wonderful to read a good book. A well written, well thought out story that wasn’t just fodder for the seemingly dumb downed masses.  Novels such as this give me hope that good storytellers with original stories can still have their voice heard and their books published.

I look forward to and will be first in line for Johns’ next novel, which I believe she is writing as I speak.

Visit Rachael at:

http://www.rachaeljohns.com/

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachael-Johns/260103224001776

 

Fifty Shades Darker (Book 2 in The Fifty Shade Trilogy)

 

Author: EL James

532 pages

Available: Now

Warning: Very Adult Content in parts….read at your own risk

 

My review of Book 1, Fifty Shades of Grey, can be found here but a quick recap:

Christian Grey is a super successful businessman and a sexual Dominant who meets uber virginal Ana Steele who is a college student and just uber virginal. They fall in love and he introduces her into the world of BDSM. Nice tame BDSM but he does tie her up a few times and spank her. And she introduces him to the world of spending the night together, cuddling and ‘vanilla’ sex. Unable to cope with Christian’s lifestyle, Ana leaves him.

Our lovers part, lives are ripped asunder and misery abounds. And so ends Book 1.

Fifty Shades Darker finds Christian and Ana still apart and absolutely miserable without each other.  Ana has started her new job and just a few pages in, Christian has sent her flowers and an email. Yep…..it’s all going to be back on.

This novel concentrates on the burgeoning relationship between our protagonists. We get to watch as they really get to know each other, as they move through the lust stage and have to really deal with each other. Now that’s not to say they aren’t still lusting but it’s moving into relationship territory. We’ve all been through it and it can be tough.

James also delves a lot deeper into Christian’s ‘issues’.  As Ana spends more time with him, including nights, he can no longer hide behind his whips and chains and has to confront who he is and who he wants to be. We meet his family & some friends…..and of course, Ana is still blindly and irrationally jealous of Mrs Robinson.

Ahhhhh Mrs Robinson. I think every female knows a Mrs Robinson. The woman in your man’s life you are insanely jealous of either with good reason or just because she exists. Nothing like a good dose of jealousy to amuse and delight those among us who enjoy witnessing a hissing mini breakdown…..hopefully in public!

Christian finds himself in unexpected territory when it comes to Ana’s friends & family as well. He meets and is very surprised by his reactions to her parents & close friends. The common ground he finds made me smile. Another layer of the mysterious Mr Grey peeled away.

And again there is the sex. Still lots and lots of it. And in Darker, it is a little more creative, a little more giving, a little more meaningful. But…..

But…. it’s still oh so dull!

Ana has managed to shame the already damaged Christian into almost exclusive vanilla sex. He is allowed to spank her once. As a treat.

Now I have mentioned that we delve deeper into Christian’s issues and I am in no way negating the impact an abusive childhood can have on people but this all happens before Ana knows the truth.

Ana becomes just another person to use Christian. Sure it’s all wrapped up in so called love and sweetness and her wanting to help him and blah blah blah. What rubbish.

Just like it’s oh so obvious big sister aka The Twilight novels, this is an ode to dysfunctional relationships. The women who read…..nay inhale….these novels are being told it’s okay to stalk and be stalked as long as it’s ‘love’. It’s okay to be controlled and controlling as long as it’s ‘love’. It’s okay to want to change another person and berate and shame them into doing this….you guessed it. As long as it’s ‘love’.

I would have preferred to leave the psychoanalysis to the professionals. To offer it up as erotica is a little bit nasty. I am sure there are lots of screwed up BDSM aficionados out there but to demonise them again is just rude. I am sure there are a lot of screwed up vanilla sex devotees out there too but I guess that’s not so titillating.

And that’s the rub. Another Fifty Shades novel marketed as some kinky sex romp is nothing of the sort. It’s simply more validation for the modern woman’s belief that bad boys just need the love of a good woman to sort them out. The irony is that once a bad boy has been tamed by the love of a good woman, he becomes dull, uninteresting and pathetic.

What changes within Ana? Nothing. To Christian, she is perfect just as she is. He tells her constantly. He adores her. Yep….more validation for the self absorbed narcissistic modern woman. If a man truly loves you, he will change into whatever you want.

Sure Christian is a good ummm an excellent lover and we love that in a man. As a close friend pointed out, the reason women are swooning over Christian Grey is because he is good in bed. He knows what to do, how to do it, how long to do it and when to do it. Ana doesn’t have to tell or guide him (not that she could anyway). He knows how to give a woman endless orgasms and he does it gladly, with great instinct and he genuinely loves giving her pleasure. Come to me Christian…you can bring the whip baby!!!

Let’s not tame all our bad boys. I like my boys bad. And so does the vast majority of women judging by the men we find hot, sexy and gorgeous. Why is Mad Men’s Don Draper so attractive. Because under that smart suit beats the heart of a bad boy. Why is True Blood’s Eric the Vampire so damn sexy. Because he doesn’t ask, he takes…..and you will love every second of it!

And don’t even get me started on the eternal bad boy, the image on whom all bad boys base themselves James Dean and even his modern namesake, porn superstar and women’s lust object James Deen. What? You don’t believe me about the porn guy? Google him. A pop culture phenomenon. But more on him at a later date 😉

All these words for a book I found boring. Oh my….

Will I be reviewing book 3, Fifty Shades Freed? You betcha!!! I won’t stop reading now but I am taking a break from Fifty Shades and reading some Sookie Stackhouse.

I did say I liked my bad boys bad……

PS. A quick look around my local stores shows they are sold out of Fifty Shades of Grey but have piles and piles of the other two books. Make out of that what you will.

PPS. Alexander Skarsgard….please do not do these movies. Please.

Fifty Shades of Grey

 

Author: EL James

514 pages

Available: Now

Warning: Very Adult Content in parts….read at your own risk.

Anastasia Steele is a naïve and innocent college girl who offers to help out her best friend, Kate, by interviewing mega-industrialist Christian Grey for their student newspaper. Anastasia stumbles, literally, into Christian’s office and is instantly attracted to the very handsome yet intimidating young man. She gasps and blushes and he watches with a slight smile. Christian is attracted to her as well and he pursues her with good deeds and expensive gestures. Grey is dark, secretive and composed in contrast to Ana’s fumbling, childlike innocence. And when I say innocence, I mean it in a very literal sense. Ana is a virgin and has barely been kissed. The scene has been set…..Grey is very, very dark and Ana is very, very innocent. Oh my!

But the course of true love never did run smooth. You see, Mr Grey is a Dominant and wishes Miss Steele to be his submissive. Within a short amount of time, he issues the breathless, swooning Ana with a detailed contract he wishes her to sign. She must agree to be his submissive if she wishes to pursue any kind of relationship with him. Grey has never had a relationship of any other kind and does not wish to do so now. He wants Ana but will not relent. For all her innocence, Ana manages not only to avoid signing the contract but to engage Grey in the previously unknown world of ‘vanilla’ sex. He breaks rule after rule for her.

In between all this chasing and contract negotiating there is sex. Lots and lots of sex. The pair cannot keep their hands off each other. He slowly introduces her to his world of BDSM via some very tame and light bondage. A little bit of spanking and one session in his fully decked out playroom. She introduces him to the world of sleeping the night together and cuddling. Ana is all goodness and light and will save the dark, tortured Christian from himself.

Yes, you are so right. We HAVE seen this all before. And very recently too. Maybe not the specifics but the general premise of this relationship is very, very familiar. 50 Shades of Grey started it’s life as Twilight fan fiction. Crap!

Okay, so here we go…..

There is nothing wrong with this book. It is not a bad book but it is not a good book either. The premise is a very interesting one and, in the hands of another more accomplished and/or knowledgeable writer, it could have been much, much better. I found it engaging, I must admit but that was mostly because it is a very easy read. When I asked friends who liked the book why they liked it, they unanimously agreed that it was because it was an easy to read love story.

That electric feeling between our star crossed lovers is something most of us love. Whether you are happily married, single, newly dating, whatever, we all yearn for that passion. The first days/weeks/months when you will do or say anything just to make your beloved happy. To have someone want us so badly that they put aside their own wishes to accommodate another person. Ahhhhhhhhh yes!

This brings me to the writing. Now, call me a harsh bitch but if you are going to put pen to paper and write an erotic novel….or three… then you had better be comfortable with references a little more specific than down ‘there’. Seriously. This woman is writing about a potential Dom/sub relationship, with a contract stating all types of sexual acts I am sure many people do not usually engage in, but she cannot find a suitable adjective….or three….for her vagina. This entire relationship will require honest and open communication but she fumbles over a few words. Crap!

It also bothers me this whole ‘good girl must save bad boy from his dark demons’ thing. Is it a coincidence his name is Christian and her name is Steele? It probably is, you know. I fear I am delving into depths that simply do not exist.

Why do women think they need to save bad boys? Why is BDSM being demonised? The relationship he proposes is built on trust and consent, he is very clear and particular about that. Safe words are established and he reminds her of them many times. She has, as all subs do, complete power over her situation. She can leave at any time. She chooses to stay. Why can she not just stay and see what happens rather than continually imposing her ideas and ideals onto him. I suppose if she did that, we wouldn’t have a story.

Or would we?

I would love to read this story without the moralising and the whole good triumphs over evil undertones. But I am someone who cut her teeth on Pauline Réage’s The Story of O and The Sleeping Beauty series by A. N. Roquelaure so perhaps my views are a little more left of centre.

But this good girl saving bad boy morality is exactly what has allowed this novel to go mainstream and sell its millions (or whatever) copies. Mommy porn as it has been dubbed. The kinky sex book all the girls can feel okay about reading. Sex shops and the like must be rubbing their hands together as these women order a riding crop and some silky soft ties.

Should you read this book? If you want an easy to read love story with an ever so slight edge to it, then go for it. I can absolutely see the appeal and as it is only $10 a book, why wouldn’t you read it? If you are expecting a real glimpse into the BDSM lifestyle, this book is not for you. I mean, was there ever any doubt? Oh there are some aspects that are spot on, most assuredly, but for the most part, this has been watered down and watered down to feed the masses.

Finally, I would like to see Ana’s subconscious and her inner goddess go outside and beat each other senseless. No safe words just duke it out. The constant references to these inner parts of her psyche were so annoying I wanted to scream. That and her constant holy crap and holy shits. Please *rolling my eyes*

Now I am off to read Fifty Shades Darker because why not? These books are such a pop culture phenomenon that I simply cannot resist. It’s just what I do….