Beneath Outback Skies by Alissa Callen

17205183Format: E-book galley

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: Random House Australia

Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads:

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…

Here’s what I thought:

I’ve had a fascination with Australia as a setting for a while now, and I’d heard several Australian book bloggers talk about the newly popular genre of the “rural romance”–romance novels set against the backdrop of the outback and revolving around the everyday challenges of life on the farms and ranches there. I’d been wanting to read one for myself when I saw this one had become available on NetGalley, so I was glad to get a chance to read it.

The setting is an interesting one. Life as a rancher in the outback means dealing with the regular presence of drought conditions, and Paige’s situation is a perfect illustration of that. She runs a formerly profitable ranch that has been in the family for generations, but she is struggling to keep it going in the current climate (quite literally). Still, she is managing as best she can when Tait comes onto the scene.

Here’s where things start to get a bit convoluted. Tait has been hired by her father as an agri-business consultant, someone who can evaluate the current state of affairs at the ranch and make recommendations. Only he hasn’t actually hired Tait, because Tait isthe one who has approached him and offered to do it for free. Wait…what? This premise didn’t really hold up for me, because there is absolutely no benefit to Tait in this situation as far as anyone but Tait knows, so why does Conner agree that this seems like a good idea? To any normal person, it would look suspicious, no?

Anyway, Connor brings Tait out to the ranch under the guise of being a city tourist looking for a taste of country life. He doesn’t even tell Paige the “real” reason (which isn’t actually the real reason) why Tait is there for fear of worrying her. So Connor thinks Tait is there for one reason, Paige thinks he’s there for another reason…but wait! Paige doesn’t want everyone thinking they’re all poor and desperate enough to take paying guests (even though it seems to be a common enough practice), so she has to lie to everyone else and say that Tait is there because (wait for it)…he’s really her secret internet boyfriend.

All of this lying starts to get very difficult to keep up with, so eventually Tait really does start to become Paige’s boyfriend which sorts things out nicely. But honestly I never did understand the need for all the double and triple layers of deception going on in the story. It seemed unnecessary, as a simple straightforward explanation could have easily been given and made the whole situation work out smoothly from the beginning. The plot complications just seemed forced to me.

However. I did think the story was well-written in general, and I liked the characters and the outback setting. With a little less random plotting and a little more emphasis on those two elements, I would have enjoyed it even more.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of this book.


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